Back east, the Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a disastrous Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Said loss had led to speculation that All-Star point guard Ben Simmons could be moved this summer. Here’s a look at three reasons why a swap of the two star players could make sense for both the Blazers and 76ers.
Out west, the Portland Trail Blazers need help on defense. That’s where trading C.J. McCollum could come into play following an ugly first-round exit in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
C.J. McCollum would give the 76ers that outside shooting threat Ben Simmons didn’t provide
Fresh off earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 49-23 record, Philadelphia now needs to reassess its supporting cast behind NBA MVP finalist Joel Embiid. Even with Seth Curry showing out big time from three-point range in the playoffs, that includes finding more perimeter threats. 76ers players not named Curry hit on 34% of their three-point attempts during the playoffs. Obviously, a gun-shy Ben Simmons is not a threat outside of the low-post.
This is where C.J. McCollum comes into play. The 29-year-old guard is a career 40% shooter from three-point range. He hit on 169-of-420 attempts this past season, both of which would have been second behind pending free agent Danny Green on the Sixers’ roster. If Philly is able to retain Green, having him team up with McCollum and Curry would give front office head Daryl Morey three competent veteran shooters.
Moving off C.J. McCollum would improve the Blazers’ defense
Despite being a 20-point per game scorer over the past six seasons, McCollum leaves a whole lot to be desired on defense. This past season saw him put up a defensive win shares of just 0.6 with a defensive plus-minus of -1.5. This is just not sustainable for a Blazers squad that yielded 114.3 points per game and boasted the second-worst defensive rating in the Association.
Enter into the equation NBA Defensive Player of the Year finalist Ben Simmons. Despite his major struggles on the offensive end of the court, Simmons can guard pretty much every position on the other end. He’s a two-time All-Defensive Team performer and legitimately a great on-ball defender out on the perimeter. Last season alone, Simmons finished with a defensive win shares of 6.0. If utilized correctly (as a four or five, not a point guard) this is a perfect fit for Portland as it attempts to cater to star guard Damian Lillard amid growing trade rumors.
Assessing how a C.J. McCollum for Ben Simmons trade would look
First off, it’s all about the salaries here with both the Blazers and 76ers hard-capped. That’s one of the reasons executives around the league are focusing on this as a potential trade possibility. McCollum is set to count $30.8 million against the cap in 2021-22. Simmons’ figure comes in at $33 million. Technically, it could be a one-for-one swap and still work.
Even then, Simmons’ trade value took so much of a hit during his disastrous performance in the NBA Playoffs that the 76ers might have to sweeten the pot. Perhaps, their late first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft could be used as bait. Someone like young guard Furkan Korkmaz would also work for a Portland team that would be in need of a two-guard next to Damian Lillard if it moved off C.J. McCollum. Either way, numerous packages could get this done during the summer.