On Thursday night, both ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne and The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Sixers were willing to make Ben Simmons available in James Harden trade discussions.
In response to Charania's report, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey couldn’t have issued a much stronger statement.
“We are not trading Ben Simmons — he is an important part of our future," Morey told Charania.
That’s quite definitive. While trade talks can be fluid in the NBA and executives don’t stick with their public statements all of the time, it would be very bold for Morey to deviate from his word after going on the record to refute these reports.
Morey resigned as Rockets general manager in October and accepted a job with the Sixers approximately two weeks later. In his first offseason with the team, he traded away Al Horford and Josh Richardson, adding Seth Curry, Danny Green and Dwight Howard. One of his main goals was complementing Simmons and Joel Embiid with the shooting and spacing that helped the two excel together on the 2017-18 Sixers.
“We have two young superstars in their prime, and you want to put around them guys who they can build with,” Morey said on Nov. 19.
Simmons, 24, has said he’s “100 percent” healthy after undergoing surgery in August to remove a loose body from his left knee. New Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is encouraging him to play a “free,” high-paced style, with little concern about his position or willingness to shoot.
“Ben is a great decision-maker,” Rivers said earlier this month. “Is Ben a point guard? Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t even know that yet. But I know one thing, if you can get him in space going downhill, the ball gets to the right place, and so we want to do that as much as we can.”
Morey is also a notable admirer of the 31-year-old Harden, having acquired him in 2012 and aimed to build the Rockets to best suit his game. The eight-time All-Star and three-time scoring champion has been the main off-court story this offseason in the NBA, with constant buzz about his request for a trade and where he might land. Multiple reports have indicated the Sixers are one of his preferred destinations.
An All-NBA Third Team selection last year, Simmons is entering the first season of a five-year rookie maximum extension. According to Morey himself, he’ll be a key piece of the Sixers’ core moving forward.