When Ben Simmons requested a trade last summer, Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey told inquiring teams that he would like to receive an All-Star caliber player in return for the three-time 25-year-old All-Star.
With Damian Lillard's future in Portland in question and Bradley Beal in the same situation out in Washington, it became clear that Morey had his sights set on those two prospects in a potential Simmons trade.
But Lillard made it known many times that he didn't have any intentions of leaving Portland -- and that sentiment never changed. And Beal hasn't shown any interest in leaving DC as they got off to a decent start to the 2021-2022 NBA season.
While Washington has found themselves out of the playoff picture lately, Beal remains off the trade block as the trade deadline approaches. The Sixers won't be landing Lillard or Beal before the 2022 NBA trade deadline.
Therefore, all signs are beginning to point towards the Sixers holding onto Ben Simmons for the rest of the year and going into next summer with the idea of shipping the disgruntled All-Star out for another superstar.
All Eyes on Harden?
Last season, the Sixers immediately turned their focus to James Harden when former Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey came into the picture. As Morey was looking to make a splash in Philadelphia right away, he figured he could do so by bringing in his high-prized superstar from the Rockets.
However, Philadelphia had stiff competition as the Brooklyn Nets were certainly interested in Harden -- and the feeling was mutual. While Harden liked Philadelphia, he became Brooklyn-bound after the Rockets traded him to the Nets.
The Sixers moved on from the idea of landing Harden as they then pursued Kyle Lowry before last year's trade deadline. But according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Sixers seem to be back to targeting the Nets superstar.
"Multiple sources, including people with direct knowledge of the team’s thinking and also from rival teams involved on the Simmons front, tell The Athletic that the 76ers are believed to prefer to wait in order to pursue Harden or another superstar in the offseason and thus want to save Simmons for that potential sign-and-trade rather than take what’s available on the current market."
Are the Sixers guaranteed to hold onto Simmons beyond the trade deadline this year? Not necessarily. Per Charania and Amick, the Sixers could still trade Simmons away this year, but the 76ers would have to be "blown away" for that to happen.
Right now, the offers available to the Sixers that involve trading away Simmons simply don't move the needle for Philadelphia's front office. And the idea that Harden rejected an extension before the start of the season leaves the Sixers with the hope that he'll become available for a potential sign-and-trade this summer.
Even if that's not the case, and Harden stays on board in Brooklyn or shoots for somewhere else, the Sixers seem to believe there will be a much more intriguing trade market for Ben Simmons in a few months, rather than right now.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.