10 Players the Nets may replace Ben Simmons with by the trade deadline

Brooklyn Nets, Ben Simmons. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Brooklyn Nets, Ben Simmons. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets, Gordon Hayward. Mandatory Credit: Brian Westerholt-USA TODAY Sports /

8. Gordon Hayward to create cap space

Ben Simmons is set to make $37.8 million this season and $40.3 million in the 2024-25 campaign before becoming a free agent. He has been healthy and productive in the early going, but his scoring and defense have not returned to All-Star levels. What if the Nets just want off his contract in hopes of creating significant cap space for next summer?

The Hornets are never a free-agent destination and would love to trade Gordon Hayward’s expiring contract. It opens up more playing time for number two overall pick Brandon Miller, and Simmons could be a reclamation project for head coach Steve Clifford. Can he help the three-time All-Star get his offensive aggressiveness back? The Hornets could use his defense if nothing else.

Hayward could help Brooklyn for the remainder of the season and would give them room to sign a max player in free agency. The Nets are already projected to be $25.4 million under the cap, but that is without deals for Nicolas Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Royce O’Neale. Trading Simmons allows Brooklyn to keep their current talent and sign a difference-maker in free agency.

The Brooklyn Nets tried the cap space route with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. That experience could make this option a bit less appealing, but it is a path for Sean Marks and their front office.