Stars are starting to align for the Boston Celtics and Ben Simmons
Prior to this year's playoffs there was no way the Celtics could have traded for Ben Simmons without giving up either Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum. Simmons along with Joel Embiid were the superstar faces of the Philadelphia 76ers who had just finished the season with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The previous season the 76ers minus an injured Simmons had been swept by your Boston Celtics in the 1st round of the playoffs. This year they flipped the script and dominanted Round 1 beating one of the hottest teams down the stretch of the season in the Washington Wizards 4 games to 1.
Then all hell broke loose during the Eastern Conference semifinals. Simmons who was never a good free throw shooter to begin with (62%) became atrocious from the line, which led to him to passing on all of his drives and not trying to finish, for fear of free throwths. The Atlanta Hawks took control of the series. And since we here at Celtics Life like to have original content and not just regurgitate what every one else is already writing, we saw a window for the Celtics to land a third star.
In the post, we encouraged readers to root for Simmons to continue to struggle for the rest of the series and for Atlanta to knock out the 76ers. And the fact that the team had just hired a new coach and GM this past winter and tweaked their roster meant that for the firt time, one of their young stars Embiid or Simmons would finally be moved.
Playing Horford next to Embiid was a failure, but when Embiid was out injured, Horford played very well as their starting center and Simmons & the 76ers performed well
While in previous years, Simmons actually had more trade value than Embiid, this offseason that's obviously not the case. Prior to the playoffs there was no route for the Celtics to acquire either player without surrendering Tatum or Brown (and it would likely have had to have been Tatum), and post playoffs that's still the case for Embiid. You't have to trade Tatum to get Embiid and neither team is open to doing something like that.
Unlike many fans and talking heads (which due to social media have often become one in the same) who have extreme tunnel vision, are prisoners of the moment, have recency bias, or whattever term you want to use, GM's aren't complete idiots. The idea that Simmons somehow went from an All-NBA player in 2020 to a contract no one would want due to one bad month at the age of 24 is proposterous. If he was a free agent this summer he'd get multiple max offers.
(Side note: I'd suggest unfollowing anyone who wrote that Simmons had one of the worst contracts in the league, had a worse contract than Kemba, that Philly would have to give up multiple 1sts to dump him, or that they wouldn't trade a 2nd rounder for him. And there were plenty of people with large followings who said this nonsense.)
As we hoped for and predicted the cost for Simmons has dropped dramatically after a few poor weeks.
The Sixers have already fielded offers for Ben Simmons but continue to hold a stance that they will only trade him for an all-star caliber player. They most recently turned down a deal with the Pacers that included Malcolm Brogdon and a 1st round pick.
I actually really like Malcolm Brogdon and he would have been a great signing for the Celtics back in 2019 when Kyrie left and Boston had cap space. The Celtics chose to go for the shinier toy in a max contract former All-Star point guard in Kemba Walker. Two years later, I'd still take Brogdon on the Celtics, but you'd have to trade very good assets to acquire him (and Boston is sorely lacking in attractive trade assets not including the Jay's) while also he's no longer in his mid 20's (Will turn 29 this year). Brogdon and a 1st is a healthy offer.
Most likely Morey and Philly leaked the offer to try and up the bidding for Simmons. But if that offer is in the ball park of the cost to acquire Simmons, Boston certainly can trade for him without incuding a Tatum and Jaylen. And as we wrote prior, the whole point of acquiring Simmons is to make him your 3rd guy. He doesn't work as one of your top two scorers. He works next to Tatum and Brown. Not in place of one of them (or alone with Embiid).
Simmons stinking up the joint this playoffs was supposed to bring his value down so the C’s could add him as their Point 4 next to the Jays. Not in place of one.
While we appreciate that Tom Curran follows Celtics Life for ideas, further research would have convinced him that a Jaylen for Simmons deal makes no sense as we've already discussed. If Simmons and his agent actually wanted to put Simmons in the best place to succeed, Boston just happens to have possibly the most ideal roster.
Simmons as your Magic Johnson point guard and Embiid as your Kareem might have worked in the 80's, but it's a different game now. The best position for Simmons is the one Giannis Antetokounmpo plays for the Bucks. Point 4. And if Giannis wasn't injured right now he'd be on his way to the NBA Finals. Simmons is more or less a lesser version than Giannis. Antetokounmpo is the MVP talent and the 1st team All-NBA guy. Simmons is the 3rd team NBA guy. Both are great defenders. Both struggle from the line (Difference is Giannis shoots with his correct hand and his free throw woes these playoffs haven't stopped him from attacking the hoop).
The other difference is the Bucks wouldn't even trade Giannis if the Celtics offered Tatum. So being a lesser version of Giannnis has one huge benefit for Simmons. He's available. The Bucks tinkered around with their roster until they found the right recipe for Giannis' talents to be maximized and his deficiency (shooting) to be minimized.
