On Thursday, Liberty Ballers’ pod host and producer Jas Kang dropped a really exciting episode of his Sixers Daily pod, an NBA Trade Deadline preview with former Liberty Baller, now an author and NBA Insider with Bleacher Report, Jake Fischer. Fischer has been on fire recently with loads of intel for us diehards.
You can listen to the full pod here, or watch on Youtube.
It was a very difficult pod to transcribe because every two minutes there was something else I found newsworthy, I couldn’t decide what to write about and what to leave out. So if you haven’t done so already, give that full pod a listen then come back here for some highlights and analysis that still do it no justice.
On James Harden
Fischer wrote a piece this week that put the NBA world on notice, reporting some specific reasons why Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden may have ‘increased interest’ in exploring free agency this summer.
In that article, Fischer reports a combination of cost/style of living in Brooklyn, head coach Steve Nash’s end of game rotations, Kyrie Irving as part-time player have all frustrated the 2018 MVP, who misses feeling like the “central magnate” he became in Houston.
Kang asked Fischer to elaborate on those subjects.
Per Fischer via Sixers Daily:
“...[Harden’s] definitely starting to look where the grass may be greener and Philly is the obvious clear landing spot that that would work.”
Fischer notes that he spoked to several people in Harden’s orbit. He shares how in Houston, part of the free agent pitch was how much real estate and land a very wealthy person could enjoy.
“I don’t wanna speak too much and put words in his mouth.... but [in Texas].... you can get these McMansions that are not that far from the city....in Philly, their practice facility is in Camden right over the bridge. You can live in Cherry Hill in the same type of mansion type environment, like that type of stuff....”
The stuff about Harden being frustrated with Irving’s status is understandable. But ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, has since publicly suggested Harden is committed to Brooklyn.
Woj says James Harden has expressed his commitment to Brooklyn’s front office/ownership. pic.twitter.com/nJUQGsiQ1l— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 27, 2022
It really does seem to me that ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins is onto something when he says this:
“Now James Harden’s camp is telling people in Philly, we wanna come play with Embiid next year. This ain’t no lie, this facts, but then he’s telling the Brooklyn Nets, the ownership group different.”
It seems like Harden’s camp is suggesting some reasons he may want to leave in free agency while Harden himself is committing verbally to the Nets. Why? What would that mean?
It could mean he’s simply unhappy and planning to leave or that he’s leaning towards staying, but wants to have the best possible backup plan set just in case. What if the Nets flame out in the playoffs or if there’s no resolution to the Irving part-time player situation come June? Harden could also benefit by convincing the Nets to give him every penny of a max, and advances from the Sixers don’t hurt his cause regardless.
Kang asks Fischer the big question. Where does he think Simmons winds up?
“At this point, honestly, like if I’m making Vegas odds, I truly do think that Ben Simmons is most likely to end up in Brooklyn, I really do. But we’re so far away from that like if the Nets win the championship it’s going to be pretty hard for James Harden to walk away from that dynamic.”
Joel Embiid’s dominance as it pertains to a Simmons trade
Another topic that always comes up is whether Embiid’s dominant play increases the urgency to make a trade ahead of the deadline.
Per Fischer: “...how good [Joel Embiid] is is the precise reason why they are waiting. They do not view this as wasting the season....”
Fischer explains that Embiid playing so well gives them optimism they can win a championship as currently constructed so they’re more worried that pushing too hard now might hurt them in the long run.
“That’s been Philly’s standpoint all along, and they’ve got good reason, I think, to think that a guy like James Harden, or Bradley Beal...or even Jaylen Brown in Boston, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in Oklahoma City seems to be a little less likely to come open down the pipeline but whose to say....
That’s pretty big. That Fischer, as connected as he is, thinks the Sixers have “good reason” to think a guy like Harden, or Beal might become available by summer is eye-opening.
“They can’t trade [Simmons] after the deadline right, and I doubt we’re gonna see something change here in the next two weeks in that stance. Maybe if in the post-season if they fall short in the first round, or other elements that come into play, someone gets hurt, someone gets fired, what have you...but for now that’s the way things stand.”
Man, this one sort of blew my mind. Not only does Fischer make it sound as if a trade will not happen at this deadline barring a big change to our status quo stalemate, he says maybe IF something bad happened during the upcoming playoffs then that MIGHT lead to a change.
