Boston Celtics division rival and the Eastern Conference’s #1-seeded Philadelphia 76ers just lost to the #5-seeded Hawks…led by 22-year-old Trae Young. Down the stretch of the series, just about everyone on Philly was at fault for their four losses, but no one shared more blame than Ben Simmons.
Simmons was down to 11.9 points per game, 8.8 assists per game, and 34.2% shooting from the free-throw line in the series, and he seemingly had no answer for Trae Young on the defensive end. His struggles cost the Sixers a playoff series against the #5 seed in the east.
With Simmons playing poorly in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, Philadelphia is coming to a crossroads if they weren’t there already. If the Sixers decide that Simmons’ time in Philly ends after this post-season, should the Celtics put themselves in the mix to acquire him?
To begin, let’s look at the pros and cons of Simmons on the Boston Celtics.
Simmons-Smart-Brown-Tatum-Williams lineups are a terrifying sight for opposing teams. They can switch 1-5, and there isn’t a single match-up to exploit. The Cs can mess around and move Simmons to the five and bring Evan Fournier in for more offense while maintaining an elite defense.
The biggest pro to bringing in Simmons is forming the best perimeter defense in the NBA, which will come in handy if they cross paths with the Brooklyn Nets or Phoenix Suns, who have a plethora of perimeter talent.
On offense, Simmons would have to become a full-time power forward for him to succeed. The Celtics could use him as a short roller with Marcus Smart as a ball-handler and Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Fournier on the perimeter to space the floor. Simmons would have the option to drive and score or drive and dish to 3 capable shooters.
In addition, the Celtics could use Simmons’ passing prowess and rim pressure in pick and roll. He has not had this luxury with Joel Embiid, so the Celtics could unlock something that the league has never seen from Simmons before since they have the space that the Sixers lacked.
The cons of bringing Simmons to Boston are much more complicated.
For starters, there is no evidence to support that Simmons wants to play in Boston, and it’s even more unlikely that the Sixers trade him to a division rival. If the C’s still had him, they would offer Kemba Walker and an assortment of minor assets, which the Sixers would have been unlikely to take. Stevens would be a fool to offer anything more; not even Smart should be considered a trade piece for Simmons.
Secondly, Simmons’ contract would make the C’s cap situation stickier than it already was. They would have to come up with the money to match Simmons’s contract, likely involving Al Horford or Marcus Smart, who are both better than Simmons.
As a result, Boston would be locking themselves into a Brown-Tatum-Simmons core for the foreseeable future with no chance of signing a marquee free agent or even signing higher-level role players. They would be unable to bring one of Fournier or Smart back, and they would have no money to bolster their big and wing rotation.
Essentially, what the Cs have right now is who they will have for the next few seasons with Simmons on the team, and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Thirdly, Simmons has shown no signs of life offensively since he entered the league. His scoring has not improved, his shooting has remained nonexistent, and his finishing has seemingly regressed. His passing has remained what it was, and his playmaking and scoring have had a positive correlation.
Simmons has shown he can improve his defense, which was less about him learning how to play defense and more about him leveraging his physical tools against other players. He has not improved upon anything he was already good at and has not tried to refine any areas in which he excels.
So the idea that Boston could use him as a short roller which he has only done a handful of times, is unlikely because he will not commit to excelling in that role. Nothing about his personality points to him coming to a division rival, developing chemistry with Boston’s players, improving his existing game, and adding new skill sets to his offensive repertoire.
The Boston Celtics would be betting $140 million on Simmons’ ability to improve, which he has not done on a team that refused to trade him for an All-time great scorer just a few months ago.
So with all that laid out, what’s the verdict? Should the Celtics try and trade for Ben Simmons?
I say no. The only given with Simmons in Boston is that their perimeter defense will be great, and their cap space will be nonexistent. That’s it; everything else is just a hypothesis. They will have an elite perimeter defense with no depth, no flexibility, insufficient interior protection, and a capped playoff ceiling.
That does not sound like an ideal situation for the Boston Celtics moving forward. For that reason, I’m out.