The Philadelphia 76ers and the Portland Trail Blazers are in similar positions after disappointing NBA playoff losses. In the first round, the Blazers went out to a weakened Denver Nuggets team, with the Blazers second-best player CJ McCollum struggling in the six games.
The 76ers, meanwhile, lost to the fifth seed Atlanta Hawks, with Simmons struggling bigtime offensively. With massive payrolls and weak playoff results recently, it is time for a change for both teams. The Blazers have already started their search for a new coach, now it could be time for a personnel change.
Should the Portland Trail Blazers trade CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons?
Let’s break down how a potential CJ for Ben trade could work.
With both teams almost certainly going to be over the salary cap for the 2022 season, the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement rules around salary matching are important.
CJ McCollum – 2021/22 salary – $30,864,198
Ben Simmons – 2020/21 salary – $33,003,936
Because these salaries fall within the 125 percent range, Simmons and McCollum can be traded for each other straight up without any other salaries being involved. That clears the first hurdle and means that the trade is legal under the NBA’s rules.
But, which player has the higher value?
Before this NBA playoffs, almost everyone would say that it was Ben Simmons.
The number one pick in the 2016 Draft, with some of the best physical tools seen in any number one pick in recent memory, and now on a max contract after stellar production on his rookie deal.
His recent ending to the playoffs was disappointing; that can’t be denied. Simmons struggles on offense show some larger issues with his game and reflects poorly on a Sixers franchise with just two top 20 players to show for all their years of tanking in ” The Process. ”
Simmons not going up for a dunk when he was wide open with just the smaller Trae Young on him, and instead of passing to a cutter, is symptomatic of bigger issues within the franchise. Star big man Joel Embiid threw him under the bus later and showed why maybe this isn’t just an issue with Simmons mentality, but the team’s approach as well.
But he is still an all-world defender. Nothing changes that.
Simmons is a three-time All-Star, two-time All-defense member, one-time steals leader, and one-time All-NBA. He has a stacked resume for someone just 24-years-old.
The Blazers haven’t had a first-team All-Defensive member since the 1992 season. Let that sink in for a bit. The fans want a championship, and need to realize that the way to that is through tough defense. Ranking 29th on that end won’t get the Blazers out of the first round.
Assessing McCollum, on the other hand, is a bit tougher.
He is one of the best shot creators in the league and had a career-best year in the regular season. If it weren’t for an unfortunate broken foot in January, we would probably be talking about him as a 2021 All-Star, and the Blazers would have a significantly better record.
But, in the playoffs, CJ disappointed. He didn’t have bad playoffs, but his turnovers and lack of a really big game or two were among the big factors in the Blazers not making the second round.
The biggest thing to consider in a potential trade of McCollum, is his poor fit with Damian Lillard.
Because they are both small guards with similar skillsets, their games may not age well in Portland. McCollum is a great catch-and-shoot guy, but he needs the ball in his hands to operate most of the time. In addition, neither of them are great defenders, so this impacts the way the team needs to be built around them.
Currently, even with a bad playoffs, Simmons likely has higher value in a trade. Be it one first-round pick or one young player to attach in a trade, Simmons at an All-NBA level is higher than McCollum as a fringe All-Star. In addition, CJ is 29, whereas Simmons is about to turn 25.
McCollum may be a more impactful offensive player at the highest levels, but Simmons elite defense and playmaking can be just as impactful.
This type of deal may pain Blazers fans who love McCollum, but they shouldn’t be prisoners of the moment when looking at Simmons. He may have struggled in the playoffs in certain situations and when shooting free throws, but he still had 13 assists in the final game.
Simmons is an elite player with a league MVP ceiling. If he is available in trade for CJ McCollum, then the Blazers should get it done.