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Ben Simmons to Pacers would be a dangerous deal for Indiana

Is trading for Ben Simmons really going to help the Pacers?
Image: Getty Images

If you tuned out for a day or two and were wondering where in the world Ben Simmons is…

His rights are still in Philadelphia with the 76ers. As for where Simmons is physically and mentally? Anywhere but Philly, I’m sure.

The Simmons trade saga seems to be going nowhere in a hurry, although we continue to hear the names of contenders for his services. Lately, the Indiana Pacers have surfaced as one such team that might have a good chance of landing Simmons.

But I would advise the Pacers front office to proceed with caution in pursuing that deal. It can be challenging, even nearly impossible, for small-market teams like Indiana to attract big-name free agents. So when one does get a chance to trade for a player like Simmons, I can understand why that might be an attractive transaction.

The Pacers will need to look at their roster and figure out what their goals are, realistically. Do they hope to be a top-four team in the East in the next few years and maybe make a Conference Finals appearance or two over that time? Or do you feel like Simmons is the missing link to the Pacers playing in their first NBA Finals in 20 years?

Okay, let me be completely honest with you. The Indiana Pacers trading away assets for Ben Simmons at this point won’t help them accomplish any of this, and it won’t happen with Simmons as the supposed leader/best player of the team.

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Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. The Pacers will still be a playoff team with Ben, but what the Pacers will be expected to give up for Simmons won’t be worth the return on investment.

To acquire Simmons, the Pacers will need to include at least two of the following three players, I’d think:

  • Malcolm Brogdon
  • T.J. Warren
  • Caris LeVert

All three players are older than Ben by at least a couple of years. Though none are older than 28 years old, with Brogdon turning 29 in December, Indy would be sending at least two of these guys to Philly in a deal for Simmons, count on that. And from what we know, the Sixers’ asking price is still high, so they will probably want another player, along with draft picks, in the deal.

Let’s say the Sixers want Brogdon and LeVert, plus those draft picks and another player thrown in. Now the Pacers move forward with a core of Simmons, Warren, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. Still a good team but not an elite squad in the East.

Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Miami, Philly, possibly Atlanta, and Boston would all still be better than Indiana in the conference. The first four of those teams are still 100 percent better than a Pacers squad with Simmons. And the East is the deepest it’s been in quite a while. Therefore, I am skeptical about the Pacers handing over all these assets for a player who won’t shoot the ball.

The matter of Simmons not being a good shooter has become irrelevant. Draymond Green is not a good shooter. But he makes sure he gets his shots in at the right moments. And he’s played alongside arguably the greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history. Simmons became so afraid of the free-throw line in the playoffs last season that he passed up easy shots near the basket. Every offseason we keep hearing about how he’s working on his shooting, yet he comes back the next year and it’s the same thing. He still hasn’t taken any responsibility for his part in the Sixers’ summer drama. I know Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid crossed the line, but they weren’t wrong. They know how hard Simmons is (or isn’t) working to become a better shooter, and apparently that frustration finally boiled over after the playoff loss to the Hawks. Rivers can deny it all he wants. The organization was fed up.

The consensus seems to be that it’s all in Ben’s head, in regard to his refusal to shoot the ball. This may be the case. But even if it is, trading him to another location isn’t going to fix him shooting the ball overnight. I just don’t think it’s that simple. Philly knows a little about this, having been the team to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 overall in 2017. Now, Fultz seemed to have lost his shooting touch overnight, but it hasn’t returned as quickly. He’s looked better in Orlando with the Magic over the last couple of years but not how most of us envision a top pick.

If this is all just Ben being in his own head, then it’s going to take time for him to become a confident shooter. At least Fultz was known to be a shooter at one point. We all want Simmons to develop a jump shot from scratch, for the most part. That isn’t easy. Simmons may never be a shooter. But you must be willing to shoot the rock in games to improve. Maybe Simmons has basketball’s version of the yips? Of course, this would mean it’s more than just in his head, but something’s going on with Simmons.

Again, I understand why the Pacers, or any small-market NBA team, would be tempted to trade for an All-NBA player that they could never get otherwise. All I’m saying is, tread lightly, Pacers. And be careful what you wish for because sooner or later, you might be stuck with it.

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