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Draft day: Ben Simmons possibly staying put for now? And a blockbuster trade for the 53rd pick!

Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers

It’s draft day folks! Always exciting, if not quite as exciting as the days Philly was selecting in that top three. The Sixers have already struck the deal many of us were waiting on for months...a deal to acquire the 53rd pick in the draft! That’s just three spots after the 50th pick, which they have because Sam Hinkie drafted Willy Hernangomez and traded him for two Knicks’ second-rounders! Ah yes, so many draft-day memories. One of the very last stocking stuffers from Sam will be used or traded today.

Let’s look at a few of today’s storylines including the biggest burning question on everyone's mind: what will they do with picks 28, 50, and 53, and we’ll even look at the minor story on Ben Simmons trade scenarios for you absolute die-hards.

Why would the Sixers want that 53rd pick in the draft?

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

Per Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice a couple of days ago, the Sixers are open to trading their 28th overall pick. So acquiring the 53rd for cash is interesting, considering this nugget Neubeck included:

“There’s no contract to shed now, but the Sixers believe they are up against the ceiling of the amount of developmental reps they can offer, between Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Paul Reed, Isaiah Joe, and other older but still developing players like Shake Milton and (potentially) Furkan Korkmaz if he is brought back into the fold.”

Now maybe it’s as simple as “why not take an asset for mere cash considerations?” There’s no opportunity cost from a b-ball point of view. Maybe you can trade up with 50 and 53, maybe a dude you love falls, recall Shake Milton was picked 54th a couple of years ago.

Might they bundle several of their developmental prospects and upcoming picks?

Our Sean Kennedy with more analysis on that move, a refreshing change of pace from the days when the Sixers were the ones selling picks that could have been used on good players for years.

A couple of our writers suspect the team will trade pick 28. That hypothesis, backed up by credible reports besides Neubeck’s.

Tom Moore of The Bucks County Courier Times:

And Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer:

“A league source confirmed the team has had discussions about parting with the pick if they can get value in return. The Sixers are open to trading it for future assets or a veteran player.”

If that’s the case, I wonder if they’d just trade all three picks for the best prospect or player they can get; or even trade back into next year’s draft for a few extra goodies, while adding as many little sweeteners to a potential future blockbuster as possible, without losing the value a team typically loses once they’ve made a pick.

Remember when former team President Bryan Colangelo traded a future first and an early second to move up to pick 25 to select Sixers’ legend Anzejs Pasecniks in 2017? The Orlando end of that deal could be a possibility tonight as well. The Magic fleeced BC by turning the 25th pick into a future first (Tyrese Maxey was later selected) and a second.

The immediate contributor?

2021 NBA Draft Combine Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

If they wanted a player who might be able to contribute, as Brett Brown used to say, “in June” they’d probably want to target a sturdy wing, maybe a little older, whose jump shot is not some major project. Should someone like that fall a little bit, maybe they’d try to trade up for him. A player like Trey Murphy III, at 6’9, 206lbs, 21 years old with a 43% three-point shot, might theoretically represent a dude who could play rotation minutes in a final four, the way Memphis’ Desmond Bane was able to contribute right away in big spots during the play-in and playoffs.

Coach Doc Rivers may want a traditional point guard in the worst way. According to Ramona Shelburne and Ohn Youngmisuk of ESPN, writing about Rivers’ ousting from Los Angeles in 2020: “[Rivers] also believed they needed a true point guard to help organize their offense.”

And he probably didn’t think he had that in Philadelphia during 2021 either:

A former point guard yearning for a true point guard, he discussed the need for more ball-handling before George Hill was acquired.

But it does seem unlikely the Sixers could scratch Doc’s itch for immediate ball-handling and playmaking with such a late pick.

Drafting younger point guards might be the higher upside move, if a player like Sharife Cooper were to fall, maybe they’d consider him. It’s more difficult to bank on a PG drafted in this range to step right in and contribute. Cam Payne, once the 14th pick, finally broke out this season for Phoenix, his 6th season as a pro.

If Daryl Morey and Elton Brand could have their cake and eat it too, they’d probably attempt to line up a couple of trades to be executed in the event a player they love does not fall to them. If their beloved prospect X fell, the trade is off and they make a selection. Maybe they’re hoping a team with the 32nd pick falls in love with a player who falls to Philly at 28 so they could swap him for a veteran. It seems everything is on the table here and maximum value should be the goal.

The ultimate scenario is you get a guy everybody loves, so that you can either play him during the playoffs, or wield his trade value down the road.

Minor updates

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Seven Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

And now that we’ve covered the blockbuster news relating to the 53rd pick, there’s also the smaller issue of what happens with Ben Simmons.

So these rumors may seem a bit zany when you first read them. The Sixers are apparently valuing Ben Simmons on a James Harden like level. Per the one dude whose voice trumps all rumors, Adrian Wojnarowski, the 76ers are looking for a “James Harden-type package” for Simmons:

The Sixers may be painting one picture, and rival GMs may be painting another one where the Sixers have no leverage at all and must feel forced to take the best panic deal they can get:

What’s a fan to make of it all? My hunch is that the Sixers would trade Ben Simmons for Bradley Beal and Dame Lillard if either wanted to play here. Aside from that, I think they might just ask for some offers they have a sense won’t get a ‘yes.’ If they got a yes? Great. If not, they’re prepared to let this drag out further, if not into the regular season. That way they could tell Ben Simmons and Klutch (who probably wants him out) they tried to trade him.

If I were Simmons, I might quietly go to the Sixers with a list. I wouldn’t want to appear like I was demanding a trade. Klutch wouldn’t want to look like the agency that always demands their dudes be traded. And the Sixers wouldn’t want to look like a franchise that has zero leverage.

If I were Simmons, my list of preferred destinations might look something like this:

GSW, PHX, BOS, TOR, NYK, DAL, CHI, LAC, ATL, MIA. Mayyybe Minnesota because of the fit with Karl Anthony-Towns.

It’s a landmark decision for Daryl Morey and Elton Brand and it’s their one big chance to win a championship here in Philly. By getting the Simmons decision wrong it could not only leave the Sixers in purgatory, but it could also eventually give Joel Embiid (eyeing a possible supermax this summer) a wandering eye within a year or two if they’re no better than they’ve been in the past. Simmons has four years left on his deal, and there might be some major awkwardness to his return. Per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer:

“While the Sixers are publicly noncommittal about trading Simmons, bringing him back could lead to a circus-like atmosphere.

The 25-year-old knows he’d be better off elsewhere.”

But Morey seems like the type of GM who would value fan sentiment and even lockerroom chemistry at least less than some of his peers. Based on what’s public about him, he’s all about those title odds. And he’s said you need two, maybe three stars to accomplish it.

I’m not holding my breath for any blockbuster trades tonight. And I’m also prepared for the seemingly unlikely scenario Simmons is on this team come season’s jump; even though there are so many credible reporters stating the opposite, that a trade is inevitable. But the stuff from Woj just makes an imminent deal feel less likely. I don’t think we can rule out Morey trying to buy as much time as possible to pursue the largest of marlins. That could mean some “theater asks” of 9 picks and then apologizing to Klutch for not being able to find anything worth their client’s value.

But I do expect them to trade at least one of their picks later. They might want to burn every second of their time on the clock to take calls.

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