The Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers are two teams at the top of their respective Conference.
For Philly, the core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford is enough to consider them a major threat in the East. Though half of their core is still young and largely inexperienced, big expectations have been hoisted on them to lead the Sixers to the promised land this season. Unfortunately, the team’s lack of outside scoring has become a flesh wound for them that could turn lethal in the playoffs.
The Lakers, meanwhile, are making up for a recent losing streak. LeBron James and Anthony Davis, though occasionally banged up, have proved to be the monstrous duo everyone thought they’d be entering the campaign. And as they sit atop the Western Conference, even they realize their need for ball-handling. With a lack of backcourt depth, LeBron, Rajon Rondo, and Alex Caruso are the only true playmakers on the team.
With their needs clear, and February’s trade deadline around the corner, these two franchises are going to be on the look-out for ways to improve their situation. They need to look no further than each other.
Consider this: Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Quin Cook, and Danny Green for 2018 Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons.
Simmons gives the Lakers everything they need — a ball-handling, playmaking guard who can set up his teammates. Bron can shoot more on the outside to provide a perimeter threat and ease the stress on his body, while Davis can work on the inside and get in position for Simmons to set him up in the post. Ben can be the primary ball-handler and assist others in scoring. He wouldn’t have to worry so much about trying to put up points or trying to shoot from the outside.
Of course, the Lakers would need to add some shooting after giving up Green, Cook, and Kuz. So, maybe after the trade for Simmons, they could put together a package for veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Avery Bradley.
In Philadelphia, Kuzma solves their shooting problem. Even in the midst of his struggles, Kuz is a guy who can get an easy bucket on the offensive end and is still young enough to fit the timeline of Joel Embiid. As a career-16 point per game scorer, Kuz could thrive with more room to operate and a bigger green light to shoot. With Embiid, Horford, and Tobias, the team would benefit from another outside perimeter threat.
To make the deal work, and to incentivize the Sixers into making the risky move, the Lakers could attach Green, Rondo, and Cook. In those, they get more backcourt depth, veteran leadership, and (most importantly) shooting.
It’s not a trade without questions, though. How will Simmons fit with LeBron when their games are so similar? Will Kuzma be able to blossom into a star in new surroundings? Essentially, the only way to find a concrete answer would be in a reality where it actually exists.
Thus, such a deal would require both teams to take the risk before they determine the results. And with both teams squarely in the Finals conversation, changing their team dynamic is not an easy call to make.
But it should be one to at least consider, especially with the current window of opprotunity Golden State’s downfall has presented.