This moment was officially the first time I considered the Simmons situation slogging on through the upcoming summer and beyond. For what it’s worth, it sounds like Morey also has ESPN’s Zach Lowe leaning against us seeing a trade this deadline too:
Even when I don’t like the message, Lowe above everyone else explains it so it at least makes some sense pic.twitter.com/TRdp9XGlrO— Francis Parker (@franciszomes) January 27, 2022
And Marc Stein, in his most recent Substack newsletter says if Morey “finds a deal he likes for Ben Simmons in the next 13 days, he will surprise an overwhelming majority of his peers. I can’t find a team out there these days that believes Morey is bluffing....”
Sounds like Fischer, Lowe, and Stein might all agree with what Morey said on the Mike Missanelli show last week that a deal is “less likely than likely.”
But what about other teams that may make a big push at deadline? Morey named the Sacramento Kings on his radio appearance.
“...the one thing that’s remained constant has been those teams haven’t had a player back that Philly wants to get... and they’re just waiting for one of those guys to become available, so I still think that as much as it’s a pie in the sky reality if they’re only going to make that trade for one of those guys my guess to you right now is that [Simmons’] only landing spot, his most likely landing spots are going to be the teams that those guys [like Harden, Beal, Brown, Lillard] are on right now.”
Fischer indicates we’re more likely to see Simmons land on a team currently possessing a true superstar. And that was recorded before we saw the most recent Woj bomb on Sacramento allegedly bowing out of the Simmons sweepstakes. The latest may only serve to validate Fischer’s working hypothesis.
ESPN story on the Sacramento Kings dropping out of pursuit of a Ben Simmons trade with the Philadelphia 76ers: https://t.co/co9u3oazLw— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 28, 2022
What about other Sixers, like Tobias Harris?
Harris’ has played well his last six games. He’s finally showing signs of being the player the Sixers had a year ago, still his name pops up in rumors because of his exorbitant contract.
“Tobias Harris’ name has obviously come up a lot, it’s largely been linked and sync’d with Ben Simmons conversations. But I’m sure if that has brought other conversations to light where they could find someone whose got less guaranteed money into the future they would take it and again I’m not saying they’re actively shopping Tobias but I’m sure that’s a goal of theirs.”
Keep an eye on Paul Reed and Isaiah Joe
Imagine seeing a Sixers trade but instead of Ben Simmons’ name it was Isaiah Joe’s. It would be a meme frenzy on social media.
“Paul Reed’s name has come up a little bit. He’s definitely a name I mean he has’t cracked their rotation and he’s kinda maxed out as being an MVP type G league player so it would make sense that they’d be interested in seeing what his value would be.
And I think Isaiah Joe from conversations I’ve had would be someone that the Sixers are willing to part with as well.”
Fischer said he does not expect a trade like the one that brought in George Hill a year ago. He thinks that Simmons’ absence has “galvanized” this unit and they want to see how far it can go. So he doesn’t expect a blockbuster or even a medium sized move at the deadline.
But what about Simmons’ value, is it stable or are teams worried about him as an asset?
What about the way Simmons finished the year last season or his extended absence, might that be scaring teams off or causing them to worry about him as a long-term value?
Per the pod:
“I’ve talked to executives from a handful of teams that have had consistent interest in Ben from the jump from right, from Minnesota to Indiana to Atlanta to Sacramento, Cleveland. Everyone who I’ve talked to, they want, like those teams, they want Ben Simmons because they value him for what his ceiling is. I haven’t heard a single person really talk about worrying if he’ll ever be able to get back to the levels that he was at before whatever happened during his last stretch as an active member of the Sixers. Sure they’re using that to their advantage right now in these trade conversations....
‘Just like the Sixers and Daryl Morey are hoping that James Harden will become available...teams are also saying we’re just hoping that Philly and maybe ownership will eventually get restless and they’ll force Daryl to make a deal.”
He adds that as much as he thinks those teams value Simmons, he thinks they value him even more highly than their current offers have reflected. That’s basically because they’re trying to buy low in a competitive environment.
It doesn’t sound like Fischer thinks anything goes down with Simmons at this deadline because he thinks despite ample interest from certain teams, the Sixers have some valid reason to pursue bigger fish in the summer.
That would certainly open up Morey to criticism and place more pressure on the team to get this thing right in July. But for now, Fischer thinks the Brooklyn Nets have the best shot to wind up with Simmons, followed by teams like the Washington Wizards, Portland Trailblazers, Boston Celtics, and to a lesser extent the Oklahoma City Thunder. While he’s not ruling out the Kings, Hawks, or Timberwolves, it’s the teams that have stars Morey wants Fischer thinks have the upper hand. And all that that implies James Harden could get his McMansion in Cherry Hill in just a matter of months.