Last year at this time, the Cavaliers were cited as a potential destination for 76ers star Ben Simmons should he become available. Many suspected he just might, and that the Cavs would be among those interested.
Instead, Simmons stayed with the Sixers. But guess what? After a subpar showing vs. the Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals, Simmons’ name has already returned to the rumor mill.
Fans of every team have started to utter his name on social media, offering opinions on why he would or would not fit. That includes fans of the Cavs.
And if Simmons does indeed become available (he will), Cavs general manager Koby Altman is sure to at least think about a deal. He may even go as far as to explore one.
And why not? Simmons is just 24-years old — and even if the Cavs didn’t have to trade anyone, he would immediately become the best player on their roster.
Cleveland also has the type of young assets-with-upside that Sixers chief of basketball operations Daryl Morey covets. Morey is a Medina Highland grad, so he knows the Cavs well.
But if you’re talking Simmons trade, and you’re the Cavs, you know the Sixers would start with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Larry Nance Jr., and maybe the lottery pick. Granted, the Sixers wouldn’t ask for all of those players/pick, but they would want at least two from the above list. Either Garland or Sexton, and Nance, etc. Those would be the starting points of any talks.
When it comes to Cavs, the Sixers would likely prefer Garland over Sexton. Opposing players generally say nice things about Sexton’s game, but they rave about Garland. Some have indicated they believe that putting the ball in Garland’s hands, and making him the top option, will help change the course of the franchise.
Sexton has real value as a guard who plays extremely hard and fills it up — always. But how valuable will he be to a team that wins more than 19-22 games every season? Only time will tell.
If Simmons were to come to the Cavs, he would immediately turn them into a playoff contender. He would be the face of the franchise. Kids would run out to buy his jersey. He would lift the Cavs in both the basketball and business department. It’s hard to find those types of players, even in the draft lottery. And again, he’s only 24.
Those reasons alone aren’t reasons to gut the roster. Simmons can’t shoot. We all know that. No one in NBA history shot as awfully as Simmons did from the free-throw line during these playoffs. He made the rim cringe with fear in going 15-of-45 on foul shots vs. the Hawks, and was a miserable 34.2 percent in the postseason overall.
But Simmons undoubtedly is a better defender than anyone on the Cavs can already dream of becoming, other than perhaps Isaac Okoro. He is also a better passer than anyone on the Cavs’ roster, though Garland is getting there.
As an aside, Simmons and Garland are both represented by super agent and Cleveland native Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Agency and LeBron James fame. Simmons has even held some summer workouts in Cleveland.
There’s something to be said for all that. Just look how many clients Paul has helped steer to the Lakers over the past couple of seasons — James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, Markieff Morris, Talen Horton-Tucker, J.R. Smith, Dion Waiters, Ben McLemore.
Simmons just happens to be Paul’s third-highest paid client, with a contract that calls for him to make more than $33 million next season, more than $35 in 2022-23, and more than $37 the season after that, followed by $40 million in 2024-25.
So the good news is you’d have Simmons’ contract locked up for another four years. The bad is we are asking the same questions about his shooting every season.
Would Simmons make sense for the Cavs? Yes. But like everything else, it would have to be the “right” deal. You can be sure he is at least on Altman’s radar. He is on everyone’s radar. But few teams are positioned with a roster of tempting young talent like the Cavs. In other words, get ready for the chatter linking Simmons to the Cavs to begin again. There are plenty of reasons to believe it.