Giannis plays the 4, but he'd the "point 4." Their center is a stretch 5 who can hit 3's and their point guard isn't a ball dominant, heavy dribbling guy, but instead someone who play off the ball and hit 3's. Your two other guys also can hit 3's. The Celtics could provide Simmons with a similar cast.
Al Horford would be your stretch center in the mold of Brook Lopez. Tatum is a considerably better version of Middleton. Jaylen is exponentially better than whoever the Bucks are starting as their 5 th guy (Was Donte Divincenzo prior to his injury). Boston could add a cheap sharp shooting point guard if they weren't ready to give Payton Pritchard the point guard reigns, but it should be noted that in Pritchard they already have a rather ideal point guard for a team with Simmons and two All_stars in the Jay's.
Simmons is a MUCH better scorer than he showed this postseason. If you have half a brain you know this (And honestly, the Celtics fans that read entire articles tend to be the more intelligent ones, so congrats. And thank you). Simmons averaged 16.9 ppg in his 2nd season as a 22 year old. Forget about the broken version you say this playoffs. He played in the playoffs a couple years ago on the Philly team that was one bounce from the Finals. The talk that he will never show up in the playoffs when you need him is extremely exaggeratted.
But with that said, the ideal Point 4 role for Simmons not only doesn't include him scoring like Giannis, but doesn't even require him to put up 17 a game. Simmons is that elite as a defender and playmaker that he can average 12 or 13 a game and still be worth a max contract. For the majority of his Celtics career Kevin Garnett averaged less than 15 points per game. An ideal Big 3 includes one guy who doesn't care about shots.
Tatum and Jaylen are ideal wings to play next to Simmons. Rajon Rondo also had an embarassment of offensive riches while on the Celtics so you'd seem him drive to the hoop, but then dish to someone at the corner 3. Whereas the Bucks need a more explosive point guard (Jrue Holiday), since Middleton isn't enough firepower, since Boston already has Tatum AND Jaylen, a player like Pritchard would 100% suffice.
People may forget that when the Celtics traded for KG there were a lot of doubters on whether Rajon Rondo could become the starting point guard in just 2nd season (on a contender no less). Now hold your horses and your carriages. No one is saying Pritchard has the potential to become as good as a guy who is looking more and more like he will end up in the Hall of Fame. What we're saying is if you're starting 3 All-Stars and another former All-Star and your 4 is handling most of the playmaking ability, you don't really need much from your starting point guard. Basically you only need a guy who can shoot, and Pritchard's range is off the charts, and is a willing defender.
Your point guard doesn't even need to be that great of a defender, since you can always stick Simmons (or even Jaylen) on an opposing starter who has elite speed and abilities. The Bulls had Pippen as their de facto point guard while John Paxson still started. Pritchard is Paxson with more range.
I'm not going to go into again what it would cost to trade for Simmons since I already wrote too many words on it in the "Would You? post. But we said to hope is that Simmons shit the bed the rest of the Atlanta series if Boston wanted any chance of adding him to the Jay's, so mission accomplished for that 1st step. And based on how things ended if/when you read the previous postwhich was written while said series was still going, I'm now rather confident that Boston could acquire Simmons for even less than I speculated prior. Cheers to bottoming out Ben!
Simmons is neither old nor is he physically injured. The major fear when adding a max player is that you're paying him for past performance, but the player you are getting will start to regress due to age and/or miss games (again due to father time). Simmons on the other hand has a shooting problem and a mental hurdle he needs to fix. If you all of a sudden start shooting free throws in the 30's in the playoffs, you're not going to fix that issue while still in the playoffs. Just spending time in the gym like all NBA players now do during the offseason and taking free throw reps will likely remedy that issue.
Now if Boston really wanted to strike the jackpot, not only would Simmons put in the standard amount of offseason hours, but he'd work extra hours. Get that free throw percentage up from the 60's to the 70's. If he wants to switch up to shooting with his natural hand, that's something he could also attempt with extra hours in the gym this offseason.
Everything that Simmons has said indicates he's taking this offseason very seriously. There are other star players that when they fail, blame everyone else, demand coaches or other players are sent packing, and basically act a fool. Simmons was very mature in his post game comments following the team's elimination to Atlanta. He put all the blame on himself. He even volunteered himself that he needed to get his "mental" right this summer. Guess what? Teams, agents, and players have no shortage of sports psychologists they can employ when needed.
Simmons will undoubedly at least get back to the player he was prior to the postseason. One of the two best players on the team with the best record in the conference. So a star who affects winning. The Celtics have the ideal foursome already in place to start next to him. And the sky would be the limit with a team of three All-Stars all 24 and younger. You already having the willing member of the Big 3 to sacrifice his shot attempts so the other two guys can continue to live the good life.
This isn't something that was ever avaialble prior. Nor will it be in the future. Make it happen Brad.