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Report: Sixers have had “most advanced” Ben Simmons trade talks with Raptors

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Eastern Conference Semifinals - Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

With the 2021 NBA Draft just two days away, trade talks are heating up around the league. The Philadelphia 76ers are looking into potential Ben Simmons trades as they evaluate ways to improve, and according to recent reports, the Toronto Raptors have been the most involved team so far.

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer’s latest trade piece is full of information about teams all around the league and is well worth a read. For starters, Fischer mentioned that Bradley Beal is still weighing up his future with the Washington Wizards and league personnel expect he may want to stay put for now. Another update relating to the Sixers is how they’ve engaged in talks with the Raptors:

League executives contacted by B/R continue to mention the possibility of the Sixers holding onto Simmons, should a desirable offer still fail to arise during the draft, in the hopes of Damian Lillard ultimately seeking to leave Portland. Talks between the Raptors and Sixers are considered to be the most advanced of any early conversations Philadelphia has had for the 25-year-old All-Star.

The Raptors have appeared in Simmons rumors already and Masai Ujiri is the kind of executive who will always look for ways to improve his roster, so it’s not surprising to hear of the Raptors’ interest. Rumors will only develop in the coming days, but it’s still noteworthy that the Raptors seem to be in more advanced discussions than other teams for the time being.

Beyond this, we’ve also received some insight about what the Sixers are actually looking for in return for Simmons. Matt Moore of The Action Network has reported that while talks have not been “substantial” with Toronto, the Sixers were looking for a big return:

Multiple sources confirmed Sunday that the Toronto Raptors have emerged as a team with “significant” interest in Simmons. One source close to talks said discussions have not been substantial as of yet. Multiple sources including those close to talks said a proposed framework including Raptors guards Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and the 4th overall pick in Thursday’s draft for Simmons was rejected by Toronto.

Three quality starters and the 4th pick? It’s no surprise that the Raptors declined. It’s a lot to give up.

(Moore also went on to reiterate that the Sixers want Bradley Beal.)

It’s interesting to hear the kind of return Daryl Morey is looking for in a Simmons trade, or at least where the Sixers want to start discussions. They are clearly aiming high, as they should be. Trading Simmons is their best way to acquire more perimeter creation and strengthen the roster to contend around Joel Embiid, and they have to make the most of any deal. You can see why they’re targeting packages that are something like this.

Brooklyn Nets v Toronto Raptors Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

No, Philly wouldn’t be landing a top-tier scoring talent like Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard. One of those two stars is still the ideal outcome for the Sixers this offseason. However, they’d be receiving a lot of help before even considering the inclusion of the 4th pick. We’ve talked about Kyle Lowry as a potential target in great detail this year, with his shooting and playmaking being particularly eye-catching for the Sixers. Fred VanVleet is limited as a creator off the dribble and offers little as a threat getting to the rim, but he’s a terrific guard defender, a sound playmaker, capable off the ball, and a helpful complementary scorer with his three-point shooting leading the way (he’s shot 37.6 percent on 8 attempts per game over the last two seasons). OG Anunoby is an elite defender who can guard through 1-4 at a high level and switch onto pretty much anyone with his size, strength and agility. Along with his improving skill off the dribble and three-point shot (39.8 percent on 6.1 attempts per game last season), he’d provide a lot of value. It would be hard to find a more switchable defender to help the team’s perimeter defense after Simmons’ departure.

Again, it makes sense for the Raptors to reject this proposal. But if Toronto and Philly are active in trade talks and this continues, you would at least expect some of these pieces to be involved in a potential deal.

Finally, one important detail to remember is that a sign-and-trade for Lowry would leave the Sixers at the hard cap. They would have to find ways to create space and then ensure they remain under the tax apron for the rest of the year, which would be difficult to pull off. Various reports have explained that Lowry is looking to receive a hefty contract in free agency, including Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer recently noting that Lowry wants a three-year, $90 million deal. Several teams will be interested including the New Orleans Pelicans, who also just created cap space after trading Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe to Memphis. Basically, the Sixers will have serious competition for Lowry, and paying such a high price is hard to do for a 35-year-old point guard who shortens your title window and leaves you in an extremely tight spot financially.

When considering how much money Lowry is looking for, the financial difficulty a sign-and-trade would put the Sixers in, and the team’s continued interest in pursuing Beal and Lillard, it feels like Lowry heading elsewhere is more likely.

You can expect plenty of new reports regarding potential trade partners and packages to emerge in the coming days. The discussions happening right now are still considered “early” talks. Whatever move is coming for the Sixers, whether it happens around draft night or later in the offseason, there’ll be a lot of noise across the league to keep track of this week.

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