The 76ers are in a unique position this summer, as they have the ability to pick two players from next season’s draft. Since the draft is not likely to be that deep, Philly might be able to secure a prospect that will give them an immediate impact, while also keeping their options open to select the next best player available.
If the recent rumors are true, the Philadelphia 76ers and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard will soon be transferring their jerseys to Chicago. For Sixers fans, that may be good news.
The 76ers are already in a precarious position, but if the rumors are true, they might be forced to make a move that could do more harm than good. The team is currently led by Ben Simmons, who is widely considered the franchise’s most promising player. However, Simmons has struggled this season to earn minutes, as head coach Brett Brown prefers to go with the dynamic tandem of Joel Embiid and Dario Saric.
The rumor mill has been churning nonstop all summer. The Philadelphia 76ers want to trade Ben Simmons, a troublesome but gifted point forward, for a player who fits better in a modern NBA scheme. Last season, President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey was unable to reunite with James Harden. However, there are speculations that Morey is interested in signing Damian Lillard, the great guard for the Portland Trail Blazers and an Olympic gold medalist.
However, if the claims are true, the method has a twist that may not sit well with the sometimes difficult-to-please Philadelphia fan base.
How did affairs in Philadelphia come to this point? It all started with a heartbreaking playoff flop and quickly escalated.
Ben Simmons was targeted in ‘The Pass.’
We’ve seen it a hundred times if we’ve seen it once. Ben Simmons blew by Atlanta defender Danilo Gallinari and had an open run to the hoop with less than four minutes remaining in Game 7 against the Atlanta Hawks. The game-tying dunk was on the horizon as he hoisted the ball in his right hand.
Until it wasn’t; Simmons passed up the point-blank opportunity to pass the ball to Matisse Thybulle, who was squashed by Gallinari and John Collins on his way to the rim, a la Steve Nash. The 76ers never tied the game after Thybulle missed one and made one from the line, and the Hawks ruined top-seeded Philadelphia’s season in the second round.
It marked the conclusion of a four-game streak in which Simmons did not take a fourth-quarter shot. Simmons, a three-time All-Star, was 2-of-4 from the field in a Game 7 at home, finishing with five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists. To be sure, it doesn’t scream franchise cornerstone.
Can the 76ers make a game-changing trade for Damian Lillard?
The 76ers have remained on the outskirts of the NBA offseason market. On budget contracts, they re-signed free agents Furkan Korkmaz and Danny Green. Mike Scott and Dwight Howard will be replaced on the roster by Georges Niang and Andre Drummond, who will serve as role players.
Nothing was a smash hit. Nothing was even a lightly packed clod-of-dirt buster, to be honest.
According to Derek Bodnar of The Athletic, a major change could be on the way.
“Now that the draft is over and the first week of free agency is winding down, there are two very important concerns that will decide the Sixers’ success in their high-stakes search for their next great star. The first question is whether Lillard’s chances of leaving Portland are better or worse. The second question is if the Sixers have a greater chance of winning the Lillard sweepstakes if that happens.
“And, despite the Sixers’ role as a relatively casual watcher of the offseason up to this point, I believe the answer to both of those essential questions is quite plainly yes.”
The Athletic’s Derek Bodner
But what would the specifics of a Damian Lillard contract look like?
Ben Simmons is still at the center of the Damian Lillard debate.
On February 23, 2019, Damian Lillard (0) of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles against Ben Simmons (25) of the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. | Getty Images/Mitchell Leff
The 76ers and Trail Blazers, like 25 of the NBA’s 30 teams, have no cap space with which to work. Philadelphia is $46.6 million over the cap in real terms, resulting in a $12.9 million luxury tax charge. Meanwhile, the Blazers are not in tax area, but they are $41.2 million over the $112.4 million salary ceiling for next season.
For starters, the 76ers would have stiff competition for Lillard’s services. Due of Dame’s Oakland background, the Golden State Warriors could be a factor.
However, any Lillard move to Philadelphia is mostly contingent on interest. Is Ben Simmons a target for Portland? Is Simmons interested in playing with the Blazers? Simmons has a market, which provides Philadelphia leverage. And, as the Russell Westbrook trade shown, when there is a will, there will be a five-team transaction.
Simmons, according to ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins, is willing to sit out training camp. Simmons isn’t responding Joel Embiid’s calls, according to Jason Dumas of Bleacher Report on Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 The Game. Simmons is open to relocating to California, according to Dumas.
Next season, Damian Lillard will earn $39.2 million. Ben Simmons will be paid $33 million. The 76ers are playing a high-stakes game of chicken right now.
Spotrac provided the salary information.
RELATED: Ben Simmons Could Be Trying to Get Traded by the Sixers Intentionally: ‘Since the season ended, they haven’t been able to get in touch with Ben.’
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