By Connor Thomas
Yesterday, there were some big new rumors on the Ben Simmons trade front as reports surfaced that Damian Lillard would like to play alongside Simmons. Linked with some of Lillard’s other comments this year, it’s safe to assume that this is an attempt (either from Lillard or Klutch Sports) to get Simmons to Portland via trade rather than Dame saying he would like to come to Philly. The question, then, is why would the Sixers trade Ben Simmons to the Trailblazers without a return that includes Lillard? The answer? They shouldn’t, or at least not yet. The Sixers, believe it or not, are still very much in the position of power in these trade talks, and Daryl Morey knows that.
Just take a look at some previous reports of trade conversations between the two sides. Back in September, it was reported that the Sixers turned down a trade package that would include CJ McCollum, Robert Covington, and a couple of 1st round draft picks. That was before the season even started, and all that has happened in Portland since is the firing of GM Neil Olshey and an 11-14 start to the Blazers season. Portland is an organization that is completely reeling right now, and they are desperate to try and make a splash move to rejuvenate their organization. Meanwhile, the Sixers haven’t been off to the hottest start, but they have shown that they are capable of treading water without Ben Simmons. Not only is the team over .500, but Daryl Morey has proven that he is in no rush to move Simmons until he gets a very attractive trade opportunity. So, let’s recap: you have one team that is desperately looking for a move to save their season, and another team that is in no rush at all to make a trade to give away an uber-talented asset. Which of those sounds like they should be more in charge of the situation?
Exactly. The Sixers are still very much in charge here. There’s no benefit to them caving and taking a deal that they didn’t even want before they knew how competent Tyrese Maxey would look and how steady the team could be without Ben Simmons running the point. So now they’re in an even better position, the Blazers are in an even worse one, and Daryl Morey is just supposed to give in? No chance. This means you shouldn’t expect to see Ben Simmons wearing a Blazers jersey any time soon, at least alongside Lillard. It seems there are 3 possible outcomes from where this situation currently stands. The first is the most likely; the Sixers hold on to Simmons until closer to the trade deadline and maximize his value by taking advantage of teams that have become even more desperate than the Blazers are now. It looks like this has been the strategy since the situation began, and there have been no signs Morey and co. are changing. The second is that a 3+ team trade develops that makes a more attractive package for Simmons. The Blazers don’t seem to have enough enticing pieces to get Simmons without including Lillard, but if a 3rd team joins in it could possibly get done. McCollum, Covington, and picks wasn’t enough, but if a 3rd team adds more assets coming back to Philadelphia, maybe that’s enough. Who would that team be? Well, who knows. It’s unlikely, but possible. The 3rd possibility is the least likely in my eyes; that Damian Lillard is traded to Philly without Simmons being included in the deal, allowing the two to unite here. There are multiple reasons why this is unlikely, with the top ones being the low chance of Morey being interested in trading Joel Embiid and the also low chance of Simmons ever wanting to play in Philadelphia ever again.
Again, it looks like that, despite the new rumors, the situation regarding Simmons and Lillard remains stagnant, but that is a great thing for the Sixers. The more reports that come out about Simmons, the more we can assume that either his representation at Klutch Sports or another team is caving. When the opposition is crumbling in front of you, that is the time to stick to your guns. Expect Daryl Morey and the Sixers to do just that.