Sixers’ Morey: Ben Simmons trade ‘less likely than likely’ but Joel Embiid’s play ‘opens up possibilities’

Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey said that a Ben Simmons trade before the Feb. 10 deadline is “less likely than likely” on 97.5 The Fanatic’s “The Mike Missanelli Show” on Thursday. The interview ran for more than 25 minutes, with Morey reiterating that he thinks Simmons could play for the Sixers again, he empathizes with fans who want a deal done as soon as possible and he will not make any trade that doesn’t significantly increase the team’s odds of winning a championship.

“I think it’s less likely than likely,” Morey said. “But hopefully I’m wrong. Like, look, it won’t be from lack of trying. We have a whole team of front-office (people). It’s all we do. We have no other job that matters. It’s all we’re working on.”

Morey continued: “The main reason I say less likely than likely is it takes two or three to tango. And trades are not easy to construct in this league. There’s a lot of risk aversion. There’s a lot of, like, decision-makers that have to be hurdled. It’s very complex to put a deal together. And that always makes it less likely than likely to get a deal done.”

He said a deal is more likely than it used to be, though, now that Joel Embiid is on a rampage. The way Morey sees it, Embiid has single-handedly made Philadelphia into a fringe contender, so, if the requirement for any trade is this makes us a top-two or top-three team, then there is a slightly lower threshold to satisfy it. (And yes, that is the requirement. “We are looking for a deal that makes us a championship contender, in the top two or three in the league of [title odds]. Those are the teams that win.)

“I do think with how great Joel is, our line has moved down a little bit,” Morey said. “Because Joel has lifted us into contention by his sheer will of greatness this year, that does push the number of deals that we would do [higher], if that makes any sense. It’s more likely that we can find ones that get us into that top few of contention because of how great Joel is playing.”

Morey said that the Sixers still “absolutely need to get an impact player.” If they needed a top-30 player back in a Simmons trade before, though, then, “because Joel is playing amazing and has lifted us into probably five-percent-plus title odds just on his play, now we might be able to do it with a top-40 player who’s a great fit.”

In other words, while he still thinks a Simmons trade will be difficult to execute in the next few weeks, the range of potentially acceptable deals is larger now. “It opens up possibilities,” Morey said. Philadelphia could theoretically find a trade that “helps the team, it’s a better fit and maybe our future opportunities are still open because we get some draft picks as part of it. So it ups our (championship) odds enough this year and we maybe have a draft pick or a young player who can help us into the future who might develop.”

On the idea that the Sixers would be wasting this season if they keep Simmons beyond the deadline, Morey said: “We are not only burning this season away if we trade Ben for something that makes everyone feel good (but doesn’t move the needle), we’re also burning away all the other future seasons. We’re burning way more by doing a marginal trade than if we are patient.”

Morey said that “everyone sees what’s happening with Joel and how special that is, and all of our reaction, our emotional reaction — including mine — is like, ‘We have got to do whatever we can to help him.’ And that reaction is correct.” It is “precisely because Joel is playing so amazing,” however, “that this deal has to be the one that addresses our needs.” 

Guess what those needs are: Defense, rebounding, playmaking and transition. Can you think of someone who excels in all of these areas?

“The only difference between last year’s team and this one is really Ben Simmons,” Morey said. ‘We’ve had some really nice new players in (Georges) Niang and (Tyrese) Maxey’s taken a big step forward and (Andre) Drummond’s added a lot but the reality is the core of our team’s the same and it has a Ben Simmons(-sized) hole in it. It really does.”

Related news: Morey said that, while he understands that “the majority of people think” there’s no way Philadelphia and Simmons could reconcile, “I 100 percent believe he could play for us again and he’d be literally almost the perfect player we could have to pair with Joel Embiid.”

Morey said there is a “very good chance” that Simmons is on the roster past the deadline, and that, in general, he doesn’t believe in trying to replace what one “impact player” brings with multiple players. 

“It just doesn’t work,” Morey said.”They can’t all play. And as we add players, it means that really good, solid players like we have — like a (Matisse) Thybulle, as an example — they just play less. Or a Maxey plays less. It really is important that the player we add to Joel, we really want to take our odds from wherever they’re at right now to something materially higher, it has to come back in an impact player.”

Morey did not directly address the package that the Sacramento Kings’ had, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, considered offering to the Sixers. (The Inquirer also reported that Philadelphia would not agree to it if offered.) He did, however, say: “I can tell you that for sure there are deals with the Sacramento Kings that I think would work. Will those deals ever happen? I have no idea. Are they just straight deals with the Kings? Probably not. Is it multiple teams? Probably. But for sure there are deals that are possible that would go over our line.”

On the subject of trade rumors, he also said, “It’s very frustrating for me and I’m sure it’s frustrating for fans, too. I mean, we had a trade debated — it might even be this (Kings) one — that was tweeted out by Ballsack Sports. I mean, people were treating that like it was a real thing. I think that was yesterday or two days ago. So I’m imploring people to not get too attached to Ballsack Sports tweets and treat them seriously.

“Look, we’ve had conversations with pretty much every team in the league about Ben. I can tell you for a fact that nothing has gotten into, at this point, a range. And generally, they don’t get into a range of possible deals until you get closer to the deadline.”

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