Would 'Buy-Low' Trade For Nets' Ben Simmons Benefit Spurs?

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The San Antonio Spurs enter the offseason following a 34-48 record and having missed the playoffs. While missing the playoffs is disappointing for any franchise, it wasn’t free of positives. 

Dejounte Murray earned his first All-Star appearance with averages of 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 9.2 assists. The 25-year-old guard showed he’s the point guard of the future, but winning at a high level in the NBA often requires plenty of starpower. 

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Daniel Dunn, USA TODAY

As impactful as Murray has developed, he isn’t one of the NBA’s ten best players. He’s not going to carry a team like Luka Doncic or Giannis Antetokounmpo. But how can the Spurs find a co-star to help elevate their unit?

The NBA Draft is a standard route for a small market team like the Spurs to find their next star. It can require a few misses on picks or patience to develop the right player. With Murray set to be 26 before the start of next season, there may not be time to waste. 

Ben Simmons is one star that continues to find his name in NBA trade rumors. After being moved midseason from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Brooklyn Nets, he did not appear in a single game during the entirety of the 2021-22 season. 

Simmons underwent microdiscectomy surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back to relieve pressure from the spinal column. Simmons has previously experienced complications with herniated discs in his NBA career despite being just 25-years-old.

There is plenty of upside in the event of a successful gamble in a Simmons. He averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in his most recent full season — earning his third straight All-Star appearance. Next season, he will be in the second year of a five-year, $170 million contract. 

Would Trading For Ben Simmons Make Sense? 

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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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It’s not often the Spurs can land a player who has earned multiple All-Star appearances. Not having to sacrifice any of their picks and moving temporary veteran talents for a player who will be 26-years-old at the start of next season has a case. 

Teams have experienced real success with going small, playing fast, and being able to switch everything on defense. If there is a weak on-ball defender on the floor, playoff basketball makes it a point to attack that player repeatedly. With Simmons, he brings unique versatility. 

Not only can Simmons handle guarding challenging assignments on the perimeter directly. With him being 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot wingspan, he can be the big defender playing a small-ball five role and switching when the lone non-guard screener is coming to set a ball screen. 

In a unit that features Dejounte Murray, there are potential situations where the on-ball defender would be Murray, with Simmons being the big defender during a ball screen play. That would blow up a lot of half-court offenses — forcing them to use guard screeners to draw soft switches out on the perimeter. 

With the Spurs also having developing wings that are positive defenders, there would be the potential to switch 1-5 with Simmons being in the fold. Without a weak point to hunt, San Antonio could emerge as having one of the NBA’s better defensive units. 

The limitations Simmons presents offensively cannot go without mention when pondering a potential trade to acquire him. He has shown an unwillingness to shoot 3s, is an unreliable free throw shooter, and lacks much for real strengths within the half-court.

The Spurs would have to do their due diligence to assess whether a trade for Simmons is within their risk appetite. If they deem such a move worth considering, there are potentially intriguing hypothetical options. 

How Could The Spurs Trade For Ben Simmons?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Given that it’s been over a year since Simmons has played in an NBA game, his trade value naturally is declined. Factor in his back surgery, among other health-related potential concerns, and the trade return the Nets could land should be even lower. 

NBA Analysis Network recently crafted two hypothetical trade scenarios to send Simmons to the Spurs. Say the Spurs were interested in acquiring Simmons; what would they need to part with to get a deal done? Given the circumstances, each of these trade scenarios are considered ‘buy-low’ offers.

The first trade package is simple in structure. Simmons would be the only player or asset headed to the Spurs in exchange for Jakob Poeltl, Doug McDermott, Josh Richardson, and a 2025 first-round pick (via Chicago Bulls).

The second trade package proposed was a three-team deal involving the Nets, Spurs, and Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons would be the sole player going to San Antonio while sending only Doug McDermott, Josh Richardson, and Zach Collins to the Sixers.

The rest of the three-team deal included Tobias Harris, a 2022 first-round pick (via Boston Celtics), and a 2023 first-round pick (via 76ers) headed to the Nets. 

A trade scenario where McDermott, Richardson, and Collins are the only pieces being sent out by the Spurs would surely be worth taking the gamble. There already are prospects developing on the wing that could take more prominent roles next season to fill the void created by moving Richardson. 

If the Spurs seek a motion shooting threat like McDermott in their offense, they could look to acquire a replacement if he were dealt. For example, taking a flier on a player like Duncan Robinson could be considered.