76ers star Joel Embiid exploded on Wednesday night, scoring 50 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in just 27 minutes in a 123–110 win against the Magic. During a Thursday radio interview, team president Daryl Morey acknowledged that Embiid’s recent play has shifted the paradigm a bit in terms of how the team views a potential Ben Simmons trade.
During his appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic with Mike Missanelli, Morey stressed that any trade involving Simmons, Tobias Harris or other Sixers players has to drastically improve the team’s current title odds, especially if it threatens to hamstring the franchise in the future. Trading Simmons, even if playing for Philadelphia remains out of the question for him, in order for a slight improvement isn’t good enough for Morey.
“It really is important that the player we add to Joel, if we really want to take our odds from wherever we’re at right now, to something materially higher, it has to come back in an impact player,” Morey said. “If you trade one of these great players for multiple, it does not move your championship odds enough to make a difference. It might take us from where we’re at now to a little bit better, but it’s very slightly better, and we want to—for Joel—we have to make sure we get this right and we move ourselves to a higher tier of ability to win a championship...
“We are looking for a deal that makes us a championship contender, in the top two or three in the league of winning a title. Those are the teams that win. If we do a deal that takes us from the eighth-best chance to win the championship to seventh, you’re looking at half a percent better. And everyone feels better because Ben Simmons, who people want gone, people will feel better that that name is no longer there, but our odds haven’t changed much at all, and now we’ve not just burned away this season, we’ve burned away our future as well.”
Interestingly, he does think Embiid’s current play has opened up more possibilities, including the level of player that the team could entertain as return in a Simmons deal.
“We absolutely need to get an impact player, but there’s an impact player has to be top 30 in the league. Because Joel’s playing amazing, and has lifted us into probably 5%-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,” Morey said. “It opens up possibilities. Or we could do a trade, it helps the team, it’s a better fit, and maybe our future opportunities are open because we get some draft picks as part of it. So it helps our odds enough this year and we have a draft pick or young player who can help us into the future.”
Morey was asked to address the rumored trade possibilities with the Kings that have floated around the internet in recent days. He acknowledged that there are possible fits with Sacramento in terms of the type of return that Philadelphia is looking for, but none of the Simmons talks around the league have gotten “into range” of a deal yet.
“We've had conversations with pretty much every team in the league about Ben,” Morey confirmed. “I can tell you nothing's gotten into a range, and generally they don't get into a range of a possible deal until you get closer to the deadline.”
When asked directly whether he believes Simmons could suit up for the 76ers again, despite everything that has happened of late, Morey said he’d be a near-perfect fit alongside Embiid right now.
“I 100% believe he could play for us again, he’d be literally almost the perfect player we could have to pair with Joel Embiid,” Morey said. “People don’t understand how much he impacts... I think that’s why there’s continued big trade interest in him. But it doesn’t even take that difficult a look to say our defense goes from the best in the league to average. That’s a massive part of the game, and Joel and Ben together always put together an elite defense. That is so important for playoff basketball, and he also covered up—our rebounding has gone from 10th to near the bottom of the league... The reality is the core of our team is the same and it has a Ben Simmons hole in it... My job is to win the title, my job is to continue to try to make it where we either make the right trade or we hurdle the issues that Ben has and get him back here.”
“I think it’s less likely than likely,” Morey said of a Simmons trade coming about ahead of the February 10 trade deadline. “I hope that I’m wrong, it won’t be for a lack of trying... It takes two or three to tango and trades are difficult to construct in this league.”
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