There is no shortage of trade proposals out there that would send Ben Simmons hither and yon, his “designated rookie extension” contract seen by many pundits as an albatross preventing the Nets from being in the mix for Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo or Andrew Wiggins, etc. Each of those three and about a dozen other young stars are on such deals and NBA rules prevent teams from having two on their roster.
So the suggestion is that the Nets find a way to dump the 25-year-old so they can pick up another young star in a deal for Kevin Durant. Bobby Marks, the Nets former assistant GM, came up with one such four-team trade Wednesday. Without getting into too many details, the Nets would send out Simmons and Kevin Durant in return for Mitchell, Mikal Bridges and Myles Turner. Brooklyn would get no first rounders in the complicated exchange. Fans didn’t like that aspect of the deal.
Putting aside specifics of Bobby Marks idea, there seems little interest from Sean Marks in dispatching Simmons … and no urgency either. The Nets ownership and management have set the bar high for KD returns and seem prepared to wait things out, perhaps hoping for a change of course by Durant whose four-year, $198 million deal kicked in on July 1.
As Brian Lewis wrote last week, with Durant and Kyrie Irving rumors flying, the Nets don’t seem interested in conducting simultaneous trade talks on their three biggest stars. In his story, Lewis raised the possibility of the Nets “moving off Simmons,” then dismissed it.
Privately, Nets sources have intimated that the latter option is unlikely. And when asked if Simmons had gotten assurances he was in the Nets’ long-term plans and would not be traded, a source close to the young All-Star told The Post simply that “Ben is good.”
Indeed, it seems Simmons and the Nets are “good.” Simmons was in Las Vegas this week along with newly acquired Royce O’Neale (reportedly Donovan Mitchell’s best friend on the Jazz until he was traded to Brooklyn) and Nic Claxton who was doing double duty in Las Vegas, as a teammate cheering for his pals and as the Nets union rep in town for NBPA meetings.
Claxton declined to speak with reporters and was escorted to and from his seat by Nets security director Fred Galloway. But reporters on hand said he appeared to be in a good mood.
On Wednesday, the Nets also tweeted out a video of Simmons at Summer League, including some sound from the three-time All-Star.
Specifically, Simmons told a team camera:
“The offseason has been great. Great chance to recover, rehab after surgery, and then we really lock in the gym. Block out all the noise and get ready for next season. So I’m excited,” said Simmons who hadn’t spoken publicly since the end of the season.
The Nets marketing team seems to be casting Simmons as loyal and true in light of all the “noise” surrounding KD and Kyrie.
The video also included as a quick hug between Simmons and Sean Marks who has told people he’s liked Simmons from the time he scouted the Aussie “from a very young age.” Of course, things can change, and of course, Simmons needs to rehab both physically and mentally after his missed season that has, as Lewis also wrote, deeply discounted his trade value.
All that said, Simmons seems to be underrated by both pundits and the Nets fanbase. They didn’t get a look at during the regular season and many lashed out at him for not playing a minute in the Nets post-season sweep at the hands of the Celtics. Some still feel that way even after he had back surgery. Such is fickle fandom.
Simmons when physically and mentally fit has more accolades than most of those who some would like to see the Nets acquire in lieu of Simmons. Simmons and Mitchell are two months apart in age and both have been three-time All-Stars, but Simmons has been All-NBA once and All-Defensive team twice, neither of which Mitchell has achieved. Adebayo has been an All-Star once.
It will take some time — and some success on the court — for Simmons to rehabilitate his reputation, but the Nets seem confident he can and be a big contributor. So far, they seem more than willing to take the risk on Simmons’ future. Moreover, he is the least of their problems at the moment.