ben simmons fake trade szn

no player has been the subject of more fake trades and rumors this offseason

During the dog days of the NBA offseason it can be hard to tell if the volume of trade rumors suggests a transaction is imminent or if it simply suggests no one has anything else to talk about. Either way, fans and media alike have let their imaginations run wild with what it would take to trade for Ben Simmons.

Over at fanspo.com (formerly known as tradenba.com) anyone can generate and share their own hypothetical, fake trades. For example, here’s one I dreamed up that would send Simmons to Cleveland.

Just like ESPN’s trade machine, fanspo.com gives users the chance to play armchair GM by providing a tool that checks to see if a fake trade is possible based on things like the incoming and outgoing salaries of all the players involved. And according to data provided to The F5, no player has been involved in more fake trades on fanspo.com this offseason than Simmons.

The chart below shows the 30 players who have been part of the most successful1 fake trades since July 1. Some of the players on the chart have already switched teams (either via trade of free agency) this offseason. Others may be on the move soon having been the subject of countless trade rumors.

Simmons sits atop the chart having been involved in more than 5,000 fake trades in the last couple of months, twice as many as the next most player. But this actually underestimates the amount of fans who have tried to pluck him off the 76ers since he famously passed up a dunk in the playoffs.

If you look at the volume of daily fake Simmons trades since the beginning of this year, the peak for fake Simmons trades was in late June. This coincided with game seven between the Hawks and 76ers. Since then, there’s been a steady drip of trade rumors involving Simmons. Accordingly, fans have reacted by coming up with fake trades that would deliver Simmons to their favorite team.

The popular trade partners for the 76ers in a lot of these hypothetical Simmons trades have been the Portland Trail Blazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Those are the two teams that have regularly been linked to Simmons in trade rumors.

But these things go in cycles. (Remember when the Wizards we’re considered one of the frontrunners for Simmons?) The chart below shows the daily number of fake Simmons trades that would send him to each team as a percentage of all fake Simmons trades that day. As you can see, there’s been a notable decline in fake trades that would send Simmons to Portland — possibly because Damian Lillard never made his desire to play elsewhere explicit.

These days, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the hot team that’s been linked to Simmons. It’s hard to tell whether those rumors will stick or if fans are just throwing shit at the wall with these fake trades.

After all, how often do players that are linked to certain teams in trade rumors actually end up on those teams? From what I can tell, not that often.

For instance, before Russell Westbrook was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, users on fanspo.com had generated over 1,300 trades involving Westbrook in 2021. Of those more than 1,300 trades, only seven percent had Westbrook landing on the Lakers.

Similarly, Kemba Walker was involved in more than 4,700 trades since the beginning of the year. Of those trades, less than four percent had Walker headed to the Oklahoma City Thunder (his eventual trade destination before being bought out and signing with the New York Knicks).

And those are the hit rates for star players. The hit rate on role players is even lower.

During the regular season, Norman Powell was involved in more than 1,600 fake trades before the trade deadline. Less than two percent of those trades had Powell headed to Portland, his eventual destination. Meanwhile, Grayson Allen was involved in 575 fake trades since the start of the year. Of those fake trades, only two (not two percent, literally just two) had Allen shipping off to Milwaukee, the team that eventually traded for him.

The point is that predicting trades before they happen with any type of accuracy is damn near impossible. Although fake trades can be a fun device to talk about the strengths and weakness of a given team, they’re often totally divorced from reality. This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the surplus of fake trade discourse gives fans a unrealistic reference point to then judge the eventual trade against.

If Simmons is traded, the 76ers will almost certainly be criticized if they don’t get a return that matches or exceeds what fans think they could have gotten back for Simmons (i.e., a player of Lillard’s caliber). Never mind whether those trades were actually available to the 76ers or not.

To state the obvious, just because a trade makes sense for both sides on the surface doesn’t mean it’s likely to happen. Things that carry a lot of weight to us as fans — i.e., Simmons can’t shoot 3s so he needs to be surrounded by players who can — matter a lot less to teams than the simple fact that Simmons is a young, star player with many years left on his current contract. Those kinds of players are almost never available so don’t be surprised if there’s a team that doesn’t make sense on paper comes out of nowhere to trade for Simmons.


Links I Liked

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basically any trade where the outgoing and incoming salaries matched and there weren’t any restrictions on the players involved in the trade