Daryl Morey is really trying to apply that “shoot for the moon, if you miss you’ll land among the stars,” saying to his attempts at a Ben Simmons trade. Actually, knowing what we know about Morey he would probably debunk that saying with the explanation, “the stars are actually light years farther away than the moon, so we’re shooting for the farthest star and if we miss we’ll land on a closer one.”
What he needs to do is stop trying to turn Simmons into some giant talent upgrade for the Philadelphia 76ers, and focus on shoring up weakness on the roster around his only actual superstar, Joel Embiid. Even when teams trade true superstars — Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns, James Harden to the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets, they never get a true talent equivalent in return. Morey is trying to get that talent equivalent, and maybe even improve in a trade for Simmons.
Yesterday, NBA reporter Jake Fischer reported that Harden is frustrated in Brooklyn. He is frustrated with the rotations, is not a fan of living in Brooklyn, and would like to enter free agency for the first time in his career, but he would be open to re-signing with the Nets after his contract expires in 2023. Following the Nets 106-96 loss on Tuesday to the Los Angeles Lakers, Harden downplayed the report. He replied “yeah,” when asked for a second time if he likes living in New York, the first time he was a bit evasive, but he did admit to being frustrated. Harden said that his frustrations stem from “inconsistencies,” whether it be COVID or injuries which has caused the team to have a worse record than he would like.
The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported on Tuesday that Morey is willing to wait until the summer to trade Simmons, because he believes that he has a chance to land Harden. So because Harden, logically, might want to be a free agent for the first time as an NBA player, Morey might be willing to punt on this season because he believes that he can flip a player who attempted 45 total field goals in a seven-game playoff series, for a former MVP.
Could the Nets use Simmons’ help on defense, absolutely. They are currently ranked No. 17 in defensive rating. Simmons not only could team with Durant and use they’re combined wingspan to make a human spider web around the paint, but also he can help with the ball handling and playmaking duties.
It sounds like a perfect fit, if Harden would still be on the Nets. Anyone who thought that trading for Harden last season was unnecessary, they have been proven quite wrong. In three seasons with the Nets Kyrie Irving has proven himself to be an unreliable player. Last season, Irving played in 54 games during a COVID shortened season — his most since arriving in Brooklyn —but that means he still missed 18 games in a 72 game season. Irving is currently only playing in road games because not even New York City law could convince him to get vaccinated against COVID.
The Eastern Conference is deeper than it has been in years. Regardless of the package of players and picks that the Nets would receive in a Harden for Simmons deal, it is a step backwards. If Harden has an open mind about signing with the Nets after 2023, then they need to do everything possible to keep him alongside Durant, because Harden has played in more games this season than either of the Nets’ two other superstar players — Durant is currently out with an MCL sprain.
And Morey needs to get real about this Simmons trade. The 76ers struggled early this season, and are currently the sixth seed with a .587 winning percentage. However, they are still only two games out of first place in the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls and Nets dealing with injury. That means now isn’t the time to wait for a dream scenario that likely won’t happen next season. It’s time to make a move to contend for a championship right now while Embiid is playing the best basketball of his career, and is arguably the best player in the NBA right now.
While several teams have a shot at the championship, no one has clearly separated themselves from the pack. A great front office would make a move near the upcoming trade deadline to strengthen the roster around their best player to make a real push for a championship this season.
They wouldn’t be wishing upon a star far off in the galaxy.