Daryl Morey's opening has finally arrived. The news is in the open: Someone out there wants to trade for Ben Simmons. That's right! After a half year's worth of vague rumors and smoke-and-mirror reports, the Philadelphia 76ers have something concrete.
Unfortunately for Morey, in a cruel twist of fate, it's the player he's coveted all along that wants to play with Simmons.
Shams Charania and Sam Amick teamed up for The Athletic to report on the Portland Trail Blazers situation this morning, and noted that Damian Lillard would like to play with Simmons in Portland. Nobody matters more than Lillard in the organization right now after the firing of Neil Olshey and the already-spiraling tenure of Chauncey Billups, so Lillard's preferences matter quite a bit. Per The Athletic:
Lillard intends to give the Trail Blazers organization time to find its next leader of basketball operations. But beyond the front office component, the face of the franchise still wants significant changes to the roster. Multiple sources have told The Athletic that Lillard would like to play with Philadelphia 76ers three-time All-Star Ben Simmons. The Trail Blazers’ league-worst defense would instantly improve, and sharing a backcourt with a non-shooter could work given Lillard’s high-volume usage.
This is, of course, tragic news for the Sixers' front office, who have been sitting on their hands with basically all their hopes pinned on the idea that Lillard would force his way out of Portland and they'd be there waiting as soon as it happened with an unhappy Simmons, bags already packed.
But it doesn't have to be all bad for Philly as long as they're finally willing to settle for a reasonable offer instead of a Godfather package. Trading Simmons for C.J. McCollum and rotation filler with a draft pick on top is not a bad return at all! The Sixers are always in need of additional creation on the perimeter and McCollum's contract is up one year sooner than Simmons'. The whole trade saga became a serious distraction three months ago and has persisted in the opening months of the season. The Sixers' roster is doing their best to forget about it, but every game that Simmons doesn't step onto the court strains everything even further.
Morey said he's willing to let this go on for years if he needs to. That's all well and good in a vacuum, but this is real life. Doc Rivers has to answer questions every other day about Simmons' status. The players have to accept each day that Simmons is still on the team because Morey is playing a larger game of NBA chess that does not include putting the best possible product out on the floor as soon as possible. The sooner the Simmons trade saga ends, the better it will be for everyone.
Now Philadelphia has an A-plus opportunity in front of them to do just that. They actually may have some leverage over Portland, given where the franchise is at and the lengths they'll go to in order to appease Lilllard. The Blazers are probably the only team in the NBA the Sixers have leverage over in a Simmons trade situation right now. McCollum is not perfect but gives the Sixers more shooting and scoring, which in turn makes Joel Embiid's life easier, and that should be Philadelphia's only priority for the next few years because he is their ticket to a championship.
There is possible value lost in dumping Simmons now. Morey could, possibly, potentially, maybe land a superstar at the deadline or next offseason if they ask out and their team is willing to take Simmons. But that's a lot of ifs, and every day Simmons is still on the roster is harmful to the team's overall goals. If Lillard wants Simmons, it's time for Morey to make that happen.