Target #5: Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets
Simmons will certainly be the most controversial player on this list, and he’s in a totally different category than anyone else here. He’s also one of the most polarizing players in the entire league, and may also come with the most toxic contract. But all of that is what makes him attractive to the Hornets.
He was a mainstay on the All-Star team and All-Defensive team early in his career, but the last several years have been marred by injuries and controversies, with some wondering if he’d even retire. In the last three seasons, Simmons has only played in 49 games, including just 7 this season.
But if ever there was a guy who needed a change of scenery it’s Simmons. The low pressure and lack of media spotlight in Charlotte would be a perfect place for Ben to try and rehab his career. He can focus on getting back up to speed in games with virtually no stakes, and see if he can get back to playing in games consistently.
At this point, it may be a pipe dream, but if Simmons could get back to even close to the player he once was, he’d be an incredible fit for the Hornets. At his peak, he was a total Swiss army knife type of player, who could do everything on a basketball court well except for shoot.
Once regarded as the best defender in the league, Simmons could defend all five positions, dominating inside and out. He also excelled as a point forward on offense, an elite driver and passer, even at 6’10”.
That version of Simmons would immediately transform the Hornets' defense, and he could be a lynchpin on that end, sliding in between Mark Williams and Brandon Miller. Surround him with enough shooting and scoring, and if Simmons could get his body right this could be a dream scenario for all parties involved.
Even as grim as things have looked for Simmons in recent years, in his last appearance for the Nets, he put up 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists on a perfect 5/5 from the floor and was +27 in a huge win over the Jazz on January 29th. It’s hard to even fathom how much a player like that could help the Hornets.
Now obviously I’m glossing over all of the issues and red flags with Simmons, and there’s a real chance he’s never a consistent impact player in the NBA again. But that’s what makes him available in the first place.
Simmons is making $37.9 million this year and $43.3 million next season, a contract the Nets are likely dying to get rid of. But the Hornets could easily eat that contract and see if Simmons could find some of his old magic.
The Hornets could just send back one of their big expiring contracts, in Gordon Hayward or Kyle Lowry. The Nets would likely be thrilled just to dump Simmons’ contract and would pay a team to do so. In this dream scenario, the Hornets would get to add some draft picks and also get a lottery ticket in Simmons, who’s still 27 and made an All-NBA team as recently as 2020.
I’ve discussed how the Hornets should be looking to take on bad contracts as a way to add picks, such as Andrew Wiggins and D’Angelo Russell, but Simmons would be an even bigger and better prize, with almost unmatched upside. And if it doesn’t work out, he just becomes a huge expiring contract next season, and the team will have added some draft picks for their trouble.