The Whiteboard: 76ers are reportedly focused on Damian Lillard trade

Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, The Whiteboard

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According to a Sunday story by Derek Bodner of The Athletic, for the 76ers “the goal is less to trade Ben Simmons and more to acquire Damian Lillard.” It’s a report that will get a lot of attention in the next day or two, focused on the two highest-profile players on the trade market. The timing is also ripe for hyperbole, with Lillard just returning from the Olympics and Ben Simmons finishing last week reportedly ignoring calls and texts from everyone in the 76ers organization.

But, in all honesty, I’m not sure how to read the explicit text here, let alone the sub-text, or what it actually means for the likelihood of either player getting moved.

Obviously, this information comes to Bodner from Philadelphia sources so it doesn’t really clarify anything on the Trail Blazers side, or meaningfully imply that they’ve changed their mind about trading Lillard. But the phrasing is noteworthy.

The phrasing is interesting because it seems to imply the 76ers wanting to disentangle the two things — unloading Simmons and acquiring Lillard — but it’s not clear how they could actually be separated.

How could the Philadelphia 76ers trade for Damian Lillard?

Unless the 76ers were willing to part with Joel Embiid, which seems even more unlikely, it’s hard to imagine a Lillard trade that doesn’t include Simmons either going to Portland or going to a third team to facilitate some other asset going to the Blazers that they prefer to Simmons. The 76ers were reportedly seeking four first-round picks as well as a young star (or someone with star potential) in trades for Simmons but Lillard is a different animal and here the 76ers would likely be sending out picks instead of receiving them.

Something like Simmons, another young player like Tyrese Maxey or Shake Milton and a pair of future first-round picks could be a starting point in trade talks. If they needed to loop in a third team because the Blazers weren’t interested in Simmons specifically, maybe something like this could work:

76ers get: Damian Lillard
Warriors get: Ben Simmons
Trail Blazers get: Tyrese Maxey, James Wiseman or Jonathan Kuminga, 2022 and 2024 first-round picks from the 76ers, 2023 first-round pick from the Warriors

But again, all of these options require Lillard officially asking for a trade, or the Trail Blazers making a very risky gamble to try and trade him before he makes a request and forces their hand. Which brings us back to the original report.

Does it really matter what the 76ers’ goals are? Everyone’s favorite trade idea, for months (years even) has been trading Ben Simmons for CJ McCollum. Who knows if that was ever actually discussed or on the table but neither side seemed to be pushing for it. If the Blazers weren’t interested in trading McCollum for Simmons it’s hard to imagine them being interested in Simmons as the centerpiece of a post-Lillard rebuild. And is there anything the 76ers can realistically do between now and whenever to actually improve their odds of pulling this off? Like, if Lillard is the goal what levers can they actually pull to get themselves closer to that goal?

You never want to bet against Daryl Morey’s ability to manifest the impossible transaction, but this all seems a lot like my goal being less about contributing the max to my Roth IRA this calendar year and more about me owning a private island in the Caribbean.

The Rockets’ rookies look brilliant in Summer League debuts

It’s hard to take much from Summer League, especially a single game. But, man, the Rockets look like they’re going to be fun this year. Their Summer League squad won their opener over the Cavaliers, 84-76, and their rookies looked terrific. Jalen Green had 23 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists on 9-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. Alperen Sengun struggled to finish, shooting just 3-of-10, but got himself to the line 14 times and finished with 15 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and 4 blocks.

Green looked every bit the athletic bucket-getter he was billed as and his pull-up jumper was falling. That may not be the case every night, especially this rookie season, but it was fun to get a glimpse of what he might look like at his ceiling, scoring efficiently at all three levels. Sengun’s relentless energy helped him make an impact but he also flashed a gorgeous, creative, highlight pass and you can see how his skill level will translate. In addition, he helped up against NBA athletes which was one of the major concerns with his pre-draft profile.

The Rockets aren’t going to be very good this season but both Green and Sengun should have plenty of opportunities to play through mistakes and keep building chemistry. It’s going to be a blast to watch.

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Ryan Simpson, a noted illustrator of NBA personalities and other iconic figures, debuted a new project called Earth League this summer. Bryan Harvey spoke with him about his new project and the processes behind making art.

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