By now, we've established that trading one of Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel (or perhaps both) is unlikely to bring back a return Sixers fans are happy with. Whether it was the rumored Noel for Jeff Teague swap or the Okafor-centric draft rumors, the blowback has been significant each time their names pop up in rumors.
My general thought has always been to attempt to preserve the vacuum value of both players, but the closer we get to draft night the more willing I am to accept a "below-market" deal in order to clear the glut in the paint.
I'm not sure Philadelphia fans truly appreciate the opportunity ahead of them. The last three years of open desire and planning for high picks muddies the fact that access to a No. 1 pick is extraordinarily rare. This occasion is made even greater by the presence of a talent of Ben Simmons' level at the top of the class; for all the concerns about mental makeup, Simmons had a nearly unparalleled freshman season at LSU.
He is the type of player worth clearing the decks for to optimize his talent. The concerns surrounding his jumpshot are real, but in the short term he can live off his ability as a driver and a roll man in pick-and-rolls. Put shooters around him and you'll see just how devastating a passer and player he is right out of the gate. He won't be a finished product, but his size, athleticism and skill will allow him to succeed on some level right away. Every step should be taken to max out not just Simmons, but the team on which he plays.
The crowded front-court is a detriment to that goal, but also to the long-term upside and value of players you're hoping to either move or build around yourself. Standing pat and hoping to build up the value of whichever player you're dead set on moving later is delusional, a scenario based on the absolute perfect result from a process that would involve hundreds of possible outcomes.
Unfortunately, the Sixers can't really afford to run their team based on edge-case scenarios. Keeping all their big men will result in a growth stunt and value depreciation of your most valuable players in nearly every likely scenario. This is a tough reality to face, but people like Bryan Colangelo don't (or at least shouldn't) operate under pie-in-the-sky probabilities.
If the Sixers were a soldier on an active battlefield, they'd be the unfortunate guy who has an arm stuck under an immovable object and a choice to make: Amputate a limb in an effort to save the rest, or lay there bleeding and inactive hoping that an act from a higher power will rescue you. Every team is not run by Vlade Divac, so the Sixers are probably shit out of luck regarding the second proposition.
The NBA at-large knows the Sixers want to clear space and alleviate a logjam. There is no hiding your roster composition flaws from peers in 2016. While this also applies to potential partners in trade deals -- Boston's telegraphed desire to not pick at No. 3 being a good example -- the Sixers stockpile of bigs is one of the league's worst kept secrets.
It is worth stating here that Colangelo does not own full responsibility in the event that he would take value back that, as an example, might not equal what the No. 3 pick in last year's draft is worth in a vacuum. Just as Sam Hinkie operated with the shadow of the Doug Collins era looming over him, the younger Colangelo enters with the most important question of the Hinkie era left unsolved. Figuring out how to turn the theoretical upside of three players at the same position into a winning basketball team was never going to be easy, just as trying to rebuild a team with a void of draft picks would not have been had Hinkie not wheeled and dealed his way to asset prosperity.
Ideally, the Sixers would "win" every trade without ever sacrificing raw value and talent in order to construct the best basketball team possible. But they don't get to run their franchise mode with the trade override option turned on, nor do they get to reload an old save if holding onto all the bigs results in another 10-win level disaster.
Any move the Sixers make should have an eye on the long-term potential and sustainability of the team. That fact is why trades like the reported Teague swap make little sense for a franchise in Philadelphia's position. That doesn't mean, however, that Colangelo and Co. can afford to sit on their hands and hope that their most fascinating problem will solve itself.