Ben Simmons' time in Philadelphia seems to be on a path towards an inevitable breakup, with the only actual intrigue remaining being his eventual destination.
While Simmons would likely hope to play for a contender, and he has been linked to Western Conference teams because of his pricey mansion out West and his Hollywood lifestyle, there's one team a little closer to Canada than Cali that just won't let Daryl Morey say no enough times.
NBA insider Marc Stein reported in a newsletter on his Substack on Tuesday that the Cavaliers have been particularly focused on trading for Simmons... and might've recently added a piece who could be used in a deal:
"[I] liked the Cavaliers' recent acquisition of Lauri Markkanen, even after the Cavs drafted Evan Mobley and re-signed Jarrett Allen, because they added Markkanen on a team-friendly contract that will be easy to trade if needed. This is no small thing when league sources say that Cleveland continues to keep its hat in the ring to try to pry Ben Simmons from the Sixers. Making a deal just to add a theoretical trade asset didn't exactly work with the acquisition of Andre Drummond, since Cleveland was unable to find a subsequent deal to move Drummond on, but its options on Markkanen — keep and develop him or move him later — figure to be more favorable."
Very interesting, on multiple fronts!
For one, the Cavs refusing to give up on a Simmons deal sure makes it sound like their interest is more than just kicking the tires. They've been linked to Simmons and the Sixers before, but Stein emphasizing their repeated attempts is a definite purposeful inclusion, highlighting just how hard Cleveland is trying to land the three-time All-Star.
And the Markkanen inclusion is also pretty interesting. His fit in Cleveland is not very clean, even if you see Mobley as a long-term piece who might need to figure out his game first before contributing in a big way, because these days bad teams don't normally take players No. 3 overall and then have them struggle to see playing time.
I don't see Markkanen as a player the Cavs value more than their investment in Mobley, so Stein floating Markkanen as a trade piece in a Simmons deal makes a lot of sense for Cleveland.
Does it make sense for the Sixers as part of a return?
Maybe. That obviously depends on what the rest of the deal looks like. The Sixers would like to get back someone who can score on their own and at least has an All-Star ceiling, like a Collin Sexton or a Darius Garland. If the deal is Sexton, Markkanen, and Cedi Osman for Simmons? Sure, I'll take that. But it depends on how Cleveland views the deal.
I also wonder how Markkanen's skillset meshes or clashes with Tobias Harris. Harris had a career year last season in large part because he was allowed to play the 4 instead of the 3 after the Sixers moved on from the miserable Al Horford experiment, so Markkanen-Harris lineups wouldn't work too well unless Joel Embiid is on the bench and Markannen is playing the 5.
The Cavs also can't trade Markkanen in a package for Simmons until Oct. 27 because he was recently dealt, so Cleveland is probably hoping they can get something done in principal with Morey and then wait it out until the end of next month.
Morey will be hanging out in the meantime and hoping Damian Lillard comes to his senses and asks out of Portland. Until then, though, it sounds like Cavs general manager Koby Altman will be trying his darndest to land an All-Star in Cleveland.