In term of Sixers news, Nick Nurse has agreed to terms to be the next head coach, and he’ll try to bridge the continuity gap edge consistent, well-oiled machines like the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets have enjoyed.
But most of the rumors in Philadelphia have focused around the future of James Harden.
Shams Charania of The Athletic recently speculated that Harden, soon to be a free agent we expect, is “torn” deciding between the Rockets and the Sixers.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne hopped on the radio Wednesday and said if the Phoenix Suns do indeed waive Chris Paul, which they’re now rumored to be considering, it’s because they have a plan so “keep your eye on James Harden.”
Harden could sign into the Rockets’ cap space, but the Sixers would have to agree to a sign-and-trade if the 2018 league MVP wanted to play with Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
Sub Zero’s Future
But the rest of the NBA world has been keeping tabs on Mr. Loyalty himself, one Damian Lillard.
Is Lillard going to keep slogging it out in Portland, through a possible lengthy rebuild, all to say he stayed with one team for his entire career? Do the Blazers have any moves to make to spring themselves into contention? Or is it finally time for the future Hall of Famer, arguably the greatest Blazer in history, to ask for a trade and seek greener pastures?
Maybe what Portland GM Joe Cronin intends to do with their third overall pick in the NBA draft will help inform Dame D.O.L.L.A’s leanings?
It’s no secret the San Antonio Spurs, sitting at no. 1, will select Victor Wembanyama, as the French product is regarded as one of the top prospects in Draft history.
According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, “all indications suggest the Hornets are leaning toward [Brandon] Miller with [the no. 2] choice as a partner for LaMelo Ball.”
And that would leave the Blazers on the clock, just two weeks away (!), likely considering G League star Scoot Henderson at No. 3. But would they trade that pick?
On Thursday, Dan Patrick asked Senior NBA Insider for TNT & Bleacher Report, Chris Haynes, would Portland “go young” and if so might Lillard be traded before the June 22, NBA Draft?
“[Dame] will agree, that this is kind of a like a crossroads situation right here....he wants to win now, he wants to compete for a title. I don’t think he believes that taking that pick and keeping it is going to do them any service in the now. So I think what the Portland Trailblazers decide to do with that pick will dictate — ... if I’m Dame Lillard, based off of what he said, if they keep that pick, whether it’s Scoot [Henderson] or anybody else, if they keep that pick, I think a serious conversation will be had about potentially parting ways.”
Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) tells under what circumstances Dame would want to be traded from the #Blazers, which teams he'd ok a trade to, and which team specifically he wouldn't pic.twitter.com/jlx8N14oOT— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) June 8, 2023
Hmmm.... so it sounds like Dame would like them to trade that pick for a star to help him contend in Oregon. But is that likely? Who might be available? Could they somehow pry Mikal Bridges out of Brooklyn? Could they snag Jaylen Brown out of Boston? These scenarios feel highly unlikely, with credible reports suggesting those stars are more likely to stay put.
But hypothetically, if a trade were to go down, Patrick asked, who might some candidates be?
“[Lillard] mentioned it on air, Nets, Miami, and possibly, I don’t think — Philly, but they don’t have what it takes so I’ll leave it at the Nets and Miami.”
Jayson Tatum on Dame’s IG live— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) June 9, 2023
“Damn we get it you don’t like Boston” pic.twitter.com/7MRTWBEIz1
You can listen to Haynes’ tone in the tweet above, he seems to bring up the Sixers while simultaneously scoffing at the idea, likely because the Sixers traded most of their best draft picks already.
Just to be clear, when Haynes says Lillard listed these teams “on air,” the reporter was referring to a recent appearance Lillard made on “The Last Stand” with Brian Custer.
During that sit down, Dame named the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets as places he’d be open to joining. He did not name the Sixers there.
“Miami obviously,” Lillard said. “Miami is the obvious one. And Bam [Adebayo] is my dog. Bam is my dog, for real though. But I mean I think Miami is the obvious one. Brooklyn is another obvious one because Mikal Bridges is my dog too. So I mean, and both have capable rosters.”
So it was actually Haynes himself who brought up Philly. If we’re reading the tea leaves here, it’s probably something Dame has discussed with Haynes off the record in the past.
Haynes shares that the two chat often. But as Haynes notes, Philly likely doesn’t have enough assets to get it done.
And that’s why this is probably all a non-starter.
Brooklyn now has a whole bunch of picks they acquired from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for star Kevin Durant. They have a useful wing any contender would want in Dorian Finney-Smith, who they landed in the Kyrie Irving deal.
I hate to be the one to break it to Dame but the Miami Heat likely don’t have the trade package to bring him to South Beach if he wants to play with both his dog and Jimmy Butler. They would have to be over the moon with Tyler Herro, a couple picks, and a few undrafted role-players. Counterpoint: Miami has Pat Riley.
But what about Philly? Is Haynes right that there simply isn’t enough?
The Sixers “all in” offer
Assuming Joel Embiid is the main draw and totally off the table, the team’s “all in” offer isn’t terribly juicy to entice a rebuild.
Tyrese Maxey might be seen as a blue chip asset, still just 22-years-old. Tobias Harris might finally have positive trade value, and would certainly help the money work since Lillard is set to earn $45.6M in 2023-2024.
So the total all in might look something like: Maxey, Harris, De’Anthony Melton, Jaden Springer, swap options in 2024, 2026, and 2028, (they cannot trade away those because of outgoing picks already owed in 2025 and 2027) plus Philadelphia’s own 2029 first-rounder. They can also offer up to six future second-round picks. Those might gain value under the new CBA.
If somehow they got a player out of the Phoenix Suns in a hypothetical James Harden sign-and-trade, let’s say former Sixer Landry Shamet just for fun, they could even offer Wario in this potential deal so long as they waited a couple of months.
It’s not the worst offer in the world, when you think about it. Would you pull the trigger? Maybe Dame joining would entice Harden to stay too.
Would you offer Tyrese Maxey and the farm for Dame Lillard?
This poll is closed
But in the end, unless Dame were to say “Philly-or-bust,” unless Cronin was in love with Maxey (really what’s not to love?) I find the 76ers coming up short relative to other team’s all in bids.
Let’s be honest, it’s reasonable to venture that Daryl Morey has already had a few chats with Portland about this stuff, starting with Ben Simmons nearly one year ago.
(Remember when Lillard was actually hoping Portland could acquire Simmons?)
So everyone involved here probably has a pretty good sense about where things stand, including Chris Haynes.
Anyway, that Haynes mentioned Philly at all was intriguing. And that they may be on Dame’s shortlist, or shortlist-extended-via-reporter-speculation, that’s something, right?!
If Dame only listed three teams and Portland wanted to “do right by him,” then maybe that scenario could work in Philly’s favor. If the Nets were thinking long-view maybe they wouldn’t want to go all in for Dame, set to turn 33 in July. And maybe then the Sixers could flat out top any Heat offer.
And now that you’re thinking about that “all in,” maybe you’re starting to wonder about other players who could potentially be had for most of those assets, while retaining Maxey.
Who knows, maybe this Nick Nurse guy makes them more of a draw than they were just a few weeks ago too.