Every time Damian Lillard posts something on social media it’s bound to make the news these days. The Portland Trail Blazers All-Star may or may not be on the trading block, but that hasn’t stopped the chatter. Especially in Philadelphia where Lillard is viewed as the missing piece to the championship puzzle.
Lillard took to Instagram on Wednesday to post a shot from the center-court logo at Portland’s Moda Center. The Trail Blazers star appears ready to break down an opponent, so the question became who is the player guarding him? Well, the internet super-sleuths (h/t 4eva Live) pegged it to be Ben Simmons. The defender is cropped out but the haircut is identical to Simmons’ classic fade “shape up.”
Are we making too much out of this? Probably. But the rumors of a Lillard for Simmons swap have been running rampant ever since the Sixers’ lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The fact that Lillard purposely picked an image with the embattled Philly star in it certainly had people talking on Twitter and Reddit.
Meanwhile, Lillard still hasn’t formally requested a trade and denied reports that he was going to do so in the near future. He’s focused on winning a gold medal for Team USA at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s not true. I said the last time I spoke to you guys [that] a lot of things are being said, it hasn’t come from me,” Lillard told reporters on July 16, via Sports Illustrated. “I’ll also say that I haven’t made any firm decisions on what my future will be. There’s really no need for anybody else to speak for me.”
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Sixers Not Interested in CJ McCollum
It has been reported that Sixers president Daryl Morey is targeting an All-Star player in return for Simmons. Lillard fits that bill as does Bradley Beal or Kawhi Leonard. Another player being heavily linked to Philly is Lillard’s teammate, CJ McCollum, as a guy who could space the floor and create his own shot.
But, according to long-time NBA reporter Marc Stein, McCollum doesn’t have enough star power for Morey. Stein wrote:
All teams covet the biggest stars, but Morey is especially obsessive about it. He will surely tune out the naysayers who suggest Simmons can no longer be the centerpiece for the acquisition of a Bradley Beal-type superstar. Portland’s C.J. McCollum has been mentioned often as a potential Sixers target in a Simmons deal; rest assured that Morey longs for Damian Lillard if he is targeting any Trail Blazer.
McCollum is too much like Seth Curry in what he does best. Plus, his defense is somewhat of a liability. Still, the Lehigh product has enjoyed a stellar career as a legit scorer in eight NBA seasons. He averaged 23.1 points per game last season while shooting 40.2% from three-point range. And McCollum led the entire league in free-throw percentage (.912) during the 2016-17 campaign.
Maybe Simmons Doesn’t Get Traded
Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale made “5 Bold Predictions” for the offseason and threw the notion of Simmons staying in Philly out there. It’s really not that wild of an idea to anyone paying attention. The Sixers aren’t going to part with a three-time All-Star and one of the best defensive players in the NBA for a box of donuts.
Besides, Simmons has already been spotted in the gym working out and recognizes he needs to improve his jumper.
“I’m positive on Ben, I’m very bullish on Ben still,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said after the season. “But there’s work to be done, there is, and Ben will be willing to do it and that’s the key.”