Daryl Morey Media Day 2021

Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey hopped on the phone with 97.5 The Fanatic’s Mike Missanelli for an interview with just weeks to spare before the 2022 NBA trade deadline. His commentary painted a pretty clear picture, at least in this writer’s eyes.

In the course of the interview, Morey prefaced a question comparing trade value at the deadline to trade value in the offseason saying, “So let’s say we don’t make a big move at the deadline, which has a very good chance of happening, right?…” Morey then doubled down on that comment later by answering, “I think it’s less likely than likely,” when Missanelli ended the interview with a question on the likelihood of a deal being completed by the deadline.

But, Morey left some hints along the way that reflect other resolutions. “I can tell you that, for sure, there are deals with the Sacramento Kings that I think would work,” Morey said when asked about recent rumors involving the Sacramento Kings.

“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.”

Then, Morey dropped another hint. “I do think with how great Joel is, our line has moved down a little bit. 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 are more likely,” he said.

“It’s more likely we can find one to get us into that top few contention because of how great Joel is playing. So, we are sitting right now at a better chance of a trade that actually helps Joel and the Sixers and Tobias and our whole team. There’s a better chance one happens because of how great Joel is playing.”

Morey continued. “We absolutely need to get an impact player. But, there’s an impact player that has to be in the top 30 of the league. Because Joel’s playing amazing and has lifted us into probably 5-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. It opens up possibilities,” he said.

“Or, we could do a trade, it 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 helps our odds enough this year and we maybe have a draft pick or a young player who could help us into the future who might develop. Like if we got a player of the caliber of a Maxey coming back, we might be able to say, ‘Okay, we got a really solid player who’s maybe not in the top-30, but he’s a little bit below that. Plus, a solid young player who, over Joel’s prime which we’re sitting in, might develop into that. So, it opens up more possibilities of deals.”

For months, there have been reports of a fabled list naming 20 to 30 players who the Sixers deem acceptable in return for Simmons. Whether it’s truly because of Embiid’s play or because the market isn’t developing as expected, that list has grown to 40 players. And Morey openly admits that the Kings roster at least one player on that list.

“It takes two sides. In this case, it’s probably going to take three sides, probably going to take multiple teams. Whenever you’re involving a big trade with multiple teams, the odds of those deals happening are just low,” Morey went on to say regarding fans who plead for any deal to get rid of Simmons. 

So now, it’s a top-40 player, rostered by the Kings, and a multi-team structure is likely. 

The translation is simple. “We’re ready to do a deal with Sacramento, but they haven’t met our demands yet.”

You could argue that there are two top-40 players in Sacramento — De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. So which is the one in Morey’s head? Well, besides Kyle Neubeck’s recent report about the rumors involving the Kings, Morey mentioned fit numerous times. Fox profiles as a high-usage, low volume and low accuracy three-point shooter, who doesn’t really look to make plays for others. Beyond that, he’s an average-to-below-average defender. The Sixers have enough high-usage guards who leave much to be desired on defense. So, that fit isn’t right.

On the other hand, Tyrese Haliburton has a much lower concentration of on-ball play. And Haliburton has an assist-rate-to-usage-rate ratio of 1.46:1, which ranks in the 93rd percentile for combo guards. In other words, Haliburton is quite adept at making plays for others without needing to dominate the rock. Furthermore, he’s shooting 44 percent on an average volume of threes this season.

On the other side of the court, Haliburton ranks in the top 15 percent of NBA combo guards in block percentage, steal percentage, and foul percentage; he’s second on the Kings in deflections per game. So, the second-year guard would be immensely helpful to Philly’s perimeter defense.

There’s not much more to say. Haliburton is clearly the fit. As for the other teams involved, all rumors point to the Pacers. Sabonis could very well be on the move as Indiana faces a rebuild, and the Kings are said to covet him. But, do the Sixers really want to keep Simmons in the Eastern Conference? I have a difficult time believing that.

My best guess right now (which means this is not sourced reporting) is that Haliburton and Hield end up in Philly by the deadline as the core tangible return of a Simmons deal. But based on some of my own due diligence, I think the long-term play involves sending Haliburton as part of a package to Brooklyn in a sign-and-trade for James Harden.

Other Quotes

“As a Philadelphian 76ers, your fans out there and myself, you just got to realize how we’re in a special time. Take a step back and just think ‘we’re all experiencing greatness’, and in a person who’s a great person, as well.” – On Embiid’s 50-point night against Orlando.

“I do absolutely believe that this team, without any changes, has a chance [to win a championship].” – On what the Sixers brass believes the team can do this season as is.

“Historically, I personally have a good track record of bringing folks in at the trade deadline. So regardless of whether it’s a big trade involving Ben, or something, we would like to add to this team.” – On the likelihood of consummating a deal before the deadline. 

“If you trade one of these great players for multiple [lesser pieces], it does not move your championship odds enough to make a difference. […] For Joel, we have to make sure we get this right and if we move into a higher tier of ability to win the championship, not just having the sixth or seventh best chance in the league.” – On his approach to assessing the return on a Simmons trade.

“To think we’re burning the season away without trading Ben, we are not only burning this season away if we trade Ben for something that makes everyone feel good, we’re also burning away all other future seasons. We’re burning way more by doing a marginal trade than if we are patient, we have a solid chance this year, and then we also have the ability to win more in the future, as well. […] We’re not looking for a stellar deal, we are looking for a deal that makes us a championship contender, in the top two or three in the league of winning the title. Those are the teams that win.” – On fans thinking the season is wasted if a trade isn’t done by the deadline.

“We’ve had conversations with pretty much every team in the league about Ben. I can tell you for a fact that nothing’s gotten, at this point, into a range and, generally, they don’t get into a range of a possible deal until you get closer to the deadline.” – On rumored trade packages involving Simmons.

“I think everyone needs to look in the mirror, I know I looked at the mirror with myself. What could I have done better? Could I have established a better relationship with Ben? I would say yes.” – On how the situation unraveled so rapidly. 

“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. Our defense goes from the best in the league to average. And Joel and Ben, together, always put together an elite defense. Our rebounding has gone from 10th to near the bottom of the league. The only difference between last year’s team and this one is really Ben Simmons. We’ve had some really nice good players in Niang and Maxey’s taken a big step forward and Drummond’s added a lot. The reality is the core of our team is the same and it has a Ben Simmons hole in it.” – On if Simmons could ever play for the Sixers again, and whether it’s realistic.