By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer
As some in the national media begin to clamor for the Philadelphia 76ers to trade Ben Simmons now, general manager Daryl Morey should stick to his guns and remain patient with the Simmons trade market.
As ugly as the Simmons situation continues to be, it is not hurting the team's on-court chemistry. The Sixers were playing like one of the best teams in the league, sitting at 8-2, before COVID-19 surged through their locker room over the past few weeks. The players on the court were not phased by the off-court drama centered around the Simmons situation.
While trading him now would obviously help the team get a better supporting cast around All-Star Joel Embiid, I believe it is worth it for Morey to continue to be patient. The current offers are unsatisfactory, according to multiple reports, leading Morey to say earlier this year that the Simmons situation could last for years.
The Athletic's Sam Amick reported yesterday morning "Simmons isn't going anywhere until Morey is able to swap him for a truly elite player." That is nothing new, but Amick also reported the 76ers have a list of 30 players they would be willing to take back in a Simmons trade. According to the report, the team believes that five to 10 of those players could become available over the next year or two. Morey is definitely playing the long game, as he should, with Simmons.
Amick's bombshell report was followed up by one last night by the Inquirer's Keith Pompey stating James Harden and Jerami Grant are on the Sixers' list of 30 players. Obviously getting Harden back in a Simmons trade would be a no-brainer. According to the report, several members of the Sixers' front office want to go after Harden in a sign-and-trade at some point this coming offseason. However, Grant reportedly being on the team's list of potential Simmons returns is shocking.
Grant, once a member of the Sixers, has quietly developed into a good player for the Detroit Pistons. He averaged a career-high 22.3 points per game last season and is following it up this year by averaging 18.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He has improved his three-point percentage (34.6 percent for his career) and plays good defense.
Any Simmons-related trade with the Pistons should start and end with Cade Cunningham, last year's No. 1 overall pick. While a Grant homecoming would be nice to see, he is not a true difference maker and hence not the caliber of player the Sixers should be looking for as a centerpiece in any Simmons trade. No amount of other assets, for example Kelly Olynyk and Saddiq Bey according to Pompey's report, should make up for the fact that Grant is not on the same level as what the 76ers should be looking to get back in return for Simmons.
If Morey was to accept Grant, a good albeit not great player, as a centerpiece in a Simmons deal, then why would he have not jumped on the chance to get Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum this past offseason? McCollum, who has averaged 20-plus points per game every season since 2015-16, is a better fit on the Sixers than Grant.
Morey should hold onto Simmons until he can get an adequate return, a true difference maker, no matter how long it takes. The 76ers have a chance to greatly improve their team, and the wait – even potentially for multiple years – should be worth it in the end if the return puts the team closer to winning a championship.