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Is there a path towards a Sixers super team here? Trading for Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal

Is there a world where the Sixers might be trying to land Dame AND Beal?

Australia v United States Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

We have about a month until the Feb. 10 trade deadline and it’s difficult not to spend a few hours playing around on the trade machines. But what if there were a way to build an unbeatable Sixers super team? Would that be worth pursuing? What if it meant delaying gratification on a Ben Simmons trade until the summer?

Would keeping a few wildly improbable yet mind-blowing multiple-championship scenarios in play be worth a look?

Big names like Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and others are heading towards a huge unrestricted free agency period next summer. Then there are some guys who might become available via trade between tomorrow and next summer.

The Sixers don’t have cap-space and would have to move heaven and earth to open up a max slot. But nobody really doubts they would try if the right player were interested in playing here, right?

After a recent Hoop Collective Podcast, featuring ESPN’s Brian Windhorst with guests Nick Friedell and Marc J. Spears we got to thinking about all sorts of wild scenarios.

A snippet from a fun listen:

“Spears: “I’m hearing [the Sixers] want to include Tobias Harris,”

Windhorst: “Me too.”

Spears: “That is the word out there because they can’t necessarily get an All-Star they want in return right now, as the Sixers have continued their talks, they’ve talked to teams about trading Tobias and Ben.”

At another point, Windhorst added: “Some executives in the NBA believe that one of the end games for Ben Simmons is that he’s traded for James Harden in a sign-and-trade next summer.”

So maybe there is a world where the team held Simmons through the deadline in hopes of pursuing James Harden. Maybe. But If they didn’t move Ben by Feb. 10, I really don’t think it would be because they expected that to happen.

But what if we dreamed even bigger than an Embiid-Harden duo....

Hypothetically, if the Sixers could use Ben Simmons as centerpiece for a star like Damian Lillard whether before the deadline or on draft day 2022, might that tempt one of the other big free agents to be come as well? [1] Might Lillard even do the recruiting for you?

Yeah, I was going to stay, but the idea of Joel Embiid and Damian Lillard recruiting me to Philly was too much to pass up.

If so, would it be possible to pay full price for one dude (with Ben Simmons) then pay “sign-and-trade prices” for the third star?

No I will not give you Kyle Lowry for Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Danny Green and a first round pick’ slowly decays into ‘why yes I’ll happily settle for Goran Dragic’s expiring.’

Think back to the painful summer of 2019 for a moment.

Remember when Daryl Morey, still with the Houston Rockets (trying desperately to put James Harden and Chris Paul over the top) was hatching plots to land Sixers’ star Jimmy Butler? He didn’t have anywhere near the cap space he needed and he sure as heck didn’t have the trade capital to get it done in season, without adding Beard or CP3. But it was closer than we might have guessed. [2]

It all ended with the Sixers feeling content (I guess) to receive Josh Richardson rather than losing Butler for diddly. But if Butler had wanted to play for Houston, and the Sixers liked Gordon, it might have flipped the NBA as we now know it.

You can dismiss most of the writing in this post if you want. But remember this: a star player simply wanting a change can obliterate the natural order of things. Offer multiple stars the chance to play together and win? Insert Clay Davis’ catch phrase.

So might the Sixers angle for one of these Yahtzee scenarios? A Miami Heat 2010 splash, with Joel operating as the Dwyane Wade and everyone wants to take their talents to Delaware Ave?

I turned to a friend whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years in Jeremy Cohen. He’s a contributor for Knicks Film School, plus he’s a great writer/podcaster and fun follow on Twitter. The reason I hit him up is because I know he’d recently bogged down into searching for ways the Knicks (his favorite team) might trade for Lillard and then sign-and-trade for Brad Beal by summer of 2022.

We went back and forth on a variety of Sixers scenarios and came up with a couple wacky ones. Here are paraphrased highlights:

DE: Could they just ‘dump’ Harris into OKC’s space and inch closer to a max? [I asked this question in some form at least four times].

