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Ben Simmons-Damian Lillard trade makes perfect sense for 76ers, Blazers

Ben Simmons, Blazers, Damian Lillard, 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers each hit their own buffer last season, so to speak. Philadelphia failed to escape the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Meanwhile, Portland was bounced out of the Western Conference Playoffs in Round 1 for the second consecutive season and fourth time in the last five seasons.

The 76ers and star floor general Ben Simmons seem anxious to move on from each other, as the LSU product continues to be an enigma in the postseason. As for Portland, they continue to come up short with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the backcourt, and it’s difficult to feel like they’re a legitimate contender in the West.

Both teams are best off making some type of impact move, and that perfect move is with each other.

The trade

76ers receive: Damian Lillard

Trail Blazers receive: Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey and 76ers’ 2023 first-round pick

Damian Lillard gives the 76ers their second superstar

At first glance, Simmons, Maxey and a future first-rounder is a lot for Philly to surrender, but it’s absolutely worth it for Lillard.

The clock may not be ticking on the 76ers, but at some point this group is going to have to win a championship of their own. What’s the point of investing max-level money in multiple players to not roll the dice at an opportune moment such as trading for an elite point guard like Lillard?

Late in games, Simmons has been inexplicably passive and a mere facilitator offensively. Head coach Doc Rivers needs someone who thrives in isolation and can take over games. Damian Lillard would do precisely that for this team. His keen ability to drain jump shots from all over the floor, shoot off the dribble and get inside would make him their new offensive focal point. That would make Joel Embiid all the more dangerous.

Tobias Harris is a proven and plausible scorer, but he’s taking minimal attention away from Embiid, who’s a multidimensional scorer and as dominant as any big man in the game in the paint. Lillard would take way more attention off Embiid.

In thought, neither player will be the sole focus of opposing defenses’ attention. If a team goes all in on stopping one of them, the other drops 30 points while Harris plays to his strengths and gets buckets.

Around the trio is a combination of shooting, scoring and defense. In essence, they would have everything that a team with Lillard and Embiid as the stars would want with Seth Curry, Danny Green, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, Andre Drummond, Jaden Springer and Georges Niang by their side.

This Sixers squad would be just as dangerous as the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. The challenge those heavyweights pose is extra motivation for Daryl Morey to upgrade the roster.

Lillard is an upgrade over Simmons, and he’s in search of an NBA championship just like the 76ers. As for Maxey, they have the guard depth to make up for his departure and the future pick is irrelevant in search of a championship. Morey has nothing to lose and everything to gain in this trade, and he has reportedly been holding out hope for a Lillard blockbuster.

Ben Simmons and Tyrese Maxey spark a Trail Blazers’ retooling effort

Trading Damian Lillard is about as tough a pill as Portland would ever swallow, but the likelihood of them coming up short again next season coupled with the lure of this trade package makes it a deal they’d have to accept.

Again: Ben Simmons is an enigma. But he’s an enigma with star talent and would be a phenomenal fit in new head coach Chauncey Billups’ rotation. While the floor general is an ineffective and inefficient shooter, he’s superb at literally everything else.

Simmons hits the boards at a high level and is a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player. Offensively, he’s an exceptional passer and is as dangerous as anyone in the sport when attacking the rack on the break. He can be a spectacle above the rim.

Simmons would get the ducks in a row, helping his Portland teammates get the ball in their hotspots. While McCollum would be the new lead scorer, Simmons would be the primary ball handler taking some attention off the former, who maybe becomes a more prolific player as the driving force of the offense.

All the while, a healthy Jusuf Nurkic lives in the paint, Norman Powell is his grimy scoring self and Robert Covington brings steady, two-way play to the table.

Maxey would be a compelling addition for Portland. Coming off the bench in his rookie season, Maxey flashed an ability to be instant offense off the dribble while being a willing shooter. With an increased role and simply more reps, Maxey has Lou Williams upside. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing to go along with acquiring Simmons now, would it?

As for the first-rounder, it would allow general manager Neil Olshey to attain a draft pick to make up for the one the team recently moved to acquire Larry Nance Jr.

This wouldn’t be a rebuild but rather a retooling effort by the Trail Blazers. Would they win the West in the immediate future? Probably not, but if Billups and friends got Simmons’ career back on track and Maxey developed as hoped, they could be back in the mix within the next two years.

Portland will have acquired touted NBA players who keep them competitive instead of just unknown draft picks for their star player. The Houston Rockets did the latter with James Harden, but the Blazers can’t afford to do the same.