Daryl Morey’s arrival as the latest savior of the Philadelphia 76ers brought speculation about fixing the misshapen roster. The Sixers’ flaws were glaring during last season, and you didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to see how an All-Star point guard available on the trade market last offseason could’ve helped their team. Chris Paul didn’t end up in Philadelphia, but Morey made subtler moves to modernize the roster.
Still, the noises around a bigger trade built around Ben Simmons won’t go away, especially with James Harden kicking up a fuss in Houston. Could a Simmons-Harden swap be on the horizon?
Daryl Morey is the best person to help the 76ers reach their ceiling
The 2019-20 season couldn’t have gone worse for the Philadelphia 76ers. And that’s before you account for the pandemic that continues to wreak havoc on society. All the big bets made by GM Elton Brand fell well short of expectations.
Letting Jimmy Butler go to Miami so they could sign a washed-up Al Horford backfired quickly. Josh Richardson failed to develop into more than a nice role player and was traded away after one year. Tobias Harris got a contract of a superstar and continued to play like Tobias Harris. All the concerns about their lack of shooting proved valid. And the assumed defensive expertise never materialized on a consistent basis.
None of Philadelphia’s major pieces seemed to make sense together on the court, so the Sixers hired Morey to cure their relative ills. It’s still far too early in the season to say if Philly has the squad for a deep playoff run, but the team makes a lot more sense than it did a few months ago.
Morey quickly disproved the notion that Horford would be impossible to trade due to his contract by shipping him to Oklahoma City, and acquiring sharpshooters Danny Green and Seth Curry via a series of trades, and bringing in Doc Rivers to be the head coach.
The Sixers have started the season well, winning four of their first five games. Ben Simmons even hit a three! But the team’s postseason struggles speak for themselves, and until Simmons in particular balls out in the playoffs, there will be questions about whether a player with his skillset can be a star for a winning team.
CP3 would’ve helped plenty, but moved to a different team led by young talent
At the end of the 2018-19 season, the general opinion was that Chris Paul was a spent force with a horrific contract. Most of his statistics – points, field goal percentage, and free throw attempts – went down in his second year as James Harden’s sidekick in Houston. Combine that with his injury issues and that convinced many fans to write him off as a major NBA player.
Paul was traded to Oklahoma City. Rather than sulk until a big market team traded for him, he rose to the occasion. The point guard led the Thunder to a surprising playoff berth as the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Their season ended after a nail-biting, seven-game series against the Rockets. Paul more or less said goodbye as soon as their season ended.
The point guard position is so saturated at this point that there weren’t many teams with a need for a veteran ballhandler to take their team to a higher level and the capacity to take on his $41 million salary.
Hypothetically, the Sixers could’ve been one of those teams. But clearly, Horford wasn’t enough to make that happen. And the Thunder’s commitment to tanking is such that Simmons doesn’t fit their timetable. Paul ended up on the Phoenix Suns. They hope that his presence will be enough to get into the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
Philadelphia is the most sensible destination for Harden
There’s a better star guard on the market who could improve the Sixers immediately, but at least for now, Philadelphia is sticking with what they have now. James Harden tried to party his way out of Houston and into Brooklyn, but a team owned by a man who wrote a book named “Shut up and Listen!” isn’t going to back down easily.
A trade to the Nets never looked likely, and appears dead in the water after Spencer Dinwiddie’s long-term knee injury. Other teams have been linked to Harden, but Houston’s asking price, Harden’s dominant style and his flagrant disregard for social distancing have kept the star from getting the move he craves.
Barring something unexpected, no one can offer Houston a better player than Simmons. For all of Harden’s faults, he’d provide everything the Sixers offense lacks in abundance. But Philadelphia is publicly demonstrating that they are not interested in making a deal. Morey talked up a Simmons-Embiid partnership soon after joining Philly. Later, he went out of his way to deny reports that Simmons’ name was discussed in trade talks.
It’s hard to believe this considering Morey was said that Harden was a better scorer than Michael Jordan. According to Yahoo Sports, he told Paul that he wouldn’t be traded from the Rockets a week before being sent to OKC a week later. It’s entirely possible that this is merely a negotiating tactic to get the price down. Until Harden is traded, or the trade deadline passes, no one will know for sure.