JC: Basically, but you still have to match money in a sign-and-trade so it’s actually easier if you have Harris, or trade him for more desirable, smaller salaries then trade some of those.

DE: ohhh.

JC: They could trade one of Tobias Harris/Ben Simmons at the deadline for Dame and the other in FA for Brad Beal.

DE: Well, Dame isn’t available and the Wiz almost certainly wouldn’t want Tobias Harris if they’re hitting the reset button. What if the Sixers did that “step-trade” thing where they took Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, and picks from Minnesota? You know those rumors....

JC: OK, maybe trade Ben at the deadline for something like Beasley + Beverley + draft picks, then [by summer offer] something like Beasley + Danny Green + Tyrese Maxey + picks for Dame, then trade Harris + at least one pick in FA for Beal.

DE: Yeah, I could see the Sixers angling for something like that here. What if the Wizards said ‘no way no how on Tobias.’ Could they work that into a three-teamer with the Thunder? Presti loves to take salary dumps for assets.

JC: Might also be able to pull it off as one humongous four-team trade this summer Sixers get Dame and Beal, Blazers get Ben, Thunder get Tobi (and requisite sweeteners), Wizards get something like (OKC’s) Derrick Favors, Seth Curry, maybe Maxey and requisite sweeteners to top the market, match the salary, and avoid a Sixers’ hard-cap.

DE: OK, thanks, Jeremy!

The Oklahoma City Thunder have oodles of cap space. They represent an optimal trade partner for nearly all of the Sixers big interest projects from Harris to Simmons. Morey has already turned to them to off-load Al Horford. Might he try that again with Harris? They’re a great bet to be involved somehow here.

Could there be what amounts to a five-team deal broken down into “phases,” one before the Feb. 10 deadline and one after, come summer?

Ben, to say, Minnesota before deadline, then come summer, a four-team earth shaker?

Heck, you could try to sign-and-trade Ben Simmons to the Wizards for Beal, then tell Zach LaVine (who shares a trainer in Drew Hanlen and summer workouts with Embiid and Beal) to convince the Bulls he’s definitely leaving in FA. Then offer Chicago everything else you have left for Zach. LaVine’s base-year salary of $19.5M would be much easier to match than Beal’s $34.5M. LaVine’s FA decision might be key for a possible Sixers super team. The Bulls are in first place, and we’ll see how they fare in the playoffs, but committing five years to them and a then 33 year old DeMar DeRozan might not be as sexy as teaming up with Embiid and Beal.

It’s all farfetched and a fantasy...unless the stars want it. If they did, then one would think that the Sixers might find a way to accommodate them. [3] Doc Rivers would celebrate in a sushi restaurant when he found out.

When you’re talking about the possibility of teaming up two All-Stars on the same team as Joel Embiid, you basically burn the boats. Every asset you have. Now they just have to convince Beal and LaVine to want to play with Joel. Once that hardest part is done, Daryl Morey and Elton Brand can begin the easier nearly impossible task of making it all happen. Insert Lloyd Christmas catch phrase.

Footnotes

[1] For another day, we can bookmark the slightly less zany scenario where the Sixers landed a dude like Tyrese Haliburton by deadline then found a way to use remaining assets to lure a big name like Harden come summer, or even used Haliburton in the summer deal for Harden.

[2] Painful exercise: what if Butler liked the idea of playing in his hometown Texas, but the Sixers insisted on swapping Chris Paul in that sign-and-trade? Figure Morey would have been pretty eager to accept once he weighed his options. People didn’t expect CP3 to have so many MVP caliber seasons left in his tank in 2019.

[3] A conference contender might be loathe to facilitate a super team on a rival, but would they stoop to self-destruction to avoid such a fate? Hello Chicago, Zach LaVine walks and you get nothing, or take a combination of a pick, Tyrese Maxey, and Seth Curry for your troubles, up to you....