With an important date looming, it's no surprise that the Sixers are reportedly taking a more aggressive stance in Ben Simmons trade discussions.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported Friday that the Sixers are “becoming much more engaged on multiple fronts in talks centered on Simmons. Philadelphia has been aggressively trying to assemble two- and three-team deal structures to deliver them a package that would include a top 25-level player, sources said."
Many players who signed free-agent contracts this offseason will be trade-eligible starting Wednesday, expanding the number of potential deals.
The ESPN report includes two items of note on the Sixers' discussions with the Trail Blazers, a team long viewed as a possible Simmons destination. Portland interim general manager Joe Cronin “reiterated" that six-time All-Star point guard Damian Lillard is unavailable, ESPN reported. Also, Wojnarowski and Lowe reported "the Blazers have been open to discussing a deal for Simmons centered on guard CJ McCollum, but that conversation never gathered real traction."
There was some buzz earlier this week around the idea of a Simmons-McCollum trade when The Athletic reported that Lillard would like to play with Simmons. McCollum is a good player, but few would immediately include him among the NBA's 25 best. The 30-year-old Lehigh product has no All-Star appearances. He's sidelined after being diagnosed with a pneumothorax (collapsed lung).
Simmons will miss his 27th game in a row Saturday night when the Sixers play the Warriors. He was suspended for the Sixers' season opener for “conduct detrimental to the team." Since then, he's been listed as out for personal reasons. The three-time All-Star told the Sixers he's not mentally ready to play.
The Sixers sit at 14-12 without Simmons and 11-5 when Joel Embiid suits up. Embiid, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe all missed time in November because of the NBA's health and safety protocols.
Though it's difficult to draw profound conclusions about the Sixers in light of the time key players have missed, it's logical that president of basketball operations Daryl Morey would be more talkative as Dec. 15 approaches. The trade deadline this year is Feb. 10.
Head coach Doc Rivers would like to learn more about the players on the current roster but sounds pleased with what he's got.
“We’re in a good place," Rivers said Thursday before the Sixers lost to the Jazz. “I like our team. We’re still coming out of all the injuries and just trying to find our rhythm. Nothing’s changed with our goals or anything like that. We’re where we should be right now. When you consider the injuries … I like where we’re at, so I’m happy.”