The Philadelphia 76ers made a serious run at Kyle Lowry at the NBA trade deadline, but the price tag was too high. Would they mortgage the future for arguably the most prolific volume scorer in the league? Vegas thinks they might be interested.
The Sixers are getting great odds at the sports books for possibly landing Damian Lillard. The six-time All-Star guard for the Portland Trail Blazers hasn’t yet requested a trade but speculation is running rampant that he could. Especially after a semi-cryptic Instagram post following Portland’s first-round playoff exit. Lillard wants to win a championship and he’ll turn 31 on July 15. His window might be closing.
Philadelphia would be an interesting choice for Lillard. For starters, the projected starting five — Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris — would rival the Brooklyn Nets. And the Sixers have the necessary draft capital to acquire Lillard in a trade: a first-rounder in 2021, plus a second-rounder from the Knicks. They could also offer up one (or more likely both) of their rising young players, Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey.
It would be a lot to give up (think: James Harden blockbuster) but the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year is worth it. He averaged 28.8 points and 7.5 assists per game this season while shooting 39.1% from three-point range. He upped those insane numbers to 34.3 points and 10.2 assists while shooting 44.9% from deep in six postseason games.
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Navigating Salary Cap Issues, Luxury Tax
One major hiccup in the Sixers trading for Lillard could be the salary cap. The Trail Blazers star has three more years on his $176 million super max deal, with a player option of $54 million in 2024-25. His average annual salary works out to roughly $44 million per year, per Spotrac.
Philadelphia is not in great financial shape after handing out max deals to Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris. Their Big Three account for $100 million of their total cap figure. The team is projected to be $19 million over the cap in 2021-22 and that includes “place-holders” for impending free agents: Danny Green ($19.9), Mike Scott ($9.5), Dwight Howard ($1.7).
Sixers president Daryl Morey would have to get pretty creative to afford Lillard but stranger things have happened. If Portland decides to “blow the whole thing up,” then maybe a sign-and-trade becomes doable. Or maybe Morey sets his sights on a cheaper alternative from the same team like CJ McCollum.
Lillard Once Ripped Sixers Assistant Coach
Sixers assistant coach Dave Joerger is considered one of the brightest defensive minds in basketball. He guided the Dakota Wizards to a G-League championship, then served as head coach for both the Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings where he was a three-time Western Conference Coach of the Month winner. Joerger is well respected and liked by his peers.
When Joerger’s name came up as a potential candidate for the vacant head-coaching gig in Portland, the internet sleuths were quick to track down some damning comments from Lillard. He didn’t like the way Joerger treated Kings standout Buddy Hield in the waning seconds of a 2019 game. That probably wouldn’t play a factor in Lillard not coming to Philly, but it’s worth noting. There’s always something.