In his Tuesday podcast on the Nets-Sixers trade, Zach Lowe disclosed that the Nets were in discussions with the Raptors about a deal that would have sent Nic Claxton to Toronto for a protected first round pick.
It was one of several “tidbits,” as Lowe called them, discussed on the podcast with Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck. One of the others: the Nets had talked with Philadelphia and Houston about a trade that would have brought Ben Simmons, rather than James Harden, to Brooklyn a year ago.
Of the Claxton trade, here’s what Lowe told Beck.
“I think one thing that happened at the trade deadline that I heard was that they were very close to a deal with Toronto that would have sent Claxton to Toronto for a first round pick and some protections on it,” said Lowe on ESPN’s Lowe Post. “I think their intention was to sort of refit the roster by maybe flipping that pick for another wing, another shooter. Robert Covington’s name was mentioned. And sort of balances it out. That trade fell apart and Toronto went in another direction.”
Covington was acquired by the Clippers in a trade with the Blazers a week before the deadline.
The two didn’t say how soon before the deadline discussions took place, whether they came before, during or after the blockbuster Harden-for-Simmons which was agreed to about 90 minutes before Thursday’s deadline. The Nets, of course, acquired Andre Drummond who started Monday’s game vs. the Kings and now have Drummond, Claxton, LaMarcus Aldridge, Day’Ron Sharpe and Blake Griffin up front. Claxton was the only one of the group who didn’t play vs. Sacramento. He’s been troubled by hamstring tightness, the latest injury in a string that has plagued him since his rookie year.
In talking with Michael Grady of the YES Network prior to the Kings game, Claxton admitted he was a bit anxious prior to the deadline.
As for the earlier interest in Simmons, Lowe said that while the Nets preferred Harden, they considered a three-way deal. Simmons had just come off his best year, one in which he made the All-NBA third team and the All-Defensive first team, finishing fourth in the Defensive Player of the Year balloting.
“I’ve heard, and I think this is accurate, that the Nets ... so Harden said ‘I wanted the Sixers originally when I got traded to the Nets’ ... I’m pretty confident when that first started happening, the Nets were interested in Ben Simmons,” said Lowe. “They obviously preferred Harden and chose Harden. They would have been happy to get Simmons as the outcome of a three-team trade. So here we are.”
Indeed, Daryl Morey, then and now the 76ers GM, told Tuesday’s press conference that such a deal was considered.
“When I spoke to [Brooklyn general manager] Sean Marks over the past week primarily and a little bit before that, I felt like it should have been a three-team deal originally,” Morey said, “that the fit was there for that and would’ve been ideal, I think, for all three teams if it was originally structured that way.”
No indication of what a three-team would’ve looked like in that scenario. The Nets gave up Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, Rodions Kurucs, three unprotected first rounders and four first round swaps in the January 2021 trade.
Sean Marks has long had an interest in Simmons, having scouted him at an early age while with the Spurs.