Damian Lillard sounds disgruntled in Portland, Ben Simmons is (temporarily? permanently?) out of favor among fans in Philadelphia, and the Sixers are reportedly hoping for a shot at landing the Blazers' superstar point guard.
Seems like the next step is obvious, right?
Maybe for Sixers fans looking to upgrade their star power, and for the Sixers' front office looking to maximize Joel Embiid's championship window - but not everyone is convinced that a Simmons-for-Lillard deal is bound to happen.
One NBA exec spoke with The Athletic's David Aldridge earlier this week, as rumor winds swirled about Lillard's future in the Pacific Northwest, and poured some cold water on the theoretical swap:
"Funny you should mention Simmons, John. Was talking to an unaffiliated team executive Monday (I don’t think his team would be in a potential sweepstakes for Lillard) about whether Simmons would make sense for Portland. Here’s what the executive said: 'He (Simmons)'s still really good. But he's so broken right now, you're going to get killed if you do that. And, you’re the guy who replaced Dame.'"
Hmm. Is bad optics with your fanbase really enough for Portland to shoot down any Simmons-for-Lillard deal?
I can see it being a tough sell for Blazers leadership, both considering Lillard's unwavering support over the years for the city of Portland and considering Simmons' current on-court concerns. They'd be hinging so much of the next decade on Simmons panning out as a perennial star/superstar type, and if he can't figure out his shot that might be wishful thinking.
The same concern doesn't exist for the Sixers' side in this thought exercise. Lillard is basically the polar opposite of Simmons when it comes to late-game situations, consistently looking for his own offense and nearly always draining those clutch shots.
But if the relationship with Lillard becomes untenable, perhaps Portland's front office would still be willing to move on from the Dame Time era and look ahead. If you're talking about acquiring a core piece for your future, there are worse options than Simmons.
The real main obstacle right now, to me? As far as we know, Portland has yet to indicate a willingness to move Lillard, publicly or privately. They have no impetus, as the superstar is under contract for four more years. I'd imagine getting the Blazers to budge on trading one of the five best scorers in the league might prove to be impossible.
As we've learned, though, never count out Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey and his creativity in the trade market. We'll see what happens.