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July 23, 2021

Sixers likely to trade 28th pick, still seeking big return for Ben Simmons in trade talks

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Ben_Simmons_8_Hornets_Sixers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons.

Heading into the NBA Draft, the Sixers are expected to prioritize more immediate help for the franchise, with a source telling PhillyVoice there is "a very good chance" pick No. 28 is on the move prior to or during next week's draft, as Philadelphia continues to explore multiple avenues to upgrade the team ahead of next season.

While the exact framework of such a deal is still very much fluid — the Sixers are open to dealing for either a veteran player or to recoup future assets to fill out the war chest — all signs point to Philadelphia moving No. 28 somewhere else. The Sixers are in pursuit of assets they can use to win sooner rather than later, ideally to get another starter-level player to add to the rotation for next year.

The Sixers found themselves in a similar position last season, knowing they might need pick No. 21 to potentially move off of one of their contracts or to provide more immediate impact in the form of a veteran acquisition. The Sixers ultimately got off of Al Horford's contract using a future first instead, and Tyrese Maxey falling into their range ended up changing their philosophy on what to do with that pick, with the team valuing him enough to stand pat and bring on another developmental player.

There's no contract to shed now, but the Sixers believe they are up against the ceiling of the amount of developmental reps they can offer, between Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Paul Reed, Isaiah Joe, and other older but still developing players like Shake Milton and (potentially) Furkan Korkmaz if he is brought back into the fold. If a gem falls to them unexpectedly, the Sixers are open to the idea of using the pick, but conversations are already being had on the trade front, with those discussions expected to heat up at the start of next week.

Philadelphia's position on trading No. 28 is not contingent or related to the big ongoing discussion around Ben Simmons, whose future remains up in the air for the time being. The Sixers have continued to put a high sticker price on Simmons and are under no pressure or rush to deal him if the right opportunity doesn't present itself, according to sources familiar with the situation. 

Philadelphia's messaging has remained consistent when other teams have reached out in search of a potential deal. They are not coming to the table at all if the offer doesn't reflect his status as an ultra-productive, multiple-time All-Star, and the team believes internally they can fix at least some of his on-court issues in the event that he remains a core piece. The team maintains that they are working from a position of strength in spite of Simmons' flameout in the second round.

Internally, team sources view a lot of the reported offers floated around the league as transparent attempts to lower Simmons' trade value below where it actually is. The Sixers are uninterested in packages returning multiple role players and picks in exchange for Simmons, according to a source familiar with the situation. As one specific example, a source told PhillyVoice the Sixers would not even entertain a discussion with the Sacramento Kings save for the inclusion of guard De'Aaron Fox in a potential deal, which they view simply as a starting point for talks. 

The Sixers continue to plot out different paths and discuss various scenarios centered around building a contender around center Joel Embiid in the short to medium term, and the team is prepared to continue tinkering around the Embiid/Simmons partnership if that emerges as their best path forward. Trade discussions for a big fish might be on pause for a little bit — Damian Lillard being in Tokyo for the Olympics is a complicating factor expected to slow any immediate conversations about his future with Portland. But Philadelphia will continue to work the phones around the league in search of improvements big and small leading into the draft and beyond.

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