The Philadelphia 76ers currently sit on the outskirts of the Damian Lillard trade situation. He wants to go to the Miami Heat, but the Portland Trail Blazers want a return package better than what they can offer. By all accounts, the Sixers have just a small chance of getting into the deal zone.

Tyrese Maxey comes to mind as the centerpiece of the package the Sixers would have to offer in any deal for Lillard. Including Tobias Harris makes the trade work with Lillard's salary. Landing a solid veteran, a 22-year-old guard on the rise and other assets — that, admittedly, Philly would have to work to cobble together — could entice Portland to send their franchise star to Philadelphia, where he can compete for a championship alongside Joel Embiid.

A storm of nuance clouds any Lillard trade that the Sixers swing for. Purely on paper, using Maxey as the primary trade chip to land Lillard makes sense. But accounting for more angles reveals that it will be anything but simple. Putting Maxey in a Lillard trade is akin to Indiana Jones' plan to snatch the Golden Idol — the return has to take the place of the desired treasure at just the right time for the swap to occur cleanly. Any imbalance spells trouble.

As it stands now, the Sixers are focused on convincing James Harden to embrace staying in Philly and making moves around the margins. Whatever massive move they may have up their sleeve remains to be seen. One of the most notable developments of their offseason — a tactic with eyebrow-raising implications — is something they did not do: extend Maxey.

Maxey is now eligible for a rookie-scale contract worth up to $207 million over five years. While it is rare for a non-All-Star player to get a max off of their rookie deal, Maxey will still likely cash in with a massive new contract. High-level scorers like Tyler Herro and Jordan Poole cashed in on deals worth over $30 million in average annual value despite deficiencies in other areas. Maxey's deal could well be within that range.

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But as other notable players from Maxey's draft class cash in on huge extensions, the Sixers decided they would wait to do so in order to maximize cap space going forward. They would have control over Maxey next offseason since he will be a restricted free agent, so waiting to extend him doesn’t run them the risk of seeing him walk in the near future.

The Sixers are playing both sides of Maxey's potential extension in an attempt to always come out on top. They keep a massive chunk of cap space open for next summer and can still re-sign Maxey to a hefty new contract using his bird rights. But they also don’t have to fear losing him, which would devastate every corner of the franchise. They have made it clear that trading for him will not be easy.

Should the Sixers trade Tyrese Maxey for Damian Lillard?

The Sixers are taking advantage of the restricted free-agent rights they have with Maxey in an attempt to keep cap space open for next summer. LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Jaylen Brown, Paul George, Pascal Siakam and DeMar DeRozan are among the biggest names that could potentially hit the open market along with Harden. In an ideal world for Philly, they sign a star and then extend Maxey. The drawback, though, is that they would have to wander through limbo this season for the mere chance to sign another star.

The other form of flexibility the Sixers get with a non-extended Maxey is the ability to trade him more easily. If extended, Maxey's contract would fall victim to the “poison pill” provision, which makes it harder to move because the incoming salary is much larger than the outgoing salary. Plus, they would allow his new team to negotiate his new deal. Whether this is their main intent or not, waiting to sign Maxey to an extension makes him a more appealing trade chip.

But to anyone who will listen, Philly has no interest at all in trading Maxey, which does make sense. He is of vital importance to the Sixers given his age, improvement over the years, unrelentingly positive attitude and incredible shooting abilities. The list of players that he could be reasonably traded for is very slim. But Lillard should be on that list. Age concerns notwithstanding, he is still producing at a superstar level and has facets to his game that could immensely benefit Philly.

Lillard has proven that he can raise his level of play in the postseason time after time. With someone as talented as Embiid helping him, both guys should have cleaner scoring and playmaking opportunities. Truly, it shouldn’t take much convincing that the Sixers would be better with Lillard. But one person would have to be convinced of it is the superstar guard himself.

As Lillard tries to force his way to Miami, recent rumors say that Lillard will not report to any other new team. In fact, it was reported by the Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian that Lillard “has no interest” in joining Philly, among other teams rumored to be in the mix for him like the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets.

All this talk about Lillard potentially holding out if he doesn’t go to the Heat is cheap. It's the only leverage play he has because he extended his contract through, at least, the next three seasons and doesn’t possess a no-trade clause. If the Sixers believe Lillard can put them over the top, they owe it to themselves to go after him. Those efforts would have to include Maxey, as Philly has no other trade chips valuable enough to get Lillard next to Embiid.

If Maxey and his representation catch wind of the Sixers' efforts to include him in a Lillard package that ultimately (most likely) doesn’t come to fruition, it may fracture their trust in Philly. While Maxey is a true team player, being kept from a massive payday that he has undoubtedly earned AND getting traded by a team that speaks so highly of him will probably not sit well with him and his representatives at Klutch Sports.

And would the Blazers even want Maxey? Portland being disinterested would not speak to any lack of talent but rather his fit with their rebuilding roster that already features young guards Scoot Henderson and Anfernee Simons. A supercharged, younger version of the Phoenix Suns' three-guard lineup sounds fun in theory but may not be what the franchise wants to hang its future on. Their disinterest in Herro speaks, at least in part, to the reluctance to land another young guard for Lillard.

Herro has been dangled in trade rumors for Lillard but he has already received a $130 million extension from the Heat. If his days in Miami are through, at least he has his cushy contract to fall back on in his new home. The same can’t be said for Maxey right now. The Sixers' refusal to trade Maxey acts as a security blanket for him in exchange for the withholding of his extension.

Things always change in the NBA but as it stands right now, the Sixers won’t be in the running for Lillard. If that changes, they will have to play their cards more carefully than ever before. Including Maxey in a Lillard trade is a very tough decision — but it's the kind that Philly must be ready for in order to maximize their window with Embiid.