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There are infinite Ben Simmons rumors and Daryl Morey has a landmark decision to make

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Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA Draft is in a couple of days, and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the whirlwind of Sixer rumors, let alone league wide NBA rumors. At least I can’t seem to. The biggest story isn’t what the Sixers will do with the 28th and 50th picks in the draft that they own. The big question is whether or not they’ll trade their 25 year old three time All-Star, 2020 third team All-NBA member and 2021 runner-up Defensive Player of the Year.

I tried to include a ton of reports and rumors, but honestly, I barely found an iceber tip. There’s so much! Let’s look at some of the biggest ones and examine some implications for the team.

A feeling of inevitability

2021 NBA Playoffs - Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer a trade including the former 2016 first overall pick out of LSU feels inevitable:

“It’s inevitable, according to league sources. It’s just not clear when it will happen, where he will go, and what the Sixers will receive in return.”

It’s a feeling Marc Stein of The New York Times may share as well:

Per Matt Moore, of The Action Network, writing yesterday:

“There’s been an acceleration on the Ben Simmons front. Less than two weeks ago, league consensus was that Simmons would be traded sometime in August and not before the draft.”

And on the latest edition of Liberty Ballers’ The Gastroenteritis Blues pod, our own Steve Lipman and Dan Volpone hosted Bleacher Report’s (former Liberty Baller) Jake Fischer who suggested that the Sixers were having trouble getting in contact with Simmons and aligning on a workout program for the summer:

And so one might begin to worry, no matter how frustrated fans, coaches, or teammates might be when it comes to Simmons, surely it’s not best practice to trade someone at rock-bottom value, right?

On the other hand, what if Simmons comes back and there is some lockerroom tension if Joel Embiid somehow blames Simmons the most for their not advancing beyond Atlanta in round two? What if the season begins and Simmons continues to shoot terribly from the free-throw line and the fans boo him? What are the chances that he improves his trade value and what are the chances its diminished even further by a mental block or injury?

Once upon a time, many decades ago in 2018 fans hoped (or didn’t hope but at least discussed the possibility) Markelle Fultz could be part of a larger trade for Kawhi Leonard. But just one glance at Fultz in preseason of 2018 and it was clear his trade value was rock-bottom. Even with a summer of shooting work, he had not improved at all. Is it possible that taking 75 cents on the dollar for Simmons now is prudent, even if somehow disappointing? Or might it pay to hold a player that has historically returned much better value than his most recent swoon?

Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal

Australia v United States Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Like church tower bells chiming harmoniously through a cacophony of clamor, two of the top names in the industry, have both suggested that the market for Ben Simmons isn’t as dreadful as one might have feared:

Per Shams Charania, writing for The Athletic, in mid-July:

“(The 76ers) want an All-Star-caliber player in return,” one source with knowledge of the ongoing talks said.

Make no mistake: Interest across the league in Simmons remains robust.”

And per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, a month ago:

“Despite Simmons scoring a combined 19 points in the final three games against the Hawks, his trade value in the marketplace is still significant, sources said.”

If those reports are to be believed, could the Sixers be in the game for one of Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal?

There have been plenty of rumors about both potentially asking out, and rumors suggesting the Sixers would be on each guard’s “shortlist.”

The Sixers are very intrigued. Even if the Wizards or Blazers did not love Simmons, there have been other teams reportedly hot to trot for the Aussie, which could open the door for multi-team trade scenarios:

In many ways, if Lillard or Beal would ask out, and name the Sixers as a team they’d like to play for, Daryl Morey could look to make it happen and that would probably be the cleanest solution here. If neither become available, if they prefer other teams, or the Sixers are simply outbid, many of the other scenarios are murkier. Lillard’s situation is likely on a bit of a pause as he focuses on bringing home the gold in the Tokyo Olympics. Or is it....

Kyle Lowry

Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Kyle Lowry’s name has been ubiquitous. Teams like the Heat, Lakers, and Sixers have been connected to the 35-year-old Philly native, and more recently the Pelicans and Knicks have been credibly linked to the NBA champion point guard as well. Because the Sixers don’t have much/any cap space, they would have to swing some sort of sign-and-trade with Toronto. One involving Danny Green has been bandied about since the Sixers and Raptors came close to striking a deal before the deadline last March. Another possibility might be involving Simmons in a larger deal with more coming to Philly, like Moore of The Action Network reported above.

