The 2021 NBA Draft on July 29 is almost here, meaning trade talks are only going to increase over the next week. When it comes to the Philadelphia 76ers, most of the focus will continue to be on what happens with Ben Simmons. But regardless of what lies ahead for the young All-Star, the Sixers could be active on draft day with their first-round pick, No. 28.
Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice has written a report full of insight on what the Sixers’ thoughts are as the draft approaches, which I recommend you read to get all of the details. There are a few important takeaways.
First, Neubeck included a comment from one source that there is “a very good chance” the Sixers trade their first-rounder before or during the draft. One way or another, the team is focused on finding players that can offer more help right now:
While the exact framework of such a deal is still very much fluid — the Sixers are open to dealing for either a veteran player or to recoup future assets to fill out the war chest — all signs point to Philadelphia moving No. 28 somewhere else. The Sixers are in pursuit of assets they can use to win sooner rather than later, ideally to get another starter-level player to add to the rotation for next year.
Neubeck added that the Sixers feel like they have enough young players to fill more developmental roles on the team.
Tyrese Maxey has shown a ton of promise, he has a dynamic off-the-dribble skillset that the Sixers need, and he works relentlessly to improve his game. I’m expecting him to take a real step up in 2021-22. Matisse Thybulle has shown a little offensive growth with his cutting and handle and just had an All-Defensive level season. Paul Reed has plenty to work on, but clearly has potential as an agile, defensive small-ball center with some shooting and face-up upside. Isaiah Joe is a terrific, versatile shooter and impressed on defense as a rookie with his competitiveness on the ball, high IQ, and sharp instincts and help rotations. Plus, Joe will have an even larger opportunity to take on more minutes next year if Furkan Korkmaz leaves in free agency this summer.
All things considered, not adding to the young core is understandable as the Sixers try to maximize their title chances around Joel Embiid. If no prospects the Sixers love fall to 28 (Neubeck said the Sixers would be open to using the pick if this happens), then trading the pick makes sense.
Beyond just draft talk, Neubeck made it clear that the Sixers are maintaining a high asking price for Ben Simmons and won’t rush to make a trade if the right offer isn’t there:
They are not coming to the table at all if the offer doesn’t reflect his status as an ultra-productive, multiple-time All-Star, and the team believes internally they can fix at least some of his on-court issues in the event that he remains a core piece...
Internally, team sources view a lot of the reported offers floated around the league as transparent attempts to lower Simmons’ trade value below where it actually is. The Sixers are uninterested in packages returning multiple role players and picks in exchange for Simmons, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Various trade outlines for Simmons have cropped up through reports coming from other teams. For instance, a C.J McCollum-focused offer from the Trail Blazers, a Timberwolves offer with none of their three core players (Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell), and Buddy Hield with Mavin Bagley III and picks from the Kings. Such offers simply wouldn’t give the Sixers the kind high-level perimeter creation and playmaking that they desperately need. Sure, adding shooting is nice. But go-to creation is the biggest weakness the Sixers have to address. Rushing to make a trade built around players like Malik Beasley or Buddy Hield doesn’t fix that problem.
Neubeck adding that the Sixers “would not even entertain” an offer from the Kings if De’Aaron Fox isn’t included (which would just be the starting point) is no surprise.
The Sixers have to make the very most of their chance to improve through a Ben Simmons trade. They should do whatever they can to land a top-tier scorer and creator like Bradley Beal or, in the best-case scenario, Damian Lillard. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s possible, but for now at least, it probably means the Sixers will be patient when it comes to a major move involving Simmons.
The Trail Blazers are looking for ways to upgrade around Lillard in order to keep their superstar happy. It won’t be easy for them at all, though. They don’t have their first-round pick in this year’s draft, they’re over the cap and only have the $9.5 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception to use in free agency, and are limited on valuable players to trade besides C.J. McCollum. Meanwhile, Lillard is away in Tokyo for the Olympics and, for now at least, hasn’t made a trade request (you can read more about all of this here). Essentially, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be dealt just yet.
While a Simmons trade obviously can’t be ruled out this summer, you can fully expect Daryl Morey to evaluate every potential scenario and keep Simmons on the team if he thinks a better opportunity could present itself later this summer or into next season. Morey won’t rush to trade Simmons this offseason just to make a move (a potentially underwhelming one at that). Furthermore, Neubeck did mention that the Sixers are “prepared to continue tinkering” around Embiid and Simmons if that’s the best way forward for the time being.
Even if nothing too drastic happens on/around draft night, though, it sounds like there’s a strong chance we see the Sixers trade their pick for some veteran help or for additional assets to use in a larger deal moving forward.
The offseason is well underway.