Outside of Ben Simmons, the name most likely to be on the lips of Sixers fans this summer is Damian Lillard, the Blazers' superstar point guard who has gone from the "I'm not going anywhere" loyalist in Portland to apparently frustrated with the organization.
With the Sixers trying to maximize Joel Embiid's prime and Simmons' shortcomings making him a liability as Embiid's running mate, President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey has to explore all options this summer - and that includes looking at a possible Lillard deal, which the front office reportedly is hoping could materialize at some point.
But Lillard is the type of franchise-changing talent that will attract multiple suitors, price tag be damned, and on Monday rumors started swirling that a formidable opponent is definitely in on the Lillard pursuit: the Golden State Warriors.
Here's the latest, from The Athletic's Anthony Slater:
"Would the Warriors get involved? Yes. They’d make a call and have already internally discussed the idea, as I’m sure most contenders have, considering the rising smoke out of Portland."
That's not surprising, but it's also not ideal.
The Sixers in recent years have hovered around contender status, a team loaded with talent and potential yet juuuuuust outside of the league's truly popular noise-making franchises. Their lack of a deadly superstar guard in The Era of the Guard, to me, is part of the reason behind their second-tier status, as is the Sixers' lack of championship experience over the last two decades.
Each time the Sixers have tried to land a real superstar or pry a real superstar away from another team - no, Jimmy Butler does not count - they've been one-upped by a true first-tier franchise. The Lakers landed LeBron in free agency, the Nets stole James Harden from Houston, and so on. They're always close, but it doesn't materialize in the end.
The Warriors entering this fracas feels like things could end the same way. Here's a quick look at potential deals for Lillard, from Slater's thoughts on the Warriors package and NBC Sports Philadelphia's Noah Levick's thoughts on the Sixers package:
Warriors: James Wiseman, the seventh and 14th pick in the upcoming draft, plus more future firsts, attached to Andrew Wiggins
Sixers: Ben Simmons, draft picks, Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle
The specifics of the draft picks would certainly come into play, but from a player perspective the Sixers are absolutely offering better building blocks for the future. That's solace for now, but the big teams often find a way to finagle something that the Sixers simply can't.
We'll see what the summer brings.