My Ben Simmons crystal ball is murky. I can clearly ascertain the future of both the Sixers' roster and Ben's future employment. But, there are so many possible futures that my crystal ball is useless in practice. (Yes, this is a Dune dig!)
I believe that Morey will not get his way. He clearly wants to package Ben and other assets in order to acquire someone even better than Ben, the Ben that used to be. Unfortunately, every other general manager in the NBA and every other sport knows that whether or not Ben will be that good again is in tremendous doubt. Morey must know this, too. Therefore, I believe the only reason Ben remains on the Sixers is due to Morey's tremendous ego: he is paranoid that once Ben is on another team, Ben will blossom into the GOAT, leaving Morey looking the fool for letting Ben go for so little. Relax Morey. It's not going to happen. Ben is Ben. He said so himself. He is not going to change just because he switches teams. He will just go muck up someone else's franchise.
Morey has stated that, at this point, all he can get in return for Ben are a few role players. This is probably false, unless in Morey's mind there are only superstars and role players which very well might be. It seems likely that Morey has been offered players such as Malcolm Brogdon and C. J. McCollum plus other assets for Ben. These players are not role players. If Morey is correct, that he can no longer acquire players of this caliber for Ben, and we know he can no longer get Brogdon because it is in Brogdon's shiny new contract, then Morey is admitting that he screwed up royally. At this point, Morey seems to see no other alternative than to continue screwing up royally by retaining a player without value to the team who could be exchanged for a player or two who would be of value to the team. It seems to me that this is what a general manager is supposed to do, improve the team. Morey has refused to fulfill his contract just as much as Ben has refused to fulfill his. This is the sorry state of affairs at which we have arrived. It is possible that after December 15th Morey will finally decide to trade Ben for something, anything, at which time Morey will be submitted to richly deserved criticism.
So, what might the future look like? It has been suggested that some team or other will give up on the season or suffer an injury to a key player. Such events could lead such a team to turn to the Sixers to acquire Ben's services. However, no such events will change the fact that everyone knows Ben's employment comes with huge risks. Ben no longer has a high floor and even higher ceiling. Now, he has a high ceiling and an equally low floor as he could continue to be 'playoff Ben'. No team is going to give up a star player for Ben, which is to say that the idea of packaging Ben with other assets to acquire an even better player has to be put aside. The only deals for Ben will be ones that combine lesser assets in exchange for Ben. Other teams don't want to trade part of their core for Ben; they want to add Ben to their core. That is the type of deal one should expect to occur.
It is too early to tell either which teams will have disappointing seasons and realize this is so in time to make a trade or which teams will lose key players to injury. However, it is not too soon to analyze what sort of deal would benefit the Sixers most and discover which teams might be able and willing to make such a deal.
The Sixers have Embiid, one of the best centers in the game, backed up by Drummond, a very good starting quality center and two youngsters (Bassey and Reed). Nothing can be done at the center position to improve the Sixers chances of winning this year.
At power forward, the Sixers have Tobias Harris, a solid starter (not a role player) backed up by the more than adequate Niang and the promising, improving Reed. Power forward is another position that really can't be improved through addition such as to improve the Sixers prospects this season.
At shooting guard, the Sixers have Seth Curry who is a really late bloomer. Curry has his faults, more so than Tobias. The Sixers could improve their chances this year by bringing in a better shooting guard, specifically one that could play lock down defense while still offering Curry-type offense, or a shooting guard who has twice the offense of Curry (Beal). Such a player is probably exactly the sort of player the Sixers cannot get in a Ben Simmons trade. Curry is backed up by an embarrassment of riches. Milton, Joe, Korkmaz, Thybulle and Green can all play shooting guard. A wide assortment of skills is represented in this group. An additional shooting guard is unlikely to improve the Sixers chances this year.
The obvious position that could be improved to help the Sixers this year is the point guard position. Ben's not playing leaves the team bereft of natural point guards. However, Tyrese Maxey's astonishing improvement coupled with the discover of point Kork, not to mention Milton's improvement, leaves the point guard in good hands at least until the playoffs. By the time the playoffs roll around it is possible, though not likely, that Maxey will be considered a frontline starting point guard. One true point guard, veteran or otherwise, to play in front of or behind Maxey would improve the Sixers' chances this year.
