Cavaliers rumored team to watch as Ben Simmons trade talks heat up

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks
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Trade talk has completely dried up in NBA circles in the past two weeks. Like everything else in the NBA, it is a victim of COVID. Front offices are scrambling to deal with players being out and having to sign 10-day hardship contract guys out of the G-League, leaving no time for the luxury of trade conversations.

When talks heat up again, keep an eye on the surging Cleveland Cavaliers in Ben Simmons trade talks with the 76ers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said Christmas Day on NBA Countdown. Here is what Wojnarowski said, via Adam Hermann of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“But here’s an interesting team to watch: the Cleveland Cavaliers, who before they went on this really incredible start to the season, had been engaged with Philly on Simmons. They’ve got some really intriguing assets, either in a straight deal or perhaps a three- or four-team deal. It was reported earlier J.B. Bickerstaff agreed to a new extension today through 2026-27. This is a team in Cleveland that’s just a game out of third place.

“Philly’s a team right now, in that bunched up East, who could be out of the play-in with a couple of losses, the way it’s bunched up. So expect Philly to start talking more with teams as we get closer to that Feb. 10 deadline, and it will be interesting to see if Cleveland re-engages as a team that I think’s built for long-term success with all their young players. Ben Simmons is only 25 years old; he does fit into the timeline of that team.”

Note that Wojnarowski is not reporting recent talks between the Cavs and 76ers or anything of the sort. However, because of how connected Wojnaroski is, we can assume this is not just idle speculation either. Consider it a rumor, or informed speculation, or whatever term of art you prefer.

Simmons has not played for the 76ers this season. Following an ill-conceived holdout, then attempts to be disruptive, Simmons reported to the team but said he was not mentally ready to play. 

Cleveland can construct a trade for Simmons in a number of ways. They are reportedly open to trading Collin Sexton, a restricted free agent next summer who is up for a contract apparently larger than the Cavs want to pay (Sexton is out for the season following knee surgery). A trade of Sexton, Isaac Okoro and either Lauri Markkanen or Ricky Rubio plus some picks works in terms of the salary cap, but is that the “impact player” Daryl Morey is seeking? Basically, any player on the Cavaliers roster outside of rookie Evan Mobley might be available in the right trade.

Also, the Cavaliers have the $31.3 million salary of Kevin Love, which almost matches what Simmons makes. That allows a third or fourth team to get involved easily, with one of those teams likely being the Oklahoma City Thunder because they are the only team with cap space ($34 million).

Philadelphia sits behind Cleveland in the East, with a 17-16 record, looking good when Joel Embiid plays but lacking depth around him. What Morey gets back in this trade is important, but he can’t afford to waste a year of Embiid’s prime, so look for a move by the deadline.

Maybe with the Cavaliers.