Ben Simmons has been the biggest target on the NBA trade market since he first demanded out of Philadelphia in the offseason. With the trade deadline three weeks out, new rumors emerge every day about potential deals the 76ers could swing for their disgruntled star.
The right move could solidify Philadelphia as a legitimate championship contender, but Sixers fans may have to temper their expectations after team president Daryl Morey struck a pessimistic tone Thursday regarding their chances of making a trade by the Feb. 10 deadline.
"I think it's less likely than likely, but hopefully I'm wrong," Morey said during a radio interview on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. "It won't be from lack of trying. We have a whole team of front office (people), it's all we do. We have no other job that matters. It's all we're working on."
Morey did soften his stance some on what the Sixers are willing to get back in return for Simmons.
Morey said that because star center Joel Embiid has played so well this season, particularly during a dominant recent stretch, the Sixers' pool of potential targets has actually expanded. Rather than the top-30 player they had been seeking, they could lower their asking price for Simmons.
"Because Joel is playing amazing and has lifted us into probably five percent-plus title odds just on his play, now we might be able to do it with a top-40 player who's a great fit," Morey said. "Or we could do it where we do a trade, it helps the team, it's a better fit, and maybe our future opportunities are still open because we get some draft picks as part of it."
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Embiid has been one of the most dominant centers in the NBA this season, averaging 28.0 points (fourth in the league through Thursday), 10.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game with top-tier defense. Philadelphia is 26-18 and fifth in the Eastern Conference but just 2½ games out of first place.
Morey said he understands fans who might be frustrated by the lack of movement on a deal, given Simmons' angst and the Sixers' position as a potential title contender.
"I think there have been various reports of his issues (with the team)," Morey said. "We just need to either correct those reasons, which so far we haven't been able to do, or make a trade. Those are really our two options. And so far, I get the fans' frustration that we've not accomplished either."
Morey ultimately lamented how things with Simmons went sideways, saying the situation does not reflect well on anyone involved.
"I think everyone needs to look in the mirror," Morey said. "I know I look in the mirror with myself. 'What could I have done better. Could I have established a better relationship with Ben?' I would say yes. Everyone needs to look in the mirror and figure out how to do better because this is not a good situation. We're all responsible."
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Daryl Morey: Ben Simmons trade by deadline 'less likely than likely'