Report: Add Hawks to list of teams to watch in Ben Simmons trade

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There’s a feeling on other teams that the Philadelphia 76ers will trade Ben Simmons before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, not wanting to waste a year of Joel Embiid‘s prime. The Cavaliers are the latest team to get mentioned as a possible destination, but previously the Lakers, Knicks, Celtics, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Kings and Pacers have all gotten mentions.

Add the Atlanta Hawks to the mix.

That according to Marc Stein in his must-read substack newsletter, but he also cautions the 76ers could choose to hold on to Simmons — and they still would like him to come back and play for them.

Convincing Simmons to rejoin the team and play as much of the remaining schedule as possible, according to one source familiar with Philadelphia’s thinking, is the club’s “goal No. 1” when it comes to the wayward playmaker…

Yet it has likewise been evident for weeks, if not months, that the Sixers don’t subscribe to the notion that they are wasting a year of Joel Embiid’s prime if they hold off on a Simmons deal until the offseason. Philly’s fear is that it could do something much more damaging and squander the opportunity to acquire a true complementary star to Embiid if it rushes into a deal this season for the various headliners it could get immediately…

It was suggested to me this week by one league source to keep an eye on Atlanta as an emerging suitor for Philadelphia’s Simmons. The Hawks awoke Friday at a disappointing 17-20 (good for only 12th place in the East) and ranked 26th in defensive rating… The Hawks don’t appear to have an available star on the Lillard/Beal level to make the sort of offer Philadelphia seeks for Simmons, but they have numerous enticing trade pieces to try to bring in other teams and expand the options in a theoretical multi-team trade construction.

Three quick thoughts on this report:

Atlanta’s GM Travis Schlenk went on the radio and blasted his team’s defense and added may shake this team up. Trading for Simmons certainly would be a shake-up Simmons brings the defense and size to the backcourt that Young lacks, and it would give the team two dynamic passers to build around. There’s potential there, but as always the question becomes “at what cost?” What would Atlanta need to give up to make a trade like this work? De'Andre Hunter and/or Cam Reddish? John Collins? Picks? What is the price tag?

• The 76ers absolutely would be wasting a year of Embiid’s prime — and with his injury history that is a significant risk. Which is why other teams believe a trade will be found. Embiid is a force and someone the Nets and even Milwaukee have a difficult time matching up against. The success of the Suns and Warriors right now (and  Chicago to a degree, the Wizards as well) show the value of depth and a strong ensemble. 76ers GM Daryl Morey famously chases stars, but there are other ways to build a contender. If the 76ers put enough good defenders and shooters around Embiid, them making a deep playoff run and coming out of the East is not out of the question.

• I’m sure the 76ers would like it if Simmons came back and played for them. I would like to recover from a night of drinking like I did when I was 21. Neither of those things is happening. Simmons has made that explicitly clear.