The Sixers continue to work the phones to find a home for star-in-exile Ben Simmons, as leaguewide trade dialogue heats up in the days leading up to December 15th. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe noted late Friday that the Sixers have “momentum” in conversations regarding Simmons, so perhaps we’ll finally see the end of this standoff before you know it.
That December 15th date, long marked as a potential kick-off point for revisited discussions, marks the day that many of the most recent offseason’s free agents are finally eligible to be traded to another team. It’s also an important marker for a different reason — it’s a marker for around the first third of the season, where teams have to take stock of where they’re at and what they need/want to accomplish the rest of the season.
Once it became clear the Simmons situation was not going to be resolved in the offseason, Philadelphia’s front office took the position (publicly and privately) that they would be content to wait out the early season honeymoon and circle back with teams later in the year, well aware that many of the teams they spoke to in the offseason had a high combustibility factor or simply weren’t very good.
That has worked in their favor in numerous cases. The Sacramento Kings, who said in the offseason they weren’t entertaining DeAaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton for Simmons deals, are 11-14 and just barely in play-in territory. The Portland Trailblazers are claiming they will not make Damian Lillard available, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, but they’ve been a mess to start the year, with Lillard struggling, CJ McCollum out with a collapsed lung, new coach Chauncey Billups failing to make any impact on their porous defense. The Minnesota Timberwolves have garnered decent reviews to kick off the year, making tremendous defensive strides under Chris Finch’s leadership, but even they sit at 11-14 as we speak today.
One team involved in the offseason discussions has made its intentions crystal clear in recent days. The Indiana Pacers, as reported by Bob Kravitz and Shams Charania at The Athletic, have begun entertaining discussions regarding a few of their core pieces, most notably Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, evidently ready to explore rebuilding options and a youth movement after years of being stuck in the mediocrity churn. Though it does not sound like the Pacers are in fire sale, “All these guys must go!” territory yet, entertaining a rebuild is a fairly significant organizational shift.
With Malcolm Brogdon off the table thanks to an extension signed in mid-October, the Pacers are a pretty bad one-to-one trade partner for the Sixers, with their two best available players big men who would not fit alongside Joel Embiid. But the Pacers entering the marketplace opens up avenues for more complex multi-team trades, deals that could in theory allow Philadelphia to get what they want in return for Simmons. Daryl Morey has not backed down from complex trade frameworks in the past and appears willing to explore those now if that leads to a suitable deal for Simmons.
As we reported here on Monday, a deal involving CJ McCollum has been floated at various points in talks with Portland but has not been of much interest to Philadelphia. The Sixers are open to a variety of scenarios, but in situations where they’ve expressed interest in specific players, as they have many times over with Lillard, they’ve shown no inclination to settle for a deal because they feel external pressure or a need to get an immediate return to help out the current roster on the floor.
From where we sit at this moment, Friday night on December 10th, there is nothing imminent for the Sixers, no individual deal lined up to be announced when the clock strikes midnight on December 15th. But expect them to pop up in a lot of rumors in the coming weeks, as everyone starts to make firm decisions on where they’re headed this year and in seasons to come.
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