Daryl Morey and the Sixers (somewhat predictably) were unable to make the splash move in free agency or via trade that some fans had hoped for, with marginal upgrades to the bench underwhelming compared to other moves made atop the Eastern conference.
However, rumblings from across the globe continue to stoke rumors of Damian Lillard’s discontent in Portland, renewing hope in the prospect of the Sixers landing the superstar in a blockbuster trade (likely including Ben Simmons). During Friday’s media availability for Team USA, Lillard offered tepid remarks on Portland’s lackluster offseason:
“When you go into free agency you never know what happens… You just try to have conversations and convince guys to be a part of our team. And obviously, this go around, we wasn’t able to go out there and just get some of the guys that we would have liked, and you go down the list and you go through the guys that are out there that you like who haven’t committed to a team or was a part of your plans in free agency and you get the ones that want to be a part of what you’re doing. And I think that’s what we did.”
Portland was only able to re-sign Norm Powell (5/$90M) and add Cody Zeller and Tony Snell to the rotation this go around. That’s obviously not the offseason Lillard had in mind when he suggested the front office needed to make the “strides” necessary to win it all, and these most recent comments confirm that he‘s less than thrilled with the direction of the organization.
With Ben Simmons trade rumors as prominent as ever, it’s only natural to link the two in a potential deal, as has been popularly suggested all summer. The Sixers also recently hired Lillard’s longtime trainer and former Weber State assistant, Phil Beckner, back in July, further stoking hope of Lillard joining Philly when the time is right.
76ers have added Phil Beckner as a coaching consultant, the team confirmed. Beckner, hired in July, is expected to assist the coaching staff in several areas.— Yaron Weitzman (@YaronWeitzman) August 4, 2021
Beckner is a former Weber State assistant coach and the longtime trainer for Damian Lillard.
A package of Simmons plus a small pool of picks/low-value players makes the most sense in terms of a return for Dame, but the possibility of deal happening without including Ben is very much on the table. If Portland is deciding to tear it down and go full rebuild, they might prefer a quantity of assets—multiple high-value picks and real young players (Maxey, Thybulle)—rather than one high-value 25-year old. While that sort of package would gut the roster (leaving a big four of Dame/Joel/Tobias/Ben) the decision over which type of deal to pursue lays completely with the Blazers.
It’s unlikely that any real movement happens on the Lillard front until he returns from The Olympics later this month. However, once he’s back stateside I anticipate the situation to unfold rapidly, as is often the case with NBA trade demands. Let’s just hope the Sixers and Daryl Morey are prepared to close a deal when the opportunity finally presents itself.