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July 01, 2021

NBA trade rumors: Sixers hoping to land Damian Lillard; Ben Simmons a possibility for Clippers

Well that didn't take long.

According to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, the Sixers are indeed interested in landing Damian Lillard should the star guard be put on the trade block. 

For starters, duh. Of course the Sixers would be interested in trading for Lillard, the Blazers All-Star point guard who reportedly is unhappy with the state of affairs in Portland, from another early postseason exit to the process behind the decision to hire Chauncey Billups as the team's next coach. 

Here's more from O'Connor's story on Thursday about what the future holds for the Clippers after being eliminated by the Suns on Wednesday night, which included an interesting nugget about the Sixers:

Damian Lillard is disgruntled with the Trail Blazers, according to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. It’s worth noting that in 2019 Lillard was on Leonard’s list of stars he wanted to team up with, league sources say. But Lillard has four seasons remaining on his contract. Portland doesn’t need to trade him. If it came to the point where a trade was inevitable, Los Angeles wouldn’t have many goodies to add to a trade involving George, and if the Blazers would rather have younger players and picks, the Clippers would easily be outbid.

There’s also Ben Simmons, the Sixers All-Star who spends nearly all of his off time in Los Angeles and would add a much-needed playmaking dimension to the Clippers. But regardless of the other pieces involved in a potential deal, would Leonard want to team up with Simmons after the latter’s disastrous postseason? Is that a deal the Sixers would want to make, when league sources say they’re also hoping for an opportunity to land Lillard?  []

That is interesting for two reasons.

For starters, it confirms what we've known all along, that the Sixers will indeed be looking at Lillard should he become available, if he isn't already. As we've written plenty, the Sixers should be focused on maximizing their current window with Joel Embiid in his prime, and bringing in Lillard — even with it costing Simmons and then some — would go a long way toward doing that. He's a veteran who can space the floor and would instantly give the team a crunch-time creator, something they've been sorely missing ever since Jimmy Butler left.

But then there's the flip side of that coin. It's easy for the Sixers to read right past it as they search for the part about Lillard, but that second paragraph started with O'Connor speculating about the Sixers possibly trading Simmons to the Clippers to pair with Kawhi and Co. Between that and the Lillard speculation — any trade to acquire Lillard would almost certainly involve the team sending at least Simmons back — it's sounding more and more likely that the Sixers will indeed consider trading the 24-year-old point guard, something they've publicly denied in the wake of a season that abruptly ended in the second round against the Hawks and featured the worst version of Simmons we've seen since his arrival in the league.

Given that the Sixers are reportedly looking for "an opportunity to land Lillard," it would also track in that case that they're looking for a way to move Simmons, who coincidentally just bought a new home in the L.A. area.  

But landing Lillard still feels like a pipe dream for the Sixers, even if they have the pieces to make a considerable offer. Here's more from one of Kyle Neubeck's recent mailbags:

I think it's hard to put a price on what Lillard means to Portland, and I think if he gets to the point where he wants out, where he wants to go matters as much as what you can offer. I don't think Simmons is necessarily the guy to lead a Lillard package right now, but that might ultimately be meaningless if Lillard has his eyes set on another team in another market. My suspicion is that Lillard is going to get where he wants to go one way or another.

Is that Philadelphia? Maybe. But he's a West Coast guy through and through, and if the Sixers don't start threatening more seriously than they have in recent years, I don't think the guy who takes pride in seeing things through on his own is going to change his mind in order to join another flawed contender. If (and perhaps when) he pivots to ring-chasing mode, he's going to give himself the best chance possible to win.  [MORE]

It's also worth remembering that it's early. And O'Connor isn't reporting that the Sixers have made an offer or have even engaged in talks with the Blazers, who have been busy enough in recent days introducing their new coach and dealing with the fallout from that. 

This is, however, the biggest indication yet that Daryl Morey and the Sixers could go star hunting this offseason — and that despite what they've said publicly, Simmons is hardly a lock to be back next season. 

Stay tuned... 

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