Ben Simmons would become first player to make post-trade debut in playoffs

Ben Simmons at Brooklyn Nets Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden
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Traded from the 76ers to the Nets in February, Ben Simmons said he hoped to play in Philadelphia a month later. That didn’t happen. Nor did Simmons meet another targeted return date.

Finally, Simmons is reportedly set to make his Brooklyn debut Monday.

In Game 4 of the Nets-Celtics playoff series.

That’s a high-stakes time for a debut. Especially for Simmons. The last time he played, teammates reportedly suspected he faked a potential coronavirus exposure to dodge 76ers-Hawks Game 7. He hasn’t played all season due to some combination of trade demand/holdout, mental-health issues and back issues. His distinctive style – a tall point guard who’s an extremely reluctant shooter – could make it tough for him and his new teammates to mesh.

Even without Simmons’ unique complications, there’s no precedent for someone debuting for a new team in the playoffs after a trade.

Just 14 players have had their first appearance with a team that season come in the playoffs:

  • Jaylen Adams (2020 Portland Trail Blazers)
  • Ty Lawson (2018 Washington Wizards)
  • John Holland (2016 Boston Celtics)
  • Dorell Wright (2016 Miami Heat)
  • Dwayne Jones (2013 Golden State Warriors)
  • Scott Machado (2013 Golden State Warriors)
  • Tracy McGrady (2013 San Antonio Spurs)
  • Mike Brown (1998 Phoenix Suns)
  • Larry Krystkowiak (1991 Milwaukee Bucks)
  • Mike Mitchell (1990 San Antonio Spurs)
  • Ed Sherod (1982 New Jersey Nets)
  • Tom Hoover (1966 Los Angeles Lakers)
  • Jerry Fleishman (1953 New York Knicks)
  • Dick Schnittker (1953 Minneapolis Lakers)

Most of these are late-season signings. Krystkowiak missed the entire 1990-91 regular season due to injury then returned to the Bucks in the 1991 playoffs. Hoover signed with the Lakers well before the playoffs though didn’t play in the regular season. Dick Schnittker was coming off military service.

Just two of these players – Machado (Houston Rockets) and Fleishman (Philadelphia Warriors) – played for another team earlier in the season.

John Holland and Ed Sherod actually made their NBA debuts in the postseason.

But none were traded to their new teams.

That says something about about their level of play. They were mostly fringe NBA players, available for back-of-roster depth – not coveted in trades. Only Fleishman (13) and Ty Lawson (19) played more than even 10 minutes per game in the playoffs.

Simmons, a multi-time All-Star, was the centerpiece of Brooklyn’s return in the James Harden trade. The Nets will be down 2-1 or 3-0. They might not be counting on a ton from him, but expectations are more than minimal.

Even with Simmons coming in cold.