Following their disappointing departure from the Eastern Conference semifinals at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, the Philadelphia 76ers are entering an extremely important offseason, and in an effort to shake things up, the Sixers may try to trade Ben Simmons to the Los Angeles Lakers for future Hall-of-Famer LeBron James, according to a report from Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports.
The logic behind a potential swap of the two All-Stars is that the Sixers could look to trade Simmons given his inability to space the floor around centerpiece Joel Embiid, while playing in Philadelphia would give James a better opportunity to compete for championships as he ages than the Lakers, as currently constructed, would.
"Fair or not, Simmons failing to add some semblance of a jump shot in Year 2 of his career is seen as a reason that Philadelphia has to put him on the trade block. Perhaps this is just wishful thinking by rival executives. There has been no indication from the Philly side that Simmons is being floated or will be this summer.
It's early in that process. Leonard's shot just fell through the net. But one Western Conference executive brought up a name that could be a Simmons trade target: LeBron James.
'I think they very well might explore that,' said a rival executive of Philadelphia.
James doesn't have a no-trade clause, but he shares the same Klutch Sports agent with Ben Simmons in Rich Paul. James has two seasons left on his deal before he can become a free agent. After a disastrous offseason in which their president of basketball operations abruptly resigned and they struck out on their top two head coaching targets in Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue, do the Los Angeles Lakers honestly believe they can put together a championship contender in the next two seasons?
If the answer is no, trading James has to be on the table. And if you're going to do that, there's a short list of players that would be worthy of being traded for the King. Simmons is certainly good enough to be on it."
Haberstroh goes on to explain how such a move would be extremely complicated financially and would require multiple moving pieces given the disparity in salary between James and Simmons, making it a long-shot from the jump. James makes much more than Simmons, who is still on his rookie-scale deal, so in order to make the salaries work between the two teams, the Sixers would have to ship another high-salary player to Los Angeles in order to nab James; something that could prove to be a major sticking point in this hypothetical deal.
Financials aside, it also seems extremely unlikely that the Sixers would be willing to bail on potentially a decade-plus of production from a 22-year-old Ben Simmons for a couple of twilight years from a 34-year-old LeBron James with a million miles on his body, regardless of how great James has been over the course of his career. Simmons was named an All-Star in his second season and still has enormous upside, despite his shooting struggles.
Plus, while James is certainly a better floor-spacer than Simmons, he's not necessarily a sharpshooter. He likes to play in the paint, too. The ironic thing is that Simmons has been compared to James since well before he was even selected by the Sixers with the top pick in the '16 Draft, as the two share a similar style of play based on speed, size, and athleticism. This means that even if they did execute a deal, the Sixers would likely run into some of the same issues in terms of floor spacing around Embiid with James that they have experienced with Simmons.
So, while crazier things have happened in the NBA, a James-for-Simmons swap seems like something that has little to no chance of actually coming to fruition, despite what rival executives may think.