What exactly does “difference maker” mean?
Reporting Thursday morning from The Athletic’s Sam Amick gave insight on that question, one relevant after Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said in October the team would need a “difference maker” in order to trade Ben Simmons.
Amick named Damian Lillard, James Harden and Bradley Beal as high on the Sixers’ internal list of potential pieces in a Simmons deal. That’s not all, though.
“A source with knowledge of the list said there are approximately 30 players who would satisfy the Sixers in a Simmons swap,” Amick reported, “and there’s an internal belief that a fair amount of them — let’s say five to 10 — could become available in the next year or two.”
That note is an interesting counter to the perception that Morey and the Sixers have perhaps approached the Simmons situation with too much ambition or been too stubborn in their stance. Acquiring a bona fide star who’d work well with Joel Embiid has always been an ideal on-paper outcome, of course, but The Athletic’s reporting suggests the Sixers are open to adding a player that isn't quite a top-tier superstar but would fit nicely on the roster.
Simmons met that general description the last few years, at least during the regular season. He earned three consecutive All-Star selections and played for a team that finished third, sixth and first in the Eastern Conference standings.
As far as a possible timeline, Amick reported “it does not appear any deal will happen soon.” He quoted a Sixers source who said, “This is like a multi-year thing,” which echoes Morey’s sentiment that the Simmons saga could last four years.
In the relatively near term, significant dates are Dec. 15, when players who signed free-agent deals this offseason will be trade-eligible, and the Feb. 10 trade deadline.
Simmons, who’s told the Sixers he’s not mentally ready to play, “reiterated his strong desire to be traded in recent days,” Amick reported. The team clearly has not weighed that preference heavily thus far.