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Should Ben Simmons be a Bulls trade target?

it’s complicated

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Chicago Bulls v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Ever since the Sixers pissed away their second-round series against the Hawks, speculation has run wild about the future of Ben Simmons in Philly. Simmons’ fourth-quarter vanishing acts and historically bad postseason free-throw shooting coupled with the bus-tossing by Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid has a trade feeling inevitable after yet another playoff flameout. Simmons passing up a wide-open dunk late in Game 7 with only Trae Young under the basket felt like the final straw.

I got my share of jokes in after Simmons and the Sixers finished their collapse, and then my mind immediately turned to the possibility of the Bulls trading for the youngster. Yes, he crapped the bed in a big way and has very obvious flaws, especially in the postseason, but he’s also a player who would undoubtedly help the Bulls be a perennial playoff team. And, perhaps with a fresh start after some humbling, he would actually make it a point to adjust his offensive mindset and improve his game so he’s not a liability when it matters.

I do understand the people who want no part of Simmons after the ghastly display we just witnessed, especially given the fact he’s owed over $146 million over the next four seasons. I can’t really psych myself up that much about the idea, even if I think it’s an option that must be explored and that recency bias is underrating what Simmons brings to the table, making him an intriguing buy-low candidate.

Simmons is still just 24 years old, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and a dynamite playmaker the Bulls could really use. He would theoretically fit in nicely next to a stud scorer in Zach LaVine and a skilled stretch 5 in Nikola Vucevic and ideally wouldn’t be counted on too much for his scoring. Simmons’ defensive ability would help cover up the flaws of the Bulls’ two current All-Stars, and that playmaking would be a boon. Simmons and LaVine in transition would be deadly.

Matt Moore of The Action Network cited a source saying the Bulls or Blazers would make a lot of sense for a Simmons trade. Others have brought up the Bulls as a possible trade destination. But that’s still ultimately just speculation, there’s been no rumors that the Sixers have even begun to look to move Simmons, let alone that the Bulls would show interest.

A Big Three of LaVine, Vucevic and Simmons would be really damn good. But there’s the complication of making a deal that works financially without LaVine, plus the concept that the Sixers aren’t so interested in an asset package versus ready-now talent. The Athletic’s John Hollinger suggested the Bulls trading LaVine for Simmons, and he’s not the only one.

Quite frankly, I think trading LaVine for Simmons would be asinine.

I know Zach has never led the Bulls to the playoffs and still has his flaws, but he has improved every season in Chicago and has become an All-Star and an Olympian. He’s one of the best scorers in the NBA and simply needs more help. Knowing how important LaVine’s skill set is in a playoff setting and how we’ve seen his peers excel on that stage, trading him for a potentially fatally flawed player in Simmons is just spinning your wheels. Maybe Simmons in LaVine’s spot would make the Bulls a marginally better regular-season team, but there’s still that whole playoff problem.

But if you’re not trading LaVine for Simmons, which they shouldn’t, how are the Bulls actually getting him? The Sixers need legitimate win-now talent back in a Simmons trade because they’re still trying to win a title with Joel Embiid while he still has 1.5 working knees. The Bulls could cobble together an offer that involves young guys/salary filler/draft capital (though the can’t trade their own first rounder until the 2026 selections), but there’s little reason to think the Sixers accept it, even with Simmons’ value at a low point. Outside of the two All-Stars, Patrick Williams is the best asset, but he probably isn’t helping the Sixers win a title next season. An idealized version of Coby White would help, but he’s not there yet as a player, plus is now hurt and will likely miss the start of the season. Maybe a Lauri Markkanen sign-and-trade could be involved, though the Sixers would then be hard-capped and he has his own problems.

Perhaps the Bulls could try to rope in another team (s) to make a deal work, trading an asset package for some win-now player elsewhere that gets sent to the Sixers. If there’s any way they can acquire Simmons while keeping LaVine and Vucevic, they should look into making it happen. The Bulls could also look to make another significant move without giving up as much, but the bottom line is a Simmons trade should be on their radar.