As the Philadelphia 76ers begin to gather momentum in conversations on finding a trade for All-Star guard Ben Simmons, the Portland Trail Blazers reiterated that one of the Sixers’ top targets — All-NBA guard Damian Lillard — is not available to be discussed, sources told ESPN.
The Sixers and Blazers connected in recent days and Portland’s interim general manager Joe Cronin made clear to Philadelphia that the franchise’s plans remain to continue building around Lillard as a cornerstone, sources said.
Nevertheless, the Sixers are becoming much more engaged on multiple fronts in talks centered on Simmons. Philadelphia has been aggressively trying to assemble two- and three-team deal structures to deliver them a package that would include a top 25-level player, sources said.
Much of the increased momentum centers on Wednesday, when many players signed in the offseason as free agents become eligible to be traded. Beginning on Dec. 15, 84% of the 446 players under contract can be included into deals. Currently, 65% of the league’s players are eligible.
The Sixers have long targeted Lillard, who reaffirmed his desire to remain in Portland around the start of the team’s training camp. After the recent firing of president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, Cronin has publicly and privately said the franchise plans to