Ben Simmons trade rumors: 76ers seeking ‘Harden-esque’ return as Daryl Morey continues to shoot for the stars


Combing through real estate apps is one of my favorite time killers, and at least once a day I come across a nice house that is priced like a mansion. I think, “nobody’s going to pay that,” and then lo and behold somebody does. Daryl Morey appears to be pricing Ben Simmons like he’s a mansion.

“The Sixers have been canvassing around the league, and they are asking for a massive return for Ben Simmons,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday. “One GM described it to me as Harden-esque, similar to what Houston wanted in the talks that led to them trading [James] Harden to Brooklyn.”

One reported example of just how crazy Morey’s asking price has been comes from The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, who said on The Mismatch podcast that Philly asked the Spurs for four future first-round picks, three pick swaps and a young player (Are the seriously talking about Dejounte Murray? They can’t be, right? Even Morey can’t be that ambitious). The Rockets got four first-round picks and four pick swaps, without the young-player part of the equation, for Harden. Indeed, Morey is aiming preposterously high. 

And why not? After all, who knows better about overpaying in a moment of desperation than Morey himself? This is a guy who sent Chris Paul, two future first-round picks and two first-round pick swaps to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook. Paul was at the time, and has since further proven to be, a much better player than Westbrook, and Morey threw in significant draft capital as if he were the one getting a superstar. 

Simmons, like Westbrook, has a superstar name. But the jig is up on his actual game. If Morey really thought Simmons was worth this much, why would he be scouring the league looking to get rid of him in the first place? Nobody’s fooled. As O’Connor said on the pod: “All these [proposed] deals you hear about are outrageous. Nobody will do it for Ben Simmons.”

And yet, I keep thinking about these home listings. You can pull all the comps you want, and those comps can tell you that a house is overpriced, but all you need is one buyer with the right mixture of capital and desperation to walk in and love the place, and you’ve got a deal. People get impulsive. There was probably only one GM on earth that would’ve traded Paul, let alone two first-round picks and two pick swaps, for the 2019 version of Westbrook, but one was all it took. 

Morey is holding out for someone like his Houston self to show up. 

It’s almost certainly not going to happen. To me, the only team desperate enough to maybe make this kind of reach is the Portland Trail Blazers, who are on the brink of losing Damian Lillard. Problem is, it’s Lillard that Morey is probably hoping becomes available for Simmons. Or Bradley Beal. We have heard the Wizards as one of the most likely landing spots should Simmons be dealt.

As it stands right now, everyone is laughing at the audacity of the Sixers to even ask for this kind of return for a guy the whole world watched disappear in the playoffs. But might our most recent memories be deceiving us? I’ve been as hard on Simmons as anyone, and even I would argue the Atlanta series was an outlier. Simmons has been vulnerable in the playoffs before, but he’s never been that bad. 

There is risk, of course, in getting greedy. It’s possible that Morey could’ve traded Simmons not for a “Harden-esque return,” but for Harden himself had he been willing to include Tyrese Maxey. There’s never been full confirmation of that, and I still have a hard time believing it. I don’t think the Rockets were ever going to do business with Morey. But if Harden was an option and Morey overplayed his Simmons hand, he screwed up. He might be doing it again. But as the saying goes, you shoot for the stars and hope to land on the moon. 

The moon, of course, would still constitute a major haul. And you can understand Morey wanting this kind of return for Simmons, who just turned 25 years old and already has one All-NBA, three All-Star and two first-team All-Defense selections on his resume. He’s one of the most versatile defenders in the league, and with the right kind of system and supporting cast in place, he can be a beast offensively, too. 

You can still talk yourself into the best version of Simmons, who has long needed to be a Draymond Green-type four man or small-ball center in a spread offense: Rebound and push in transition, convert to screener/short roller/cutter/mismatch poster in the half court. Forget the point guard business. In suboptimal conditions, Simmons is a good player. Perhaps there’s still a great player in there somewhere. Morey just needs one other GM to believe that as much as he’s representing he does. 



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