Damian Lillard reportedly has an interest in playing with Ben Simmons.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick, Lillard intends to give the Trail Blazers time to find a new leader of basketball operations following the firing of Neil Olshey, but he “still wants significant changes to the roster.”
Multiple sources told Charania and Amick that Lillard “would like to play with” Simmons.
Charania reported before the start of the 2021-22 season that the Trail Blazers had turned down a potential package from the 76ers revolving around Simmons and CJ McCollum that included three first-round picks and three draft swaps. Under Olshey, the Blazers also reportedly discussed the framework of a trade for Simmons built around McCollum, a first-round pick and a young player.
At the time, Olshey is said to have had “significant confidence in the roster he had constructed.”
The Trail Blazers have gotten off to a slow start to the season, sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference standings with an 11-13 record. They currently rank fifth in offensive efficiency but last in defensive efficiency. Lillard has grown frustrated with Portland’s play in recent weeks and “tension appears to be on the rise” between the players and head coach Chauncey Billups, per Charania and Amick.
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How could the Trail Blazers trade for Ben Simmons?
Simmons is on the books for $33.0 million this season. Lillard ($39.3 million) and McCollum ($30.9 million) are the only players on the Trail Blazers making similar money. The team’s next highest earners are Norman Powell ($15.5 million), Robert Covington ($13.0 million), Jusuf Nurkic ($12.0 million) and Larry Nance Jr. ($10.7 million).
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Powell can’t be traded until Jan. 15.
Portland’s best chance of matching salaries in a trade for Simmons would be by building a package around McCollum. However, it’s unknown how interested the 76ers would be in McCollum.
It’s no secret that the 76ers are looking to get a star in return for Simmons, and Amick recently reported that there are “approximately 30 players” who would satisfy the franchise in a trade for him, a list that includes Lillard, Bradley Beal and James Harden.
MORE: Who could be the 30 players on Philly’s list?
Ben Simmons’ contract
Having signed an extension in 2019, Simmons is under contract through the 2024-25 season.
Simmons has career averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He’s earned three All-Star selections, two All-Defensive First Team selections and one All-NBA Third Team selection.
Damian Lillard’s contract
Lillard has a $48.8 million player option in his contract for the 2024-25 season.