Analyzing The Highly Discussed Ben Simmons for CJ McCollum Trade

There are few things better in professional sports than a trade. I have this player who has value and am looking for X player, draft picks, or salary cap relief.

The best part of a trade is that neither participant is actively trying to be fleeced, if at any point a team feels like they’re getting a bad end of the deal or simply get cold feet then – more times than not – trade talks fizzle out. So let’s start there: a trade happens because both teams want the trade and feel like the transaction will benefit them more than the other team.

What makes this potential Trail Blazers and 76ers trade so interesting is that both have come to this particular situation at the same time and while that would make them the initiator of trade talks this off-season for Ben Simmons and CJ McCollum respectively, it actually feels as if one of the best options for each team is to trade with one another.

But in order to discuss the merits of this deal, fit, and who wins out; we have to set the table a bit as to how we got here because that’s the important underlying detail in this discussion.

How We Got Here

The Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers are led by Joel Embiid and Damian Lillard – two All-Stars who were in the Most Valuable Player conversation for most of this 2020-21 season.

For the Sixers, Embiid’s health and longevity are the things that speed up the desire to take advantage of this championship window. Embiid missed the first two seasons after being selected third overall in 2014.

Years two and three of Embiid playing has represented his healthiest, logging 63 and 64 games but it is the same old injury history that arguably kept him from being crowned MVP this season and that threatened the Sixers’ chances this year going down with a torn meniscus in the first round.

The Blazers have made eight playoff appearances in Damian Lillard’s nine-year career. One team – the 2018-19 squad – made a Western Conference Finals before being swept by the dynastic Golden State Warriors. But only two seasons have seen Portland get out of the first round, 2013-14 in Dame’s first year making the playoffs and 2015-16.

For both teams, the key to moving forward will rely on Embiid and Lillard. What the 2020-21 playoffs have appeared to spell out for both teams is that the current structure – with Ben Simmons and CJ McCollum as the second wheel – isn’t what will help get either franchise to an NBA Finals.

And it’s not because either player isn’t talented but more so an issue with how the two fit with their team’s stars. What the public has seemed to figure out is that besides the money seeming to match well and the situations, what Simmons and McCollum do particularly well seems to be what the other team is sorely lacking.

Why The Sixers Need to Trade

The Sixers need scoring. And this playoff series has shown that Ben isn’t the guy for that job. Part of the issue with Ben’s lack of scoring diversity is the traffic jam it causes in the paint. Embiid has developed a bit of a mid-range and even a respectable three-pointer but there clearly needs to be an option between him and Tobias Harris/Seth Curry.

Losing Ben would leave a gaping hole defensively as Ben has made the 2019 and 2020 All-Defensive first teams and was the runner-up to this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award. The Sixers are not getting that in CJ McCollum or even in Robert Covington should he be thrown in as filler for a trade. Ben is still young, turning 25 this summer.

However, if the role and expectations that were imagined for him can’t come to fruition in the City of Brotherly Love then they should sell his upside for ready to plug and play talent.

Why the Blazers Need to Trade

The Blazers, desperately, need defense. Having a playmaker on the wing – more of this later – is nice but among the teams that have eliminated Portland over the years; a credible defensive threat could have easily made those series more competitive than they were. Also freeing up Dame to be purely an offensive juggernaut – similar to how Steph Curry has been able to operate in Golden State with Draymond and Klay – preserves the star entering next season at 31 years old.

The Blazers have parted ways with the only coach Damian has known in his NBA career seemingly a response to what is blatantly a waste of his prime. CJ is a great scorer in his own right but his skills don’t vary enough from Dame’s to make Portland a difficult team to withstand.

Dame has become infamous for being against teaming up with other stars to create a Big 3 but his cryptic IG post after being eliminated from this post-season should certainly light a fire under Blazers brass.

How To Make This Trade Work

I’m not a general manager, so I’ll leave the particulars up to Neil Olshey and Daryl Morey. But I don’t think either team would be done even with Covington, George Hill, Shake Milton, or whoever else I’ve seen added in. Seth Curry or Tyrese Maxey figure to have expanded roles if not becoming a starter all together but a guard or small forward that can defend – and shoot – might help round that team out.

For Portland, losing out on a 20+ point per game scorer for a player that’s been slandered viciously for his unwillingness to score is something the team will need to address. Norman Powell and Anfernee SImons will probably step into CJ’s place but a scorer will need to take their place as a third option.

Finally for the main piece of this puzzle, at least for the Blazers:

Ben Simmons’ career as a point guard in name would be effectively dead. As a player with amazing vision and playmaking ability, that part of his game will never be gone. In fact, Portland would be able to use that skill nicely.

Dame could slide into a shooting guard role when he wants and Ben would be in charge of hitting catch and shoot guys and slashers. While I assume most of the keys to Portland’s ability to develop players was in large part thanks to Terry Stotts – who should have a new head coaching gig shortly – I do think Ben could benefit the Blazers in this role right away.

Let’s be honest about this trade. Going off original expectations, there’s no reason CJ McCollum should be a reasonable offer for Ben Simmons. But that’s the beauty of this particular deal. Ben is a former first overall pick – and was atop his recruiting class – yet this Sixers squad no longer has the patience necessary to see this “process” through.

Yes, the Sixers can do the same thing I’m advocating the Blazers do but they don’t quite have the part necessary to pull that off. For a franchise looking to make the most of their playoff appearances, gaining CJ’s scoring would do wonders. Even this year, it took the Hawks seven games to eliminate the Sixers with all Ben didn’t do offensively. Perhaps these series aren’t as grueling with a two-headed attack in Joel and CJ.

Overall, both players would probably benefit best from a change of scenery. As a Blazer fan, I would love to see what CJ looks like operating as the sole guard in an offense. There would be great pick-and-roll opportunities with Embiid and McCollum too.

Add in Tobias Harris’ input and that CJ and Seth have played together before and this appears like it would be a seamless fit. Even for Ben who seems like he has quite the off-season ahead of him, Dame would be a good figure to push Ben to work.

Also, a smaller market might be a bit more comforting for Simmons to exist in. The Blazers also have a window that’s closing but changing the expectations that Ben Simmons becomes Giannis Antetokounmpo and focusing efforts on him fulfilling this role to the best of his abilities creates a well-functioning team that helps this team advance in the Western Conference.