Game One of the 2021 NBA Finals is on Tuesday night. The Tokyo Olympics are (at last) a couple of weeks away.
Yet, here we are, two days after the July 4th holiday, and the trade rumors surrounding Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers are still swirling as strong as ever. It’d be hard to find a Sixers fan who wouldn’t rather have “Dame Time” than Simmons in the starting five next season, but just how much should Philly be willing to give up for the six-time All-Star?
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It’s assumed that all 30 NBA teams would have massive interest in Lillard’s services – including the Blazers who would like to retain him – but some organizations would obviously be better fits financially or due to the construction of their roster. Lillard has been linked to many other teams other than the Sixers already in the early stages of the off-season, including the already-stacked Golden State Warriors out west.
If Philly is to seriously consider acquiring Lillard, here is what they might have to surrender.
Is Simmons, Thybulle, Maxey and 2 Future First-Rounders Too Much?
Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes published an article Tuesday titled “Trades to Help Get NBA’s Best Superstars over the Top” and among the four proposals are two that involve Ben Simmons, the Sixers and the Blazers. “The goal here is to get superstars the peer-level help they need to go from also-ran to contender,” he writes.
Of the two Philly-Portland deals that Hughes offers, there’s one mammoth blockbuster and another that, while still dealing with star players, is a simple one-for-one trade. Here’s the first proposal.
76ers receive: Damian Lillard
Trail Blazers receive: Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, and two future first-round picks
The star that Lillard would be joining in Philadelphia is of course, MVP runner-up Joel Embiid. A Lillard-Embiid combination – not to mention a returning Tobias Harris as well – would certainly scare any Eastern Conference foe, but how much is too much to trade away for one superstar?
While Lillard is one of the top players in the league, it’s easy to forget that he’s already been in the NBA for nine seasons. With 682 regular season games, plus 61 more playoff tilts under his belt, the soon-to-be 31-year-old would make the Sixers a significantly older team, especially considering the youth that the team would be trading away.
Still, with multiple years – and lots and lots of money – left on his current contract, this wouldn’t be a quick, one-year rental for the Sixers, and that Embiid-Lillard duo may be too salivating to pass up.
“These two would present unsolvable problems to any defense and would make the Sixers a no-questions-asked title threat,” Hughes wrote. “No matter how much Simmons changes his game, he can’t unlock Embiid like Lillard could.”
Should the Sixers Settle for McCollum to Give up Less?
If the Sixers feel that moving two first-rounders and the blossoming Thybulle and Maxey, on top of the still multi-talented Simmons is too much, there may still be another trade they could make with Portland, and it’s much less messy.
76ers receive: CJ McCollum
Trail Blazers receive: Ben Simmons
Like Lillard, McCollum signed a lengthy contract extension with the Blazers in July 2019 and while the latter is nowhere near the elite level that Dame is, McCollum is one year younger and would come at a cheaper price. McCollum’s current contract runs through the 2023-2024 campaign and sees him making an average of about $32 million per year.
“A straight-up swap of CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons could mutually benefit the Blazers and Sixers by balancing out both rosters, as McCollum would give Philly many of the same qualities Lillard did in the previous trade, with the added bonus of a much lower cost,” Hughes wrote.
It’s still an exorbitant amount of cash, but still not close to the average figure near $45 million per year going to Lillard through the 2024-2025 season.