The Philadelphia 76ers make the most sense for a Damian Lillard trade
If the Portland Trail Blazers ever genuinely indulge in trade inquiries for Damian Lillard, the Philadelphia 76ers should be at the front of the line.
The 76ers need Damian Lillard more than any other NBA contender.
Reality check: the 76ers aren’t winning the NBA Finals with this bunch. They can wish upon a star all they want that Ben Simmons is going to add a new dimension to his game, but his role with the 76ers has become clear as day in crunch time: be a facilitator.
Now, that’s fine, except there’s the whole thing with Ben Simmons playing on a $177 million contract and attempting zero shots in the fourth quarter of Games 4-7 of the 76ers’ second-round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks.
A trade between the 76ers and Trail Blazers could look as follows:
- 76ers acquire: Damian Lillard
- Trail Blazers acquire: Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, 76ers’ 2021 first-round draft pick, 76ers’ 2023 first-round draft pick and 76ers’ 2023 second-round draft pick
This trade gives the Blazers a jumpstart on a would-be retooling effort. Simmons handles the rock with Maxey playing off the ball. Meanwhile, they add draft capital and could continue the retooling effort by moving CJ McCollum for a similar haul. The Blazers could do worse than a proven commodity, a budding scorer and draft capital for Lillard. They know exactly what they’re getting into and would be getting most of the assets immediately.
So, how does Lillard move the needle for the 76ers more than other contenders? He’s precisely what they need. Yeah, getting a top-10 player is obviously going to help a team. The point is Lillard’s skill set bodes well alongside Joel Embiid, who desperately needs help in the scoring department in the playoffs.
Embiid plays inside and outside, interchangeably. He’s one of the best in the game in doing as such and one of the premier big men in the NBA. That said, the 76ers can’t just bank on giving him the ball or going inside in the closing moments of games. They need someone who can create out on the perimeter and take some pressure off Embiid.
Damian Lillard and Joel Embiid are perfect for each other. For starters, Embiid is accustomed to playing alongside a floor general who has the ball in his hands often (Ben Simmons). One could argue that Embiid would be the best player Lillard has ever been teammates with. Opposing defenses wouldn’t be able to focus on one particular player. Lillard can beat them from distance and off the dribble, whereas Embiid can dominate in the post.
If one of them gets double-teamed, they can kick the ball out to Seth Curry for an open 3 or give the ball to Tobias Harris, a proven scorer.
A scoring trio of Lillard, Embiid and Harris is one with scoring, shooting and a bevy of playoff experience. Surrounded by shooters and veteran defenders, which would presumably come in free agency with players willing to take less money to play for the new-look 76ers, head coach Doc Rivers would have a dynamite offense and a well-oiled machine of a rotation.
Acquiring Lillard wouldn’t ensure anything for the 76ers. They still have to play the games and neither one of their two stars would have a single win in a Conference Finals round under their belts. At the same time, this is a league where front offices have to take chances. Fortunately for the 76ers, they may have hired the ideal brain to get them through their current state of affairs.
Daryl Morey is now in his second offseason as Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations. Prior to joining Philadelphia, he spent 14 years as the general manager of the Houston Rockets. Morey made several blockbuster trades in his time with the Rockets. Those moves include trading for James Harden, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. Morey has always been all ears to adding stars to put next to preexisting team stars.
This situation is no different, and for the 76ers as a whole it’s time to take a chance. Although it was a little less of a risk than trading Simmons would be, the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks made a bold trade for Jrue Holiday last offseason. They gave up Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, three first-round draft selections and two pick swaps for an upgrade at point guard.
By the way, Holiday was set to hit free agency this summer when that trade was made back in November (he signed a four-year extension with the Bucks in April). The Bucks won the NBA Finals with Holiday making an impact on both ends of the floor.
It has been four consecutive seasons in which the 76ers got no further than the second round of the playoffs. Championship windows can close in a blink of an eye, whether it be due to the growth of a young team or a powerhouse adding a new star.
The Brooklyn Nets have the most talented Big Three in the game with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Milwaukee has a core in its prime fresh off an NBA championship. The Hawks are on the rise. One could argue that a plausible offseason advances the New York Knicks once more. It’s also reasonable to expect teams like the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers to have bounce-back seasons.
No matter the way you frame it, the Eastern Conference is competitive, and the Philadelphia 76ers are up against the clock.
There are plenty of teams that make sense for a Damian Lillard trade because, well, it’s Damian Lillard. The All-Star point guard would give the Knicks their clear-cut superstar. Boston could roll the dice on moving Jaylen Brown and others for Lillard. A LeBron James-Anthony Davis-Damian Lillard trio wouldn’t be too shabby. Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic on the same team wouldn’t be too shabby, either.
At the end of the day, though, none of these teams need Lillard more than the Philadelphia 76ers. They have the talent to win an NBA championship but keep hitting a playoff wall. Damian Lillard gives them the best chance of breaking down that wall.