Three weeks away from the NBA trade deadline and Ben Simmons remains the biggest question mark in basketball. He hasn’t played a single game this year despite being under contract for the Philadelphia 76ers. He hasn’t been missed all that much either.
Simmons and the Sixers are in a stalemate, one that neither side is winning. However, Joel Embiid’s MVP-caliber play has vaulted Philadelphia (26-18) into fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They are 10-2 since December 26 while overcoming a COVID-19 outbreak and a slew of major injuries. Their recent hot streak has only emboldened Sixers president Daryl Morey to dig his heels in deeper. He won’t give Simmons away unless a Top-30 player (think: All-Star) comes back in return.
“We have to move ourselves into a higher tier of championship,” Morey told 97.5 The Fanatic’s Mike Missanelli. “Not just nudge ourselves from having the seventh-best chance to maybe the sixth-best chance. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Morey was willing to concede that Embiid’s “sheer will of greatness” has opened them up to an expanded pool of talent. Maybe the Sixers would settle for a Top-40 player, assuming he was a great fit for the current roster. (Hint, hint: Tyrese Haliburton of the Sacramento Kings). But don’t think for a second they are going to do anything just because they are being pressured to do something.
Said Morey: “If they think we’re burning the season away without trading Ben we are not only burning this season away if we trade Ben away for something that makes everyone feel good were also burning away all the other future seasons.”
When pressed further by Missanelli, Morey predicted the chances of a deadline deal aren’t great: “I think it’s less likely than likely, but hopefully I’m wrong.”
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Sacramento Kings Remain Front-Runners
Sacramento remains the most logical destination for Simmons. They are 3-8 since December 31 while plummeting to 11th in the Western Conference standings. The Kings (18-29) already fired their head coach while putting it out there that De’Aaron Fox is available in a trade. He was previously considered untouchable. And still might be, per Shams Charania.
According to The Sacramento Bee, the Kings are more willing to send Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III and draft compensation to Philly in exchange for Simmons. The sticking point? Morey wants Fox. Or Tyrese Haliburton. For now, the two teams are only engaged in exploratory talks.
“I can tell you that, for sure, there are deals with the Sacramento Kings that I think would work,” Morey told 97.5 The Fanatic. “Will those deals ever happen? I have no idea. Are there just trade deals with the Kings? Probably not. Is it multiple teams? Probably, but for sure there are deals that are possible that would go over our line.”
Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey ‘Untouchable’
The other part of the equation is what the Sixers are willing to surrender. Tobias Harris’ name has been brought up multiple times, but his $180 million contract appears to be immovable. Especially when paired with Simmons’ $177 million deal.
Matisse Thybulle or Tyrese Maxey would be Morey’s best bargaining chips but those young guards have developed ahead of schedule. And Thybulle is borderline “untouchable,” per The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.
That means the Sixers would need a third team to enter into trade discussions for anything to materialize. Could that happen? Yes. Will it happen? Again, not likely.
“The main reason I say less likely than likely is it takes two or three to tango,” Morey said. “Trades are not easy to construct in this league, there’s a lot of risk aversion, there’s a lot of decision-makers that have to be hurdled.”