NEW YORK — Ben Simmons remains a member of the 76ers.
Although the preseason was more realistic, there was thought that Simmons could be traded during Thursday night’s NBA draft at the Barclays Center. But teams turned out to be taken aback by the Sixers’ steep demands, leaving Simmons in Philadelphia for at least the near future.
However, the Sixers did make transactions.
They selected Jaden Springer with the 28th overall pick. Then in the second round, the Sixers chose post player Filip Petrusev at No. 50 and picked Charles Bassey three spots later.
“Tonight should be about the draft. I’ll just be honest,” said Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who didn’t want to talk about Simmons. “We got three kids excited about being here. So that’s going to be my focus.”
Both 6-foot-11, Petrusev is a Serbian power forward/center, while Bassey is a Nigerian-born center. He was a junior this season at Western Kentucky. The Sixers bought the 53rd pick from the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday morning for $2 million. That was a change for the Sixers, who traded their second-round picks for cash in recent drafts.
But Springer was the headliner of the Sixers draft.
“I’m excited to come to the City of Brotherly Love and play for Doc Rivers,” Springer said.
He led Tennessee in scoring with 12.5 points per game to go with 3.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals this past season as a freshman. He earned Southeastern Conference All-Freshman honors.
The Charlotte native, who won’t turn 19 until Sept. 25, has a lot of potential. He can play both guard positions, but he’s not a true point guard and is a little undersized for a typical NBA shooting guard.
That hasn’t stopped the 6-4, 203-pounder from scoring the basketball. He’s a solid shooter, especially from the mid-range. His best attributes are toughness, defense and competitiveness.
Springer is someone teams can take a flier on because of his youth. But while he might be someone they will have to wait on to develop, Springer has a knack for scoring and could be special in a couple of seasons.
“You know, Jaden is really exciting,” Morey said. “I know GMs get killed talking about upside, but he’s not 19 yet. You know, [he was] already a productive player at Tennessee. We feel good about his ability to be a three-and-D in this league. We all know how valuable they are.
“You know, he was a top high school recruit, which I think often points to it’s a good pool of players you are picking from.”
And while Springer captured the attention of Sixers fans, a lot of the intrigue on this night, however, centered around Simmons’ future.
League sources told The Inquirer that it’s inevitable that the point guard will be moved. While there’s still a chance the Sixers will get something done sooner, several league sources believe it could happen in the preseason.
That was apparent as reports of the Sixers’ predraft and draft-day trade demands rolled out and no team was willing to accept. One league executive said the Sixers are making “totally outlandish offers” with the knowledge no team was going to bite.
They asked for Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, the Nos. 7 and 14 picks in the 2021 NBA draft along with two future first-rounders from Golden State in exchange for Simmons, according to multiple sources. The Warriors quickly turned down the offer.
But the Sixers standout didn’t appear bothered by all the trade discussions. He tweeted out a video of himself and friends relaxing in the pool of his recently purchased $17.5 million mansion in Southern California.
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) and Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) remain the most enticing potential trade options for the Sixers.
Lillard denied a report that he will request a trade from the Blazers. However, there’s a sense around the league that he’ll do so if the Blazers don’t upgrade the roster.
The Wizards have said that Beal hasn’t requested a trade. However, it’s no secret he wants to win now. That’s probably not going to happen this season after the Wizards traded nine-time All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers during the draft.
Some around the league think that Beal, who has one year remaining on his deal, will want out. In that scenario, it might be better to trade him instead of losing him next summer in free agency with nothing in return. Multiple sources have said the Warriors would love to acquire him in a trade.
Morey declined to say if he came close to trading Simmons during the draft.
“Frankly, I’m focused on the draft and the three guys excited to be here,” he said. “You know we are back in the office tomorrow with the staff and have a lot of important work to do on this roster going forward.”
However, Morey’s briefly fumbling his words didn’t go unnoticed when addressing why stuck with drafting Springer instead of trading the first-round pick. He had a knack for trading first-rounder as general manager of the Houston Rockets.
“We have two, ummmm, I’m sorry, three extremely good players in their prime, Tobias [Harris], Ben and Joel [Embiid], and you know with a long runway in our minds in terms of being in their 20s.” he said. “People pointed a lot to us not using picks where I was before. ... We got three guys in their 20s in their prime.
“We feel like we can do both increase our odds of winning now and keep developing as well.”