Small forward is the other position on the Sixer that could be improved. Danny Green is a fine player, but he is actually a role player who starts for lack of a better alternative. Others who can play the position are Thybulle and Korkmaz. Niang is supposed to be able to handle the position as well. Personally, I think the best small forward on the team will turn out to be Paul Reed who has yet to play there but I am sure would in a pinch. So, depth at small forward is not an issue. The Sixers could be improved most by acquiring a starting quality small forward.
If the Sixers can only acquire role players at this point for Ben Simmons, it seems that role players at point guard and small forward could be a really big help to a Sixers team that is already surprisingly competitive when healthy. With this in mind, I will look at some of the usual suspected trading partners.
Portland: No. Lillard could not make it clearer that he doesn't want to come to Philadelphia if he walked in to Morey's office and punched him in the face. C. J. McCollum, even if available, is neither a small forward or a true point guard. Would he improve the Sixers' chances? Yes. A lot. Which is probably why he cannot be had.
Toronto: No. The only interesting name is Anunoby and, while he may have been available at one time, I doubt he is any more. Good going Morey. Dragic would only be of interest for this year's run. No one else moves the needle or the loins.
Boston: Hell no. Can't believe the Celtics actually called about Ben. They won't give up Brown, Smart can't be moved, and there is no way (I hope) that the Sixers would take on Horford or Richardson. So, there is no there there. There is not a talent match for a trade nor a salary match.
Washington: Hell no. Beal is not moving anywhere and the rest of their roster lacks players of interest at the appropriate positions and at the appropriate salary level. There just isn't a deal to be had.
Houston: No. Houston won't deal with Morey and a deal would have to include Wall. Not a bad idea, but not happening.
Cleveland: Hell no.
Pacers, Orlando, Detroit: No, no, no.
San Antonio: No. Thaddeus Young and Derrick White? Please, no.
Oklahoma: Maybe. They have oodles of draft picks that could enable the Sixers to acquire a blue chip prospect in the next draft or two. They can offer an extremely attractive package for Ben without worrying about matching salary. I would place Oklahoma as my last best choice only because their package wouldn't help us this year.
Charlotte: Yes. A deal for Hayward and a pick or two works as Hayward can play SF. He would be a big boost to the Sixers' chances this year. The Sixers would still retain Springer and Joe if they are inclined to go after another point guard.
Minnesota: Yes. Minnesota can offer SG Malik Beasley and PG Patrick Beverly. Beverly would fit nicely behind Maxey as the veteran steadying hand. If Beasley can play small forward a la Norman Powell (both 6'4"), then the SF and PG positions are addressed. Minnesota may not even have to give up on their season in order to trade Beasley and Beverly for Simmons and Springer (2 guys who aren't going to help this year). They also have one 1st and three 2nds in the next draft. Those picks, packaged with the Sixers own pick, may be enough to move up for a very good prospect.
Atlanta: Yes. Atlanta can offer SG SF PF Danilo Gallinari and SF De'Andre Hunter for Simmons and Springer. If not Gallinari, then Bogdanovic and someone else to make up the salary difference. De'Andre Hunter would move Green to the bench. Gallinari is another Mini Van Swiss Army knife. Possibly he could be packaged with Joe to acquire a point guard before the trade deadline. Atlanta also has two 1st round picks coming up, one of which is Oklahoma's. Gallinari, Hunter, Oklahoma's 1st for Simmons and Springer might work or the Sixers can supplement with Joe and or picks of their own.
Sacramento: Yes, even better. The Kings can offer PG Davion Mitchell and PF Harrison Barnes. Barnes can play SF. This is my favorite deal of the bunch. Mitchell solidifies the point guard position while Barnes moves Danny Green to the bench and provides great scoring. I think the resultant roster would be one of the front runners for the championship. The deal would involve Ben and either Springer or Joe. Someone like C Damion Jones would have to be included for financial reasons. He would be cut and stretched or something similar. Picks might be involved. The Kings have a 1st and two 2nds in the upcoming draft. Unfortunately, while Barnes was most likely available earlier, while Morey dithered, Barnes went off. He may no longer be available, in which case Buddy Hield would be the much inferior play as he doesn't play SF (though perhaps he could, being 6'4") or defense. There is still a deal to be had here, just not one that vaults the Sixers into the top pack this year.
Those are my thoughts for what they are worth. My hope is Morey does something to improve the team in time for the incoming player(s) to be fully integrated into the mix for the playoffs, because this year's Sixers team is so promising as well as fun to watch and root for. I am not holding my breath.