Good morning. With Daryl Morey officially signing as president of basketball operations after Doc Rivers was named head coach, 76ers fans have a lot more optimism entering this season.

Morey is not shy about making deals, having constructed 77 trades during his 13-year tenure as general manager of the Houston Rockets.

Almost as soon as the news broke of Morey’s arrival, the speculation started as to whether James Harden, the player whom he acquired and saw become an eight-time All-Star and three-time scoring champion in Houston, could find his way to Philadelphia.

While this appears to be a long shot, this is still the offseason, so let the speculation begin.

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— Marc Narducci (offthedribble@inquirer.com)

Harden for Simmons?

The biggest speculation is whether the Sixers would trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons for Harden. Most of the speculation has Simmons for Harden, so we will stick with that for this example.

The salaries wouldn’t match up in a trade, so we went to the realgm.com trade checker and ran this one by that was a success — Simmons, Mike Scott and Zhaire Smith for Harden.

So just for this example, we will use this trade.

Harden’s positives
  • He can flat-out score (having led the league each of the last three years).
  • He draws fouls (a career-best 11.8 free throw attempts per game last season) and he makes the free throws (career 85.8%).
  • Harden would give the Sixers spacing, and that would give Embiid more room to operate.
Harden’s negatives
  • He is ball dominant, and when he isn’t hitting, the offense seems to stall.
  • He isn’t considered a great defender.
  • Harden is 31, and while he still has plenty of good years left, he is seven years older than Simmons.
Simmons' positives
  • He is an elite defender, one of the best in the league as his first-team all-defensive selection shows.
  • He is a great passer, unselfish, gets everybody involved.
  • Few players are faster grabbing a rebound and then getting out in transition.
  • Last season, he started taking more advantage of his size inside, by forcing post-up mismatches.
Simmons' negatives
  • He is a reluctant shooter, with only 24 three-point attempts in three years. This past season, 610 of his 647 field-goal attempts came from nine feet and in, according to NBA.com stats.
  • He is a below-average foul shooter, although he connected on a career-best 62.1% of free throws last season.
  • He is coming off a season in which he was first sidelined by a back injury and then by a knee surgery, so he has to prove he is healthy.

If Houston were to make this trade, the Rockets would have maybe the worst shooting backcourt in the NBA with Simmons and Russell Westbrook. So the Rockets likely would make other moves if they acquired Simmons.

Houston might like to take a flyer on Smith, who is just 21 but hasn’t shown much in his two seasons, the first plagued by injury and illness. Scott will be in the final year of his contract and likely wouldn’t be looked upon as a long-term option.

The reality is that both teams likely won’t part with their All-Stars. It is good for off-season conversation, and Simmons (as you will see below) will continue to be a major trade-talk subject among those who have no say — the fans.

Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets celebrated with GM Daryl Morey after the Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, 113-100, during Game 7 of a 2015 Western Conference semifinal series at the Toyota Center.
Scott Halleran / MCT
Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets celebrated with GM Daryl Morey after the Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, 113-100, during Game 7 of a 2015 Western Conference semifinal series at the Toyota Center.

Starting five

The NBA and NBPA extend CBA opt-out deadline to Nov. 6. This is the fourth time that the deadline has been extended with the biggest decision being when to start the season.

On his podcast, Keith Pompey says the 76ers have made some impressive hires of Morey and new coach Doc Rivers, but he explains that both have a lot to do to turn the Sixers into championship contenders.

David Murphy praises the hiring of Morey. He says the Sixers have hired a bona fide leader.

The Sixers chose Maurice Cheeks in the second round, and he helped them win the 1983 NBA championship.
AP File
The Sixers chose Maurice Cheeks in the second round, and he helped them win the 1983 NBA championship.

A HOF second-round pick

The Sixers have four second-round picks in this year’s NBA draft, which will take place Nov. 18. The Sixers also own the 21st selection in the first round.

Any team could only hope to have the second-round success the Sixers enjoyed when they drafted Maurice Cheeks.

In 1978, Cheeks was the 36th overall selection of the draft out of West Texas State. He was the 14th pick in the second round. The Sixers didn’t own a first-round pick, so Cheeks was the first player they selected in that draft.

Cheeks has been inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

The best player from that 1978 draft was Larry Bird, selected sixth overall by the Boston Celtics. Bird would play his final season at Indiana State and then join the Celtics the next year.

At the time, the rules allowed a player to be drafted during the time when his original class was graduating. Bird was a fifth-year player and returned to Indiana State in 1978-79 for his final year. The Celtics had one year to sign him, or he would have returned to the 1979 draft.

Cheeks turned out to be the second-best player from this draft. The 1978 draft consisted of 10 rounds and 202 players. Cheeks played his first 11 seasons with the Sixers. During his Sixers career, he averaged 12.2 points, 7.3 assists, 2.3 turnovers and 2.3 steals in 33.5 minutes.

His contribution went well beyond the stat sheet. Cheeks was an outstanding defender, being named to the first-team all-NBA defensive team four times and being a second-team selection once. He was also a better player statistically in the playoffs. In 115 playoff games with the Sixers, he averaged 15.0 points, 7.0 assists, 2.5 turnovers and 2.3 steals.

He also helped the Sixers win the 1983 championship, another example of why he was a second-round steal.

Passing the rock

Question: If Simmons fails to develop a mid-range jumper and three-point shot, what is the point of keeping him? Trade him for Donovan Mitchell. Trade him for Michael Porter, Jr. on the Denver Nuggets. Porter is big and he can shoot and rebound. I would trade Simmons for him straight up. Simmons could get into the Denver culture with Jamal Murray and Jokic. They would motivate him. Porter would be a wonderful addition. He could be our starting power forward. We will be building a professional team. — Raymond Bey via email

Answer: Thanks for the email, Raymond. There is a lot here (and we condensed it for space purposes). First off, Utah isn’t trading Mitchell for Simmons, and if Simmons were traded to Denver for Porter, a lot of players would have to be added to match the salaries. The same is the case for Mitchell, but let’s just deal with Porter.

Simmons' extension kicks in this coming season and he will be making $29 million, according to Hoopshype.com salaries. Porter is on his rookie deal and is slated to make $3.55 million. So Denver would have to unload a lot more salary.

Both Porter and Simmons have had their injury issues. (Both missed their entire first NBA seasons due to injury.) Many of Simmons' strengths are outlined above. As you mentioned, Porter would give the Sixers a shooting element. He shot 38.2% in this playoffs this year from three-point range. I still wouldn’t trade him for Simmons, but as I said before, they couldn’t be traded straight up anyway due to the salary differences, but it was an interesting thought.