The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 113-103 Monday.
While Sixers fans in attendance at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia were happy for the win, they had a message for Blazers star Damian Lillard.
We want you.
— NBA CAT🏀 (@cat_nba) November 2, 2021
The Sixers were without starting point guard Ben Simmons, who remains “not mentally ready to play,” after holding out during training camp and requesting a trade from Philadelphia.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is known around the NBA as a shrewd and tough negotiator. Once he’s dug in on a position he won’t move, even if the situation becomes uncomfortable.
Morey has made it clear that he will not trade Simmons for anything except a package centered around a difference-maker. Read: Damian Lillard.
In a recent conversation, Morey told fans to prepare for the long haul on the Simmons situation.
“People should buckle in. This is going to take a long time,” Morey said.
“You’re going to think I’m kidding, I’m not, this could be four years,” Morey said. “The conditions I’m pointing out to you don’t change. Unless Ben Simmons is traded for a difference-maker, we’re in the prime of Joel [Embiid]’s career. We have to get back either Ben Simmons playing well for us, who helps us win the championship, or we have to get back a difference-maker for Ben Simmons. Or this could be four years from now, and we’re still like, ‘Hey, we took the best shot at it we could.’
Morey has been trying to move Simmons since he arrived in Philadelphia prior to last season. He tried, and failed, to get his former MVP guard James Harden from Houston for Simmons.
Maybe this time things will be different.
On its surface, Simmons for Lillard solves problems both teams face. Lack of defense and switchability for Portland and a lack of elite perimeter shot creation for Philly.
The Simmons and Joel Embiid pairing is awkward. They had the best net rating of any duo last season and led Philly to the No. 1 seed in the East. But in moments where perimeter shot attempts were needed in the playoffs, Simmons was nowhere to be found.
In the NBA when making trades, incoming and outgoing salaries have to more or less match. Lillard for Simmons straight up works. But Blazers GM Neil Olshey knows Morey wants to move Simmons so he would likely demand more.
Giving up Simmons for Lillard would make Philly better offensively in the playoffs but would hurt the Sixers defensively. Morey would likely want to hold onto third-year guard and defensive star Matisse Thybulle.
Olshey would likely request young guards Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton and draft considerations. Given the salary implications for the players involved, that trade would also work. This would give the Blazers options to play Simmons as a small ball center and have plenty of shooting around him.
Following Monday’s game, Lillard acknowledged that he heard the chant and was appreciative.
“I know what it is and I know what it’s about. But I’m a Trail Blazer. I appreciate the love. I appreciate the respect that they showed and the desire or whatever but I’m 10 toes in Rip City, and I’ve said that time and time again and tonight I laughed about it during starting lineups but that was that.”
A move now is unlikely. But pay attention to Dec. 15.
That date is significant because all free agents who signed new contracts in the offseason are eligible to be traded. A number of teams may find themselves in different positions and willing to make some moves.