The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers were the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference last season, but both are dealing with quite a bit of drama surrounding their All-Stars as the 2021-22 season approaches. Simmons only just reported to Philadelphia following a lengthy holdout in which he requested a trade. The Nets announced Tuesday that Irving would not be allowed to participate in any games or practices until he was fully in compliance with New York City's vaccine mandate.
This has led many around the league to speculate that the Nets and 76ers could solve each other's problems. Philadelphia could satisfy Simmons' desire for a trade by sending him to Brooklyn. Irving could return to the court as a member of the 76ers as neither Philadelphia nor the state of Pennsylvania has any mandate in place that would prevent him from playing. Simmons would provide sorely needed defense in Brooklyn. Irving would provide sorely needed offense in Philadelphia.
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But alas, according to The Athletic's Sam Amick, the 76ers have no interest in such a trade at this time. Amick reports that there is skepticism within Philadelphia's organization about Irving's fit with Joel Embiid, and that the 76ers are still holding out hope that they could land Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard. Irving, on paper, would be a seemingly easy fit with Embiid. He is exactly the sort of isolation scorer they've lacked in recent years, but trading for him comes with a number of complications.
While Irving is owed a max salary this season, he has a player option that would allow him to become a free agent next offseason. Trading a player like Simmons for only a one-year commitment from Irving would be an enormous risk. There is also the fear that Irving might simply retire rather than reporting to a new team.
Simmons' camp still views Brooklyn as a possibility, according to Amick, but there is no evidence at this time that the Nets are prepared to consider trading Irving. He was instrumental in recruiting Kevin Durant to the Nets in the 2019 offseason, and those two together made Brooklyn appealing enough to land James Harden a year later. For now, the hope remains that Irving is eventually able to rejoin the team on a full-time basis, but the longer this drags on, the more seriously Brooklyn will have to consider a possible move. Of course, if a team as desperate as Philadelphia is skeptical, it's unclear just how much interest the Nets would be able to drum up on the trade market for such an enigmatic player.