Would acquiring Lowry preclude a deal for Beal or Lillard down the road, in terms of assets needed, or render the salary cap situation too complex?

The chances that the Sixers might acquire both Lowry and one of Beal or Lillard seems fairytale-like. But one has to imagine that someone as innovative as Daryl Morey is at least dreaming of pulling off cirque du soleil style salary caprobatics.

The combination of other team’s reported (intense) interest in Lowry (who is a free agent) plus the chances that acquiring Lowry could cost them cap-flexibility and assets they might need later should a bigger fish become available makes the whole thing feel unlikely, but then again....I’m inclined to expect something that feels unlikely to eventually happen.

Awkward return?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

While many seem to think momentum is building towards a trade, it doesn’t seem we can completely rule out a scenario in which Simmons is still on this team come the first game of the season. We did see that when Jimmy Butler wanted out of Minnesota, and when James Harden wanted out of Houston. And Ben has not even requested a trade publicly.

Kyle Neubeck in the post above cites multiple sources denying that the team couldn't reach Simmons. In another post, Neubeck writes:

“The Sixers have continued to put a high sticker price on Simmons and are under no pressure or rush to deal him if the right opportunity doesn’t present itself, according to sources familiar with the situation....

The Sixers are uninterested in packages returning multiple role players and picks in exchange for Simmons, according to a source familiar with the situation.”

Then there’s Zach Harper of The Athletic, writing today:

“There seems to be a growing feeling the gulf between what Morey wants in return and what teams are willing to give for him will keep Simmons in Philadelphia until at least the start of the season. He may need to show he’s climbing over some of the hurdles in front of his game before teams start giving up a bounty for him.”

Per a PhillyVoice post with sidelines.io :

Simmons is (-125) to remain at Philadelphia, and those odds have shortened dramatically in recent weeks, and the favorite among those chasing are the Washington Wizards (+200) and Portland Trail Blazers (+300).”

It seems almost shocking that a betting market would offer implied odds of a 62.5 percent chance Simmons is in Philly when the season begins, but there it is.

“The Decision”

Indiana Pacers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Because of the way the playoffs ended, Daryl Morey, perhaps unexpectedly finds himself with one of the biggest decisions of his career. He once talked about how while on paper his former Rockets’ in Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady seemed like a great wing-big pairing, it was actually more awkward than people thought because Yao did not space the floor for T-Mac and the team struggled to make entry passes into the post. We know that the James Harden-Dwight Howard, and eventually even the James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Clint Capela unit didn’t provide Morey with the spacing he desired. One can only imagine his views on the Simmons-Embiid pairing in the half-court compared to the problems he once had in Houston.

Many of Morey’s values could be pitted against each other here. Do you trade a player at his lowest value, when you have made a career out of buying low and selling high? He’s openly discussed how chemistry might be overrated relative to star talent. Does he change his tune here? He once traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook to keep James Harden happy, but it backfired, ended the Rockets’ title hopes, and failed to keep Harden happy.

At what point do you disappoint an MVP candidate who may want something you don’t believe he should want?

Are there creative solutions? You can bet they’re searching. Can Morey sniff out a budding future star nobody knows about yet and a handful of picks he can use to add more help? Does he have the courage to do nothing for the time being if he feels most of the offers coming in are suboptimal? Would he risk taking in a package of future picks in hopes he can outbid the field for a star who might become available, while risking another year of Embiid’s prime? Are all of these trade rumors (except for the Beal and Lillard ones) performative art to demonstrate to Simmons (who might want out) that they’re trying to trade him, when they don’t really want to? After all, he doesn’t have much leverage with four years remaining on a max contract.

Would Morey risk locker room chemistry issues, fans booing, and even an injury further depleting trade value in the hopes that perhaps by trade deadline a big fish currently unavailable suddenly became available?

It sometimes seems as if all parties are conspiring to make Morey’s job more difficult than he’d like.

Fans are criticizing Simmons, rival execs concoct zany trade rumors for much lesser players, Embiid, Coach Rivers, and Danny Green have take turns publicly criticizing Simmons. Simmons step-brother/coach has liked tweets criticizing Embiid. Maybe Simmons isn’t quite as responsive or gung-ho about an off-season plan as the team would like.... sheesh even if everyone’s frustrations are relatable, it does not help any “trade him” or “keep him” scenarios Morey may be thinking about.

It’s not an enviable position. But it could come to define Morey’s Sixer legacy, and whatever is left of “The Process.”