The NBA trade deadline is two days away and the trade waters are starting to get choppy. While the Philadelphia 76ers have yet to make a move, two of the teams most heavily rumored to be interested in Sixers holdout Ben Simmons just made a move with each other instead.
Jeremy Lamb AND Justin Holiday. https://t.co/0GbRwKcRBP— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 8, 2022
The Pacers are including a 2027 second-round pick in the deal to the Kings, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 8, 2022
Indiana’s ability to clone Jeremy Lamb aside, this move is a SHOCKER. The Sixers and Kings had been involved in at least cursory talks, but the conclusion among NBA circles was that Sacramento was not moving Tyrese Haliburton. After Haliburton dropped a career-high 38 points against the Sixers less than two weeks, I wrote about how Daryl Morey should re-connect with Monte McNair and make Haliburton the guy in a Simmons return package. He’s 21 years old, with the ability to play on or off the ball and no obvious holes in his game on either end of the floor. Haliburton would help you this season infinitely more than a stay-at-home Simmons, and you can make the argument either way as to who another team would prefer later on if the Sixers wanted to trade for an established star.
Apparently, Indiana agreed with that talent assessment.
The Pacers were another team with legitimate interest in Simmons, but I think this direction makes a lot of sense for them. Domantas Sabonis is a very good player, a worthy All-Star each of the last two seasons. But the Sabonis-Myles Turner frontcourt had reached its ceiling, and the Pacers clearly needed to pivot in some fashion. They had already signaled their longer-view intentions with their trade of Caris LeVert to Cleveland. Now, they get to build around a young guard who fits much better with their roster. It’s an excellent trade for them.
Meanwhile, the Kings stay the Kings. I guess this move helps them in their case for ending the longest playoff drought in the league. Sabonis is a better player than present-day Haliburton. But Sacramento had finally hit on a draft pick, and now they’re cashing out for a guy who tops off as an All-Star reserve. At best, this trade sets the Kings up as first-round playoff fodder for the next few years, the old treadmill of mediocrity. A Simmons move would have accomplished the same thing as far as raising the team’s regular season ceiling with at least the whiff of upside if Ben ever put things together.
Which brings us back to the Sixers...
Tyrese Haliburton was clearly available. Would he have been available for just Simmons? Could the Sixers have gotten Haliburton for Simmons and cleared Tobias Harris off the books to boot? We’ll probably never know exactly. But Daryl Morey didn’t pull the trigger, and it’s pretty clear that his interest in James Harden and Brooklyn specifically wanting Ben Simmons in return was probably a factor.
So Daryl better be awfully sure that Harden is sincere in wanting to come to Philadelphia, whether he pushes for it to happen this week or waits until the summer. Because if Simmons is still a Sixer this weekend, you greatly diminish this team’s chances at contention this season. Then, if Harden decides to stick with the Nets this summer, leaving the Sixers left with a reduced set of options as to what to do with Ben, I expect a large contingent of Sixers fans are going to feel a serious case of FOMO that this Haliburton deal didn’t come to fruition.