As the Sixers try to weather the Ben Simmons storm and find a way out of the three-time All-Star's latest tantrum, Daryl Morey is no doubt making phone calls about potential trades. The sooner the Simmons saga ends, the better - for all involved.
But Morey has been famously stingy in his trade demands since June, looking for an All-Star in return for Simmons... which has yielded very little in the way of concrete trade opportunities.
If the Damian Lillards and Bradley Beals of the NBA are out of reach, what else might Morey be interested in when it comes to a return for Simmons?
NBA insider Marc Stein believes the Sixers' President of Basketball Operations might be eyeing a future star, north of the border.
In a column Wednesday on his Substack, Stein hinted at a potential next option for Morey as the season begins:
"The draft compensation involved in any eventual Simmons trade figures to be a difference-making variable, but the Raptors have the base talent to outbid numerous teams (if they choose) when Philadelphia finally reaches the point that it concedes it is no longer tenable to hold out for a star on Lillard's or Beal's level. Rather than pursue a swap centered around Pascal Siakam, it is easier to see Philadelphia trying to push to acquire a rising star capable of replicating Simmons' versatility — namely OG Anunoby — who can be packaged with a playoff-tested veteran ballhandler to give the Sixers' backcourt a needed boost (Goran Dragić).
"That’s not to say Toronto would be willing. Simmons' tumultuous first week back with the Sixers hasn’t exactly enhanced his punctured trade value and word is that Masai Ujiri, Morey’s Toronto counterpart, 'loves' Anunoby, who is poised to take a major step in the post-Kyle Lowry era given the potential he has already flashed as a defender, playmaker and shooter. Surrendering Anunoby at this pivotal stage of his development might be too painful for the Raptors, even if they are tantalized by the opportunity to relaunch Simmons' career. I'm just saying Morey will try."
Insert the Russell Westbrook "Ah, that's very interesting!" GIF here.
It's important to note, before we go any further, that Stein's column was a predictions-style piece, and he's not framing any of these claims as hard reporting. Pretending that Stein's blurb here means the Sixers are locked in on pursuing an Anunoby trade would be dishonest.
As with any number of heavily-sourced insiders, even when they're speculating it's coming from a specific point of knowledge. Stein knows basically as much about NBA front office musings and interests as any reporter on the planet. If he's predicting Morey "will try" to go after Anunoby (and maybe also Dragić) in a trade, and he's pointedly naming Anunoby in the first paragraph, it's probably not totally random.
So, on to the normal questions: What would the trade look like? And would it be a solid deal for the Sixers?
In terms of feasibility, trading Simmons for Anunoby and Dragić works fine financially. If the Sixers want to ask for a draft pick, considering they're surrendering the DPOY runner-up and a three-time All-Star who is theoretically entering his athletic prime, Toronto owns its first-round picks through the end of the decade. How about...
PHI receives: Anunoby, Dragić, 2023 1st round pick
TOR receives: Ben Simmons
We have a deal.
Is it one worth making? I think so. Anunoby is young (he's 24 until next July), cost-controlled (his cap hit is under $20 million each year through 2024-25), and good. He shoots the ball well, hitting 39.8% of his three-point attempts on 6.1 attempts per game last season. He's a solid-enough free throw shooter. As Stein noted, he grew into more playmaking last year as he saw increased minutes. And at 6-foot-7, he has the size to defend the rangy wings we see at the three around the league. I really like Anunoby's upside as a starting small forward and a third option on a contending team.
Dragić is a much more known commodity, a 35-year-old point guard on an expiring contract who can run an offense and can shoot the ball. He wouldn't be around next year, but that's not really the point. Acquiring Dragić would help the Sixers compete in the playoffs this year, while giving them flexibility next season.
Overall, is this a perfect trade? No. The Sixers would still be getting worse in the short term. But at this point in the Simmons saga, Morey should be trying to end the tension as soon as possible so the Sixers can simply move on and focus on this season while they try to maximize MVP-window Joel Embiid.
So if Morey is truly interested in a deal like this one, I'd absolutely take it and run, and then start focusing on basketball instead of all the surrounding hoopla.