Hughes: If Sixers trade Simmons, it should be for Lillard


Back in June, following the Sixers' disappointing playoff exit, it really seemed like Ben Simmons was going to be traded. So, we at NBC Sports Washington put together a list of teams that made sense to strike a deal. At the time, many teams appeared to be good fits, even the Kings despite the outrage that followed from their fans.

But now that most of the NBA offseason has passed and Simmons trade rumors have resurfaced, one destination stands out above all and that is the Portland Trail Blazers. Simmons is still in Philly, evidently discontent and wanting a change of scenery. And Damian Lillard is still in Portland, where the noise has calmed down but nothing has really changed in terms of their chances for true title contention.

So, why not trade them for each other? Maybe some other pieces would have to be involved, likely from the Sixers to land the better player in Lillard, but swapping the two seems like a no-brainer for both sides.

The Sixers would get a future Hall of Famer in his prime with Lillard, the perfect outside scoring threat to complement dominant big man Joel Embiid. The Blazers, meanwhile, would start over in a new era, but not from scratch. 

Philly would likely raise their ceiling quite a bit with Lillard. Though Simmons brings plenty to the table as a defender, his offensive limitations became apparent in the playoffs. And as good as Embiid is, a superstar and MVP candidate, Lillard would be the better option late in games when timely buckets are needed.


With Embiid, they would have one of the game's best defensive players and a guy who has become a three-level scorer. In Lillard, the Sixers would have an elite scoring guard with unrivaled range. The two would combine to make as good an inside-out combo as the NBA has seen in years.

It would be difficult for the Blazers to part with Lillard, no question. He's one of the best players in franchise history and appears to have a special bond with the fanbase. But if they do think the time for a split is near, this would be the opportunity. It's not often a player of Simmons' caliber becomes available at his age.

Simmons, who just turned 25 in July, is already a three-time All-Star, one-time All-NBA and two-time All-Defense. He is certifiably one of the best defensive players in the NBA and arguably the most versatile. He can also push the pace on offense, pass and finish at the rim.

He can't shoot and sometimes isn't even willing to try, but if you're starting over with a roster and he's the centerpiece, then you can find ways to overcome that simply by adding shooters around him. The Blazers were second in the NBA in threes made last season and sixth in percentage. Lillard was a big part of that, of course, but they have lots of shooting depth.

Simmons, who happens to be excellent at three-point assists, could initiate the offense surrounded by shooters like C.J. McCollum (40.2% 3PT) and Robert Covington (37.9% 3PT) on the perimeter. And he could help Portland improve what was the 29th-ranked defense last season.

Right now, it doesn't look like Lillard is winning a title in Portland anytime soon and he's 31. Put him in Philly alongside Embiid, Tobias Harris and the rest of that roster and they could have a championship window that lasts into his mid-30s.

Conversely, if you're the Blazers and you think you're a few years away from making a Finals push with Lillard, you're risking his value diminishing as he ages. Trading Lillard now could be selling high before his eventual decline, and they could swap him out for a guy who is six years younger and not yet in his prime.

All of this makes too much sense, just make it happen.