Ben Simmons trade could define Daryl Morey's tenure with the Sixers

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PHILADELPHIA — It's possible or perhaps even probable that Daryl Morey won't make a trade involving Ben Simmons by the Feb. 10 deadline.

Morey, the 76ers' president of basketball operations, and the Sixers are determined to get the best possible return for the 25-year-old Simmons, a three-time all-star selection in four seasons of play. It doesn't appear Morey plans to settle for less than what he deems fair value.

The kneejerk reaction would be to try to finalize a deal by the deadline to give star center Joel Embiid, who is having a superb season, the best chance at a deep playoff run. But that's not how Morey views the situation.

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has been on the job for 14 1/2 months.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has been on the job for 14 1/2 months.

"Everyone sees what's happening with Joel and how special that is," Morey told The Mike Missanelli Show on 97.5 The Fanatic on Thursday. "And all of our reaction, our emotional reaction – including mine – is we have to do whatever we can to help him. And that reaction is correct. But I think it's the initial reaction that that means we should just get the best thing possible in February. I think that leads you to a bad place. It's precisely because Joel is playing so amazing that this deal has to be the one that addresses our needs."

It's understandable Morey doesn't want to agree to a deal by Feb. 10, only to discover he might've been able to acquire a star like the Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard or Nets' James Harden in the summer. Pairing either with Embiid would give the Sixers a formidable duo in the half-court offense.

This could end up being the best chance Morey has of adding an established NBA difference-maker to a team that craves a roster upgrade. He has to get this right.

The bottom line: What Sixers do at NBA trade deadline will show how they answer an essential question

Package deal?: Sixers packaging Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris would allow them to trade for power forward

Even with Embiid contributing 40 points on 15-for-25 shooting, 13 rebounds and 6 assists, the Sixers blew a 24-point lead in a 102-101 loss to the shorthanded Clippers on Friday night. Morey said he believes the 26-19 Sixers can contend for a title this season if they don't trade Simmons by the deadline, but I'm not so sure.

Fans lamented Embiid's lack of a good-enough supporting cast following the disappointing defeat to Los Angeles, but that's not going to affect what Morey is looking to do.

What it all boils down to is how the Simmons saga is resolved could define Morey's tenure with the Sixers.

This is another level from dumping the ill-fitting Al Horford and his four-year, $97 million contract, a 2025 first-rounder and the draft rights to two foreign players in exchange for Danny Green and two throw-ins from the Thunder on Dec. 8, 2020, or picking up shooter Seth Curry from the Mavericks for Josh Richardson and a second-round pick three weeks earlier. Both were solid moves early in Morey's time here.

Morey is no stranger to blockbuster trades, having secured everybody from Harden to Chris Paul to Russell Westbrook to Dwight Howard during his 13 years as GM of the Rockets.

Perhaps his finest move was landing Harden from the Thunder on Oct. 27, 2012, in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks (Steven Adams and Mitch McGary) and a second-rounder (Álex Abrines). Harden went from the league's top sixth man with Oklahoma City in 2011-12 to MVP for Houston in 2017-18, averaging 31.7 points during his last five full seasons as a Rocket.

Trading a multi-time all-star selection in or close to the prime of his career has been rare and unproductive for the Sixers. The last one was 31-year-old Allen Iverson, then an 11-time all-star who asked to be traded and Philadelphia obliged, sending him to the Nuggets on Dec. 19, 2006, for Andre Miller, the expiring contract of Joe Smith and two first-round picks that turned into Jason Smith and the forgettable Derrick Byars.

Before that, the Sixers dealt the disgruntled Charles Barkley to the Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry on June 17, 1992. Barkley, then 29, became the league MVP in his first season with Phoenix and led the Suns to the '93 NBA Finals.

We won't get into the disastrous Moses Malone 1986 draft-day deal when Malone was 31, which qualifies as the worst trade involving the three Hall of Famers.

While the aforementioned deals have no bearing on what happens with Simmons, they are part of the Sixers' past. All that's riding on the Simmons situation is the franchise's future.

Tom Moore: tmoore@couriertimes; @TomMoorePhilly

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Ben Simmons trade could define Daryl Morey's time with the Sixers

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