Entering his 15th year as an NBA general manager, Daryl Morey has a copious amount of experience when managing players transactionally. Since every situation is different, the Sixers find themselves in a precarious position, which Morey is not necessarily accustomed to.
To provide a realistic range of outcomes for the looming Ben Simmons trade, the following will review past trades that Morey has conducted. Additionally, the players that were traded away will be compared to the perceived value/performance of Simmons. Furthermore, the returns in each trade will be noted and should be taken into account when thinking of a possible return for the Sixers’ reclusive All-Star.
February 18, 2010: As part of a three-team trade, Houston sends Tracy McGrady to New York
The seven-time All-Star was just two years removed from compiling a stat-line of 21.6 points, 5.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game. However, coming off a series of surgeries, the then-30-year-old’s effectiveness was justifiably questioned. In the season prior to this trade, McGrady was shut down for two weeks by Houston in order to focus on his conditioning. Another shutdown occurred just six games into the 2009-10 season. This shutdown was conducted to find a trade partner for the aging bucket-getter.
Morey and the Rockets successfully found a suitor for the future Hall-of-Famer’s services. He would be heading to New York in a three-team trade. To summarize the deal from the perspective of Houston, Morey sent out Tracy McGrady, Carl Landry, and Joey Dorsey in exchange for Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries, Hilton Armstrong, a protected 2012 first-round pick (which became Royce White), the rights to swap first-round picks in 2011 (did not convey), and, most notably, former Sacramento guard Kevin Martin. Hill was later traded to the Lakers for a first-round pick, which was used in the package to acquire James Harden. Oklahoma City used the pick to select Michigan-product Mitch McGary.
A return on a Simmons trade could look something like this in terms of a three-team deal. It is safe to assume that Simmons will be swapped for more value, particularly more draft capital, considering McGrady was clearly on the decline at 30 years old and coming off multiple surgeries.
July 11, 2012: Discontent Kyle Lowry Shipped to Toronto, Rockets in need of a PG
Kyle Lowry missed 16 games at the end of the 2011-12 season. In his absence, Goran Dragic exceeded expectations, including being named Western Conference Player of the Week in April of 2012. This breakout caused Lowry to be expendable. However, Dragic agreed to a 4-year contract with Phoenix in the offseason. Consequently, Daryl Morey shifted his focus onto former Harvard point guard Jeremy Lin.
Keep in mind, this is the offseason directly following the “Linsanity” phenomenon for the Knicks. In an additional move, to help fill the void created by the Lowry and Dragic departures, Houston brought in a rookie 24-year old guard, who had most recently played in Russia–Patrick Beverley.
In Lowry’s last season with Houston, the 25-year old produced 14.3 points, 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. Appearing in only 47 games, the Philly native shot 37.4% from three on 4.5 attempts per game. The Rockets’ return for Lowry comprised a protected first-round pick, which was used to acquire James Harden and Gary Forbes. That first-round pick was later used by Oklahoma City to select Steven Adams. Forbes was waived by Houston three-and-a-half months later and never played another NBA game.
The return on Simmons will almost certainly include more value, but the situation of the draft compensation involved could be comparable. The purpose of acquiring Toronto’s first-round pick was to add to Houston’s asset pool. This provided flexibility moving forward and placed Houston in contention to potentially acquire a star player. Ultimately, Morey conducted a significant move in the months to come.
The Sixers find themselves in a similar situation, but without any elite-level talent available at this moment. An outcome of the Simmons situation could be to acquire a haul of draft picks, which would better position themselves to acquire the next star upon becoming available.
October 27, 2012: Kevin Martin headlined OKC-bound Harden package
The Rockets sent out Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks, and a second-round pick. The first-rounders became Steven Adams and Mitch McGary, while the second-rounder turned into Alex Abrines. Along with Harden, Morey acquired Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Hayward. Aldrich played in 30 games for the Rockets before being traded again. Cook appeared in 16 games before being waived, while Hayward was waived two days after the trade.
Kevin Martin had reportedly been in conflict with Houston coach Kevin McHale during the 2011-12 season, while James Harden had not been offered a max contract by the Thunder. Both circumstances, while not identical to Simmons’, share similarities as disgruntled players who would welcome a change of scenery. Harden was 23 years old and the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year. The return on a Simmons trade could, realistically, look very similar to the Harden package–two usable players and two first-round picks.
Looking at Oklahoma City’s return, Jeremy Lamb was the 12th overall pick in the 2012 Draft out of UConn. Also, 29-year old Kevin Martin would slot into the James Harden role as the team’s sixth man. Coming off the bench for the Thunder was thought to help maintain the often-injured Martin’s health, as he played in just 40 games for Houston in the previous season. However, when healthy, the 6’7 guard scored effectively, as displayed in his last full season with Houston, two years prior to the Harden trade.
In 80 games in 2010-11, he averaged 23.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. Martin shot over 8.0 free throws per game on 88.8% shooting and shot 38.3% from three on 5.7 attempts per game and opened up the offense with his shot-making off movement. Meanwhile, Harden blossomed in Houston, leading the Rockets to championship contention for the years to come.
February 5, 2020: Rockets involved in a four-team trade, Capela to Atlanta, Covington is back
Clint Capela had, historically, played a critical role in Houston’s offense in the pick-and-roll with Harden, and, especially as an impact defender, being the team’s defensive anchor and rim protector. Across 180 regular-season games from 2017-20, the reliable center averaged 14.9 points while shooting 64.5% from the field, to go along with 12.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 30.9 minutes per game. Trading him away with the intention of starting Robert Covington at center proved to the league that Morey was gambling heavily on the small-ball team build.
Overall, with Covington, Houston’s return in the massive four-team deal included a 2026 second-round pick and Jordan Bell, who was traded away the day following the completion of this trade. Covington ended up only playing 22 games in his second Houston tenure before being traded away in November of 2020.
Nonetheless, the relentless defender compiled a staggering 2.2 blocks and 1.6 steals per game in that time. The Rockets sent out the aforementioned Capela, a 2020 first-round pick, which became 20-year old forward Zeke Nnaji, Gerald Green (waived by Denver two days later), and Nene (waived by Atlanta a day later). Green and Nene have not appeared in an NBA game since this move.
Despite Capela being an above-average defender and a highly effective rim protector, Simmons offers more versatility defensively. Thus, the expectations of a return for a potential trade of Simmons can confidently be of greater value. Still, the case can be made that the two are similar offensive players, Simmons holding the obvious edge in passing and ball-handling, while Capela is superior in knowing his role–at no point has he attempted to play the point guard position.
The Ben Simmons saga has no end in sight, and, with numerous leaks and rumors surfacing every day, hopefully, the previous text has brought a greater understanding and a more rational expectation of the seemingly inevitable but somehow non-existent solution to this fiasco.
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