LeBron? Chris Paul? Why the Ben Simmons rumors are just getting started

The 76ers’ Process has hit another crossroads.

The team has reached a point where they have the look of a perennial playoff team, but one that lacks the talent to win an NBA title. Joel Embiid, even after this postseason was hurt by injury and sickness, remains the face of the franchise. Decisions have to be made on free agents Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, who are both likely to receive max contracts this offseason.

And then there’s Ben Simmons. The shot-averse point guard had a second season that mirrored his first, roughly averaging 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. His refusal to take outside shots also remains consistent. Simmons took six 3-pointers in his rookie year and 11 this season, and has yet to see a single one drop. Defenses routinely sag off him knowing he is no threat to shoot.

Simmons said it was “very important” to develop his perimeter game and cited “repetition” as how he plans on improving it this offseason. That came during a contentious exchange Monday, a day after the 76ers’ season ended on Kawhi Leonard’s miracle corner shot in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals for the Raptors.

That is why, outside of the 76ers, some view him as the expendable piece who could be traded this offseason. What could the 76ers get back for Simmons? One Western Conference executive told NBC Sports that LeBron James is a possible target.

“I think they very well might explore that,” the rival executive told the website.

James has a no-trade clause, but given the current mess the Lakers organization is in, perhaps he would be willing to waive it if if it was seen as the last obstacle before a deal. Simmons would be the type of star the Lakers could rebuild around if they are willing to accept it would be tough to build a short-term championship contender around James.

The other possibility thrown out Tuesday is a bit more far-fetched. Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard suggested that Rockets GM Daryl Morey try to acquire Simmons for Chris Paul. If that works, Morey should also call commissioner Adam Silver and suggest they give the Rockets the No. 1 pick in the draft because sometimes fairy tales do come true.

Simmons, despite the shot weakness, is 22 years old and will be a top player in the league for years to come. The injury-prone Paul, 34, has three years and $123 million left on his contract.

But the fact Paul’s name is even mentioned speaks to how dubious his future in Philadelphia can be. And how much fans should expect it to dominate storylines when the offseason picks up.

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