The dreams of Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, and all the other names that were added to everyone’s fake trades have stopped. The stock of a guy who was once hailed as “The Next LeBron”, is at an all-time low and dreams of getting a “Hardened” return seems far-fetched. If the Sixers are still going to do a trade modifying the franchise that ships Ben Simmons, they’ll be forced to watch a level lower than their initial aim point for a trade. Here are four names that may still be in play:
While apparently every fictitious business has been built around Buddy Hield and Marvin bagley, the Sixers should stay strong by holding De’Aaron Fox. It’s unclear if the Kings would even consider treating him, but Fox fits the mold of a potential second-tier star the Sixers need to tweak their research on.
At 23, De’Aaron Fox is still bursting with potential. He is one of the fastest guys in the league, has an exciting grip and could replace Simmons in executing the offense. Fox has grown statistically every season and averaged 25.2 points and 7.2 assists last season. He’s also a pesky defender who has managed 1.5 interceptions per game and could wreak havoc in the quick break alongside Kentucky counterpart Tyrese Maxey if the duo are put together.
On the negative side, Fox still isn’t quite the missing piece of the puzzle. Similar to Simmons, it lacks creating plans and perimeter shots, but not to the same extent. The 6’3 goaltender is a career 32.6% shooter from beyond the three-point arc with 3.4 attempts per game. This year has been his highest percentage of perimeter attempts as Fox has taken 28.8% of his attempts from beyond the arc, but he’s still at his best when driving and attacking the basket.
After signing a five-year, $ 163 million extension with the Kings, De’Aaron Fox would be able to work financially in a direct trade for Ben simmons. At 23, there is still room for the former fifth overall pick to reach his full potential. He might be a cut below the legitimate star counterpart that the Sixers are looking to pair Joel Embiid with, but he might not be in that category by the end of the season.
The Portland Trail Blazers are in a similar situation to the Sixers as a franchise. With a legitimate star in the lap and with the franchise desperate to find the right supporting cast, each team has been trapped in mediocrity with the countdown to their respective championship window. While Lady Lillard is arguably the biggest prize on the list, the Blazers clearly want to do everything they can to keep it. His calls for roster changes must be answered if Portland is to retain, which will likely result in the McCollum trade in the offseason.
He’s not Dame Lillard but CJ McCollum would also fit very well alongside Joel Embiid. The 29-year-old has averaged 23.1 points and 4.7 assists per game this season while throwing a refreshing 8.9 three-pointers per game. The old Lehigh product logged on 40.2% of those attempts and McCollum is effective in creating his own shot.
While he’s a great theoretical fit on the pitch, there’s a reason the Trail Blazers haven’t made it to the next level as a team. McCollum is not able to be the leader of the team and, similar to what’s seen with the Sixers and Embiid, the Blazers are forced to simply walk on water without Lady Lillard on the ground.
He’s a bit more of a complete player, but CJ McCollum also has a lot of similarities to Seth Curry. The Sixers would have a lot of trouble defensively when these two guys are on the pitch, which was seen during their time in Portland together. Plus, McCollum isn’t a great offensive starter, which would likely mean the Sixers will need to add a point guard as well. At 6’3, the Sixers would start to set up an undersized backcourt, which isn’t ideal either.
The lingering problem is also that it could end up cementing Lillard’s place in Portland. Dame openly stated how the front office needs to make changes and helping them do it would reduce the chances of the Sixers seeing him demand it. These are the kind of chess decisions that make running a front office so difficult and where the balance between form and talent comes into play.
After almost falling to the Sixers in the Jahlil Okafor (2015) draft, D’Angelo Russell would be a great story to end The Process. The Minnesota Timberwolves have shown great interest in Ben Simmons and it looks like he’s one of the most likely landing spots at this point.
The 25-year-old’s style of play is almost perfect for the Sixers. He is an efficient ball handler, has some playing ability, and can score in various ways. Russell averaged 19 points and 5.8 assists last season and is a 36% three-point shooter in his career. Since entering the league, the combo guard has the appearance of a future star but has failed to make any further progress in his game.
Despite the seemingly seamless fit, D’Angelo Russell simply may not be good enough for what the Sixers need. The former Ohio State product has played for four different NBA teams throughout his career and has never been on a team with a higher than 42-40 (2018-19 Nets) record. He lacks “pop” in his movement and is one of the most inconsistent players in all of the NBA.
When he’s at his best, D’Angelo Russell would definitely be a player to help the Sixers. Add Russell and potentially another player (like Malik Beasley) could still be on the line for the Sixers, but it’s disappointing that the quality doesn’t always match the promising fit. It seems likely that a third team would have to be involved for a deal to be made, but finding a team to connect the moving parts has not proven to be an easy task.
The Raptors are in an interesting situation as an organization. After finishing 12th in the East last season, Toronto is forced to make the decision to just retool or enter a full rebuild. Regardless of how the list grows, it seems unlikely that there could be any long or short term success with Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and first round pick Scottie Barnes on the ground together. With a potential flaw between Siakam and Nick Nurse, making him the likely candidate to send packing, he could be a potential target for the Sixers.
The 6’9 forward is a very interesting player. Siakam is 26 and recently averaged 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He received the 2018-19 Most Improved award, is a once-star, and is a former NBA champion. Siakam is also a preteen when it comes to position, but has more shooting creation than Simmons and is a career three-point shooter at 32.5% on 2.9 attempts per game.
On the negative side of things, Siakam is not the solution to the fit issues the Sixers have repeatedly faced. Spicy P wouldn’t be a perfect fit next to Tobias Harris, as both are at their best as semi-stretch forwards. He has some creative and scoring ability, but is far from the best scorer to pair with Joel Embiid.
Most of Simmons’ rumors in Toronto centered around some sort of Kyle Lowry signing and trading, and those rumors have died down since the veteran landed in Miami. Siakam would have been a very interesting additional piece in the Lowry accord, but is not as appealing as the focal point. There has also been a growing sense around the Toronto organization that there may be more of Siakam’s long-term future as the Raptor.
Are the Sixers pulling the trigger?
It’s hard to sit down and consider any of these options and feel good about the Sixers’ improved title chances. The Ben Simmons experience in Philadelphia certainly seems to have run its course, but finding a deal that best suits the team hasn’t proven to be an easy task. Despite seemingly mutual interest in a breakup, the chances of Simmons returning as a member of the Sixers seem increasingly likely.
Franchises around the NBA haven’t forgotten about Simmons’ playoff failures and his value appears to be staying at an all-time low. While bringing him back early next season to increase his value is far from the certainty it is meant to be, there is a real argument that this is the Sixers’ best course of action. The lack of fair value deals for Simmons has forced this saga to drag on and this predicament may not be any closer to being resolved.
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