Saying “here we go again” with more Ben Simmons trade talk would imply that there was some sort of stopping point. But there hasn’t been. And now the Indiana Pacers have apparently thrown the towel in on their season and are ready to move their best assets. That means a new Simmons suitor has arrived at the party.
The former Philadelphia 76ers franchise centerpiece is still absent from the team, and the most likely ending to the entire situation is Simmons being dealt elsewhere. There’s a new ripple now, though, as an organization that regularly finds itself in the playoffs may now be playing the tank game.
The Indiana Pacers are open for business
A usually-stable franchise has recently cycled through coaches like the Sacramento Kings. Nate McMillan, Nate Bjorkgren, and now Rick Carlisle have been the Pacers’ coaches over the last three seasons.
Indiana missed the playoffs last year, but it was only the second time in 11 seasons the team hasn’t made a postseason appearance. Granted, the Pacers haven’t made it out of the first round since the 2013-14 season (the second consecutive year they made the Eastern Conference Finals).
But the organization has been reticent about blowing the entire thing up. The “t” word (tanking) hasn’t been uttered in Indiana. At least until, apparently, now. This season’s struggles seem to have changed that.
The team is 10-16 through more than a quarter of the season and sits 13th in the East. According to a piece on The Athletic, the franchise may have finally relented on pushing the reset button. The team’s best assets — center Myles Turner, forward Domantas Sabonis, and guard Caris LeVert — are now available.
That should be music to the 76ers’ ears.
There’s a path to a Pacers-Sixers Ben Simmons Trade
As Philly continues to look for Simmons trade partners, the Pacers become an interesting fit for the disgruntled (putting it mildly) point guard.
LeVert is the best option of the three in terms of fit with Joel Embiid. The 76ers need a guard who can create his own shot and help take some of the load off JoJo — LeVert isn’t Damian Lillard, but he’s capable of filling that role when healthy.
Turner is a talented center and ideal for the modern NBA with his ability to stretch the floor and protect the rim. Putting him next to Embiid isn’t the worst idea, but it’s not the greatest either.
Which brings us to Sabonis. Again — putting another big man next to Embiid isn’t, on the surface, the most logical plan. But the 25-year-old power forward isn’t a typical back-to-the-basket player.
Sabonis’s best spot on offense is at the elbows and around the mid-range. He’s an advanced facilitator for someone who’s 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds. Think a poor man’s Nikola Jokic.
He could be on the floor with Embiid and help the rest of the offense hum around the Sixers’ franchise big man. He would also be ideally suited to lead the second unit with the Cameroonian off the floor, which could be crucial with the 7-footer’s lengthy injury history.
On the flip side, if the Pacers are transitioning into a complete rebuild, Simmons would give the team a centerpiece. Big Ben surrounded by shooters like Malcolm Brogdon and Chris Duarte in Rick Carlisle’s system would make sense.
When healthy and engaged, the former LSU star is one of the top two-dozen players in the NBA. Handing him off in return for the pairing of LeVert and Sabonis, maybe with some future picks being sent either way, seems like a fair trade.
The deal would help both franchises move forward
With the move, the Sixers’ core would feature Embiid, Sabonis, LeVert, Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry, Matisse Thybulle, and Tobias Harris. There are other depth pieces to fill out the rotation as well.
The Pacers would be able to give Simmons the freedom to do what he’s best at — play make and defend.
Carlisle has been one of the league’s best offensive coaches for more than a decade and would have a 6-10 point guard running an offense featuring five rotation players that shoot better than 34% from deep and a sixth in Brogdon, who’s a career 37.9% 3-point shooter despite having a down season.
The fit is there, and now the Pacers are trending toward a rebuild, meaning there’s a possibility of a deal as well. It makes sense for both sides.
Now it’s just time to work out the logistics and get it done.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.