After all the talk of a possible Ben Simmons trade this summer, the Philadelphia 76ers are seemingly set to enter camp with the Aussie still on their roster. The reason: teams haven’t been willing to meet Philly’s exorbitant asking price. Or, put another way, the Portland Trail Blazers have yet to resign themselves to parting with Damian Lillard.
Lillard, of course, has long been rumored to be a top target of Sixers president Daryl Morey. And after nearly a decade of coming up short in the postseason, the idea that Lillard could ask out of Portland in order to pursue a title elsewhere has seemed increasingly likely.
So far, the six-time All-Star has denied that any kind of trade request is forthcoming. Still, other comments made by Lillard have indicated that he expects winning moves from the Blazers, and sooner rather than later. Whether or not Portland can do enough to keep him happy remains to be seen. If not, his pathway to Philly or some other city where an NBA title is a possibility becomes substantially more clear.
To that end, the Blazers’ failure to make significant headway for the majority of the current offseason has left some to wonder whether a Lillard-Simmons swap might be in the cards. More recently, though, the Blazers finally made a move that could make a difference in their title pursuit and, in turn, their quest to retain Lillard.
Blazers Finally Making a Strong Move?
As reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Friday, the Blazers are close to completing a three-way trade with the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers that would net them forward Larry Nance Jr.
Here is how the deal would shake out:
- Cleveland Cavaliers receive Lauri Markkanen
- Chicago Bulls get Derrick Jones Jr., a protected first-round pick via Portland and the Denver Nuggets’ protected 2023 second-round pick via the Cavs.
- Portland Trail Blazer receive Larry Nance Jr.
While no All-Star players are involved with the proposed deal and Markkanen may have the most upside, Nance is arguably the best player involved in the trade. He may not be the kind of player that propels a team from the back half of the playoff table into a top spot, but he is definitely one that helps the cause.
In an offseason where the Blazers have largely failed to make significant headway in a loaded Western Conference, adding someone like Nance would be a big deal. The 28-year-old is a win-now player, boasting one of the more versatile frontcourt skill sets in the Association.
Last season, he put up 9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.7 steals per contest. He also connected on 36% of his triples as a 6-foot-7 power forward/center. In other words, Nance would bring something to the Blazers that could mesh incredibly well with the likes of Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Jusuf Nurkic.
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How the Trade Could Hurt the Sixers’ Pursuit
Some would say that Lillard to the Sixers is a pipe dream and that could definitely be the case. However, Philly is also in the unique position to offer a multi-time All-Star floor general in his mid-20s who is locked into a long-term deal. So, if Portland decides it can’t keep him content, the Sixers will be able to make a competitive offer.
That said, Lillard has been loyal to a fault, and if the Blazers can show that they’re doing their best to put him in a better position to succeed, he may just be willing to stick it out there for the time being.
On its own, a move to add Nance may not be enough to restore balance to the Force. However, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. And the aforementioned five-man crew would have a good chance to be better in 2021-22 than Portland was last season.