The Trail Blazers and 76ers remain connected.
Last month, Sam Amick of The Athletic reported that the 76ers have a roster of “roughly 30 players” who would satisfy them in a trade for Ben Simmons. It’s no wonder that one of the players said to be at the top of their list is Damian Lillard. A month later, Amick and Shams Charania reported that Lillard is increasingly frustrated with the Portland game and, while he intends to give the Trail Blazers time to find a new basketball operations leader following the firing of Neil Olshey, still wants “significant changes to the list.”
A player that Lillard supposedly would like to play with? Simmons, which is widely available, albeit at a high price.
Neil Olshey is out, but the Trail Blazers still have a Damian Lillard dilemma that will determine their uncertain future. The ultimate in this superstar situation, with @ShamsCharania, to @Athletic https://t.co/k2wNvUl0Kj pic.twitter.com/p9p56Xld6f
– Sam Amick (@sam_amick) December 6, 2023
This isn’t the first time the Trail Blazers have been mentioned as a potential target for Simmons and it probably won’t be the last, but Lillard’s reported interest in playing for the three-time All-Star turns things up.
So what would it take for the Trail Blazers to land Simmons in a non-Lillard deal? Would they even make sense as a duo?
Let’s take a closer look.
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What would it take for the Trail Blazers to get Ben Simmons?
Any deal for Simmons would likely involve CJ McCollum for two reasons.
One, the wages of McCollum ($ 30.9 million) and Simmons ($ 33.0 million) are nearly identical, making it easy to match wages. Two, the 76ers are said to be looking for a star in exchange for Simmons. While McCollum hasn’t formed an All-Star team to this point in his career, he’s the closest the Trail Blazers have to a star on their roster outside of Lillard.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Trail Blazers discussed the framework of a trade for Simmons that included McCollum, a first-round draft pick and one of the team’s young players like Nassir Little or Anfernee Simons while Olshey was still president of basketball operations. . Before the season, the 76ers reportedly asked the Trail Blazers for three first-round picks and three draft changes as part of a potential package for Simmons, but Portland turned it down.
Now, under new leadership, it will be interesting to see if the Trail Blazers try to reignite the talks with the 76ers.
MORE: What if Ben Simmons didn’t pass the dunk against the Hawks?
Would Damian Lillard and Ben Simmons make a perfect match?
They would have the potential to complement each other quite well, that’s for sure.
First off, Simmons would help Portland’s defense in a big way. The Trail Blazers have been one of the league’s best offensive teams for nearly a decade, but they’ve struggled on the other end of the court. This season is no exception. Through 24 games, the Trail Blazers rank last in the league in defensive efficiency, conceding an average of 113.3 points per 100 possessions to their opponent.
As The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor recently detailed, the Trail Blazers have been playing a much more aggressive scheme this season, but it hasn’t exactly worked out.
One player may not be able to fix all of Portland’s defensive woes, but Simmons would certainly make a difference. He quickly established himself as one of the league’s elite defenders, winning back-to-back NBA Defensive First Team picks and a second place in the Defensive Player of the Year vote. The Trail Blazers would benefit greatly from his versatility and general disruption.
For what it’s worth, Lillard recently named Simmons one of the top three perimeter defenders in the league right now. He is very aware of his way of selling balls.
Damian Lillard did a Reddit AMA today and was asked who the top three perimeter defenders in the NBA are.
Said Jrue Holiday, Ben Simmons and Lu Dort 👀 pic.twitter.com/F1YZ4WDfhw
– 𝑪𝒐𝒏𝒆 🌩 (@Three_Cone) December 3, 2023
At the other end of the court, Lillard is the ideal type of player to pair with Simmons because of the attention he draws from the perimeter. Part of the problem in Philadelphia is that Simmons and Joel Embiid are fighting over the same real estate, and both are top paint scorers. That wouldn’t be a big deal playing alongside Lillard in Portland.
With the right mix of players around you, the pick-and-rolls between the two could be dynamite. Lillard consistently draws double teams and Simmons is an excellent passer on short rolls. Handoffs would have a similar impact.
Simmons would also add a new dynamic to the Trail Blazers with his transition game. Few players put as much pressure on teams on the open court as Simmons does, and the Trail Blazers haven’t come out much at halftime in the Lillard era. That could make up for some of the offensive power the Trail Blazers would lose if they traded McCollum.
The Trail Blazers would likely run into some space issues with Simmons and Jusuf Nurkic together on the court, but they could look to trade Nurkic for a center-to-floor space. (This is the final season of Nurkic’s current contract, so it could generate interest like an expiring contract if nothing else.) Otherwise, they could play Larry Nance Jr. more in all five to pair Simmons with a capable three-point shooter and disruptive defender. on the front track.
A frontcourt from Simmons and Nance Jr. could be a step in the right direction for the Trail Blazers to find the right balance between attack and defense.
MORE: Building the Perfect Team Around Ben Simmons
How likely is the Trail Blazers to trade for Ben Simmons?
76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said not long ago that “people should buckle up” when discussing the situation with Simmons, making it clear that he is looking for someone who can make a difference in return. Lillard, for his part, maintained his response to the rumor that he is “frustrated“with the short and sweet Portland game.
It is safe to assume that there is still a lot to resolve.