Two months after the 2023-22 regular season, there has been a lot of NBA action worth mentioning. None of that has involved Ben Simmons or Kyrie Irving.
After an unexpected return to Philadelphia in early October, Simmons has yet to prepare for the 76ers, and it appears his time with the franchise is over. All signs indicate that trade talks are starting to intensify and that a move could be imminent.
MORE: Lakers, Knicks emerge as Simmons suitors
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, the Nets have been without Irving, who has stayed away from the team because of his vaccination status. Before the start of the new season, Brooklyn made it clear that Irving would not play until he was “eligible to be a full participant.”
Under current New York City COVID-19 guidelines, unvaccinated Knicks and Nets players cannot enter their local arenas for games. Irving is out of compliance with local protocols, making Brooklyn wonder when (or if) its status will change. In recent days, however, optimism has grown about his possible return.
So there are two high-profile contenders in the Eastern Conference looking to stay on a championship track and prevent these situations from getting (more) toxic. Why weren’t the 76ers and Nets going to make a call and exchange stars? It is so simple! It works on ESPN’s commercial machine and everything!
Okay, so it’s a bit more complicated than just matching wages. Let’s take a look at the cases for and against this hypothetical highly successful deal.
Why a Kyrie Irving-Ben Simmons trade would work
Irving would immediately remove the spacing concerns that have plagued the Simmons-Joel Embiid partnership. Irving had the most efficient season of his career in 2020-21, shooting 50.6 percent from the field, 40.2 percent from 3s and 92.2 percent from free throws. Imagine Irving attacking from the dribble with Embiid rolling to the basket, or Embiid raising knowing that if he gets a double, he can kick Irving.
Also, Irving would be available to play all 76ers games. There are no immunization mandates in Philadelphia City or Pennsylvania, and visiting players are not bound by the same rules in New York City.
As for the Nets, they could highlight all of Simmons’ strengths and cover up his weaknesses. Brooklyn had the best offensive rating in the NBA last season in part because he shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc as a team. Simmons has already shown that he can thrive as long as there are multiple shooters around him.
The Ben Simmons Paradox
2 run done 3s
782 triples assisted per race
(more in NBA since debut) pic.twitter.com/kF6xWYSts1
– Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) February 23, 2020
What happens when the game gets tight and opposing teams want to foul Simmons as soon as he touches the ball? Let the offense flow through James Harden and Kevin Durant.
More importantly, the Nets would have a First Defensive Team member capable of handling the toughest assignment each night and relieving Durant’s stress. Even in the midst of a postseason meltdown against the Hawks, Simmons could still cause trouble for Trae Young.
OK, I’m glad I figured it out. Call the league office and make it official.
Why a Kyrie Irving-Ben Simmons Trade Wouldn’t Work
Wow, not so fast there.
In October, Sam Amick of The Athletic reported that while Simmons’ camp had not “removed Brooklyn from their roster,” the 76ers had no interest in Irving. Philadelphia still hopes Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal will eventually make the trade block. (A Lillard-Embiid couple is the dream scenario.)
MORE: Sixers interested in ‘roughly 30 players’ in exchange for Simmons
Also, the Sixers would have no guarantees that Irving would keep the franchise long-term. Irving is two years old and has roughly $ 71 million left on his current contract, but he has a player option for the 2023-23 season. He could play the 2023-22 season and then pick another team in free agency. There is also a “belief in some corners of the league” that Irving would seriously consider retiring if the Nets decided to trade him, according to Marc Stein. (Irving dismissed those retirement rumors in an Instagram Live video on Oct. 13.)
Despite the ultimatum to get vaccinated or stay home, Brooklyn’s main office has given no indication that it wants to break its “Big Three.” Irving and Durant came together as a package in the summer of 2019. While the final decision would rest with owner Joseph Tsai and general manager Sean Marks, Durant can firmly oppose any trade from Irving.
As fun as the idea of an Irving-Simmons swap sounds in theory, it just doesn’t seem realistic, at least not at this point.