In the latest Ben Simmons update from The Athletic’s Sam Amick, we’ve received one particularly interesting nugget of information regarding the number of players the Sixers would be happy to receive in a Simmons trade.
After mentioning obvious stars we’ve already been talking about for months such as Damian Lillard, James Harden and Bradley Beal, Amick reported that there’s a list of approximately 30 players who would be satisfactory returns for the Sixers in a deal:
But here’s the part that may come as a surprise: A source with knowledge of the list said there are approximately 30 players who would satisfy the Sixers in a Simmons swap, and there’s an internal belief that a fair amount of them — let’s say five to 10 — could become available in the next year or two. And while it might sound like a long list, consider this much: It’s approximately six percent of the league and the rough equivalent to the number of All-Stars selected every season. The framing of the timeline, more than anything else, speaks volumes about the long-term approach the Sixers insist they’re taking.
“This is like a multi-year thing,” a Sixers source said.
When considering how high Daryl Morey’s asking price has remained throughout this saga, it’s safe to say that there are probably quite a few unrealistic targets on that list of around 30 players. There are plenty of stars who would be great returns for Simmons in a trade, but that doesn’t mean they’re remotely attainable. However, if there are genuinely five to 10 players who would satisfy the Sixers and could be available in the next year or two, as the team believes, that’s more intriguing. (I’ll leave you all to speculate who they could be in the comments.)
As Amick understandably reiterated, Morey is incredibly patient. Morey even said himself that this could go on for four years. Sure, maybe he’s exaggerating by putting a potential four-year timeframe on things. Plus, there are factors that make taking so long to pull the trigger a concern, like maximizing Joel Embiid’s prime — the Sixers won’t want to let that get away from them. Ultimately, Simmons could be dealt by this season’s trade deadline and we’ll all be able to move on from this. But the point is that Morey won’t settle for what he deems to be an underwhelming return of role players or non-stars — a return that won’t help the team’s ability to contend for a title. He won’t rush into anything until he lands the kind of player (from a relatively long list of targets) that he’s after.
As for Simmons’ mental state and his potential return to play, little has changed. Amick emphasized that Simmons is currently no closer to returning to play for the Sixers, and Simmons has also “reiterated his strong desire to be traded in recent days.”
Amick included another noteworthy takeaway that there is some belief around the league that Simmons’ mental issues may not be purely tied to his situation in Philly:
In the absence of a Simmons return, sources say, the Sixers’ belief is rival teams have grown even less motivated than before about making a move for Simmons because of the escalating uncertainty that surrounds him. If his mental health struggles aren’t solely the product of his Sixers experience, in other words, then who’s to say it will be any different somewhere else? From this standpoint, it’s not hard to find rival executives who confirm these suspicions.
Of course, this situation will develop in time as Simmons continues to work on his mental health, franchises around the NBA assess the state they’re in, and potential trade offers change. But if teams are worried about how Simmons’ mental state and performance could be even when he’s left the Sixers, then maybe this could factor into limiting the trade market for him or at least delay things somewhat.
As has been the case for months, we really just need to wait and see. The Sixers — and apparently potential trade partners — are in no rush to make a move. Whatever turn the Simmons trade saga takes next, it’s clear that it won’t be resolved for quite some time.