Damian Lillard throws wrench in Ben Simmons trade talks
Friday, Damian Lillard demonstrated why the Philadelphia 76ers should not be in a hurry to trade Ben Simmons this offseason.
In an interview with Chris haynes from Yahoo Sports, Lillard has come closer than ever to the Portland Trail Blazers trade-in request.
“I think that’s where we’re at as a team where all of us, not just me, not just my teammates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everyone in this organization. has to look at ourselves in the mirror because we constantly run out, “said Lillard.” We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and say I have to be better because whatever we do isn’t working and that doesn’t give us the chance to compete at the level at which we want to compete. “
Lillard returned to some of those comments on Friday afternoon as talk to journalists after Team USA training. However, he seemed more uncertain about his future than ever.
“At the moment, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Lillard. “What I can say is my intentions and my heart has always been to wear the Trail Blazers uniform for my entire career. But I think over time you want to win it all. And I want to win it all in a Trail The uniform of the blazers. But we all have to make progress in this direction. “
That leaves the Blazers with two choices: They could trade Lillard now, seeing the writing on the wall, or they could attempt to retool the roster around him and hope that is enough to satisfy his hunger to compete for a championship. Either way, the Sixers will benefit.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Sixers “opened up business conversations around Simmons and engaged with teams” after their disappointing second-round outing against the Atlanta Hawks. A source told Charania that the Sixers “want an All-Star player in return.”
The Sixers could try to come together a Simmons-centric package for Lillard – including, say, promising young guard Tyrese Maxey and all the draft picks under the sun – in case the Blazers accept trade offers for him. If the Blazers deny any inquiries about Lillard for now, the Sixers could turn their attention to his backcourt counterpart.
CJ McCollum “was often mentioned as a potential target for the Sixers in a deal with Simmons,” as Marc Stein from Substack noted Tuesday. Given that both players earn north of $ 30 million next season, a one-for-one swap works for salary matching purposes.
However, Stein added that Sixers team president Daryl Morey “longs for Damian Lillard if he targets a Trail Blazer.” And some sources believe Morey “is as willing as any executive at his post” to wait for a trade “if he can’t get a real headliner for Simmons” this offseason, according to Stein.
Whether McCollum is considered a “real headliner” is to be guessed. He matches the bill of an All-Star caliber player – he averaged 23.1 points on 45.8% shots, a career-high 4.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 3, 6 trebles per game this year – but he turns 30 in September and has missed at least 12 games in each of the past three seasons.
While McCollum is a sharper offense alongside Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid, a Simmons-McCollum trade could give Morey a break.
Barring other roster shuffles, the Sixers should rely on McCollum as their nominal playmaker, a role he’s never consistently played in the NBA. He can create the dribble for himself and has some chops of play, but he’s better suited as a secondary ball manager and creator rather than a general on the ground floor of a team.
McCollum is also far from the defender Simmons is. A backcourt starring McCollum and Seth Curry would be regularly blown out, which would put Embiid on an island to clean up their mess. In a talk starring Kyrie Irving and Trae Young, sacrificing any semblance of defense at the point of attack could be a mistake.
Lillard’s comments on Friday could have helped Morey gain the upper hand in trade talks with Portland. If the Blazers refuse to trade him this offseason, they can’t go back to the same core and hope for a different outcome.
“Our environment has always been great,” Lillard told Haynes. “We don’t lose much, but we were knocked out by a shorthanded Denver team that I thought we should have beaten. I just came out really disappointed. I was like, ‘Dude, it’s not okay. just not work. ‘”
If Simmons is the best player the Blazers can get for McCollum – and therefore their last hope of satisfying Lillard – Morey will carry weight in the negotiations. He might refuse to budge unless they add another now winning veteran like Robert Covington, young players like Anfernee Simons or Nassir Little and / or draft picks.
Given potential concerns about a McCollum-centric package, Morey may prefer to wait for Portland instead.
If the Blazers can’t find a way to retool their roster into a championship contender this offseason, Lillard’s patience could finally run out. And unless Olshey has a trump card up his sleeve, it’s hard to imagine him bringing Portland to that level in the next few months.
Until Lillard’s future is clearer, the Sixers should wait for a trade with Simmons unless there is an absolute home run for them. Whenever the Blazers start getting offers for Lillard, a Simmons-centric package could help them feign competitiveness if they’re not ready to embrace a grassroots rebuild.
Lillard’s hesitations could also cause another Star Guardian to rethink his future. In March, Fred Katz and Jason Quick of The Athletic wrote about Lillard’s relationship with Washington Wizards goalie Bradley Beal, who also finds himself weighing the balance between loyalty and title contention.
Beal “would rather win in Washington than win elsewhere,” according to Katz and Quick, “but he also doesn’t want to lose forever.” Seems familiar?
As Morey mulls over offers for Simmons this offseason, the uncertainty surrounding Lillard – and possibly Beal, too – should make him think twice before pulling the trigger.
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