The Summer of Ben Simmons has been going on for so long, and has been so drawn-out, that at this point basically everyone knows the major players. You have Simmons, who doesn't want to be here. You have the Sixers, who want to trade Simmons for a star. And you have the teams who are reportedly interested in Simmons, a list led by the Timberwolves, Cavaliers, and Raptors, and also might include the Warriors, the Spurs, and the Pacers.
But what if I told you there was another team that we don't know about yet, lurking in the shadows and trying to pounce on a deal for the Sixers' 25-year-old star?
ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst reported exactly that in a new episode of the Scoop podcast with Darren Wolfson.
Windhorst, who last week reported Simmons has been largely unwilling to help the Sixers boost his value in discussions with other teams, is extremely particular about his wording and reporting, so when he does offer something up publicly it's usually smart to pay attention to what he's saying.
Here's what Windhorst reported on the Scoop:
"WINDHORST: You can definitely see why teams would have interest in him, and why small-market teams wouldn't necessarily be able to sign a player like this, like the Wolves, and would have a lot of interest. Because how else are you going to sign a player like this with four years left on his contract?
"WINDHORST: I don't mean to be evasive, I've just got to be careful with what I say. I know of at least one other team who is a small-market team, that has made an offer for him and has a lot of interest in him. It just hasn't gotten public yet."
That's a spicy little nugget of information, Windy!
In order to try and triangulate who he might be referencing here, let's first examine the list of small market teams who have been tied at least once to Simmons in this summer's rumor mill:
Those aren't the teams Windhorst is talking about.
Now, the Sixers have been linked to the Blazers this offseason, but that's largely been through the Sixers' interest in Damian Lillard. Is Portland interested in adding Simmons without giving up Lillard? That could be one option. Maybe Portland offered C.J. McCollum and other pieces. I don't see that as a good fit, but I'm not in charge of the Blazers.
But what about teams we haven't talked much about, if at all?
Two teams come to mind in that category, and they're both fascinating: the Pistons, and the Pelicans.
New Orleans seems like a team, scorned in the past by the loss of a superstar, that wants to make sure Zion Williamson will stay. While this would once again be a truly strange fit, I can see David Griffin talking himself into some hyper-athletic crazyball ideas and making a deal for a second star.
One problem in the way of a trade is the fact that Devonte' Graham, an exciting young player who would likely be part of a package here, can't be moved until Sept. 30 because of NBA trade rules. So let's say on Oct. 1 New Orleans offers Graham, Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker plus a pick for Simmons. I'd... probably take it? If other teams' offers aren't enticing? The Sixers aren't better for it next year, but they get some good long-term pieces with high upside.
Out in Detroit, I'd imagine basically anyone other than Cade Cunningham is moveable. This one could be much simpler if the Pistons are willing to play ball: give me Jerami Grant, Cory Joseph, and your 2023 1st Round Pick and we've got a deal. The former Process Sixer in Grant has turned himself into a dynamic player and Joseph adds range and a veteran presence, plus surprisingly serviceable defense.
Ultimately, I still think the most likely Simmons destinations are Cleveland and Minnesota. But having a secret dark horse team is pretty fun.