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Mailbag: Should the Cavs explore trading for Ben Simmons?

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Simmons’ value is hard to peg right now, but he is worth a look.

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Seven Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

We are back doing to the Fear the Sword mailbag! Drop questions below and we’ll log for future editions.

It’s not via demand, but franchise necessity. But it seems like Ben Simmons is probably getting traded by the 76ers this summer. So let’s put on the GM hat for a minute and ask the question that every GM will be asking this summer on the Cavs’ behalf: Should they have interest in Simmons?

The tl;dr on Simmons: He’s a 6’11”, 240-pound point forward. He’s a very good defender and was a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year this year. When Simmons is in the open floor, he’s a force - he gets to the rim with ease for dunks and has the vision to place pinpoint passes to open shooters around him. There’s a very interesting offense to be built around him.

But there’s also a real problem: He cannot shoot. It’s a long-running thing at this point. When he gets to the playoffs, he hangs out in the dunker spot and doesn’t do much on offense other than hanging out there looking for dunks and hoping he doesn’t get fouled. It’s somehow only five years into his career (and he’s only played four having missed his rookie season) but the book on him feels kind of written right now. He also seems to have lost his confidence. (See: Passing up a chance to dunk on Trae Young in Philly’s Game 7 loss to the Hawks.)

Upfront, I don’t think the Cavs have a clean, easy offer for Simmons. Something like a Simmons-C.J. McCollum swap between Portland and Philadelphia offers the 76ers a win-now option that they need. If they want picks to then cash in for another star player, then they can get the most possible from Oklahoma City. A Cavs offer centers around some picks, Collin Sexton and Kevin Love’s contract/shooting. It’s not a great offer. Swap in Darius Garland for Sexton if you’re nasty, but Garland is a cleaner fit with Simmons if you’re the Cavs and trying to maximize Simmons.

If the Cavs could do some version of this, I think I’d do it. Simmons’ contract extension is a lot, but he can play up to it and that number is more sticker shock value for it being so high vs. it being a flat-out awful contract. (It’s better than Love’s deal to be sure.) There are some roster concerns — Simmons/Isaac Okoro is a clunky fit for one, unless Okoro improves as a shooter — but Garland/Simmons/Jarrett Allen is an interesting spine to build with. Simmons and Allen playing downhill with shooters (one being Garland as a release valve/secondary creator) is interesting.

The most I’d offer to probably Love, Sexton and a pick or two. Simmons’ value has never been lower, so overpaying would be a mistake. Simmons is a star talent, and worth a bet. But he’s not bulletproof. There’s some risk on the Cavs’ part if they were able to do this. But it’s worth at least exploring, even if I don’t think a Simmons-to-Cavs deal is all that realistic. What the Cavs can offer just isn’t quite what the 76ers need to get back for Simmons to maximize Joel Embiid’s prime.

It also might be good for Simmons to get to a situation where he isn’t expected to need to complete at the highest level where flaws are magnified right away. In a spot like Cleveland, where they aren’t likely to make a deep playoff run in the next year or two, Simmons has the space to grow in real time. And for an organization like the Cavs that aren’t in a glamour market and aren’t going to have stars say “I’m going here, make it happen” going after Simmons and investing in player development isn’t a bad way to go. Maybe there’s someone that is less flawed available, but that doesn’t feel likely. Stars who become available are either forcing a trade to a specific place or just going to free agency. Simmons, for all of his warts, is an exception to that. It also doesn’t hurt that the Cavs have a good relationship with Simmons’ agency, Klutch.

Concerns about Simmons and where you can go with him are fair. The Simmons that exists now isn’t taking you to the highest levels. He seems to need rebuilding and it comes with an extension already locked in. But he’s also an All-Star, All-Defensive level talent is on the market. Most teams are going to explore this.

And ask yourself this: Is what the Cavs have right now good enough to not explore this and, if it comes down to it, go for it if the price is right? I don’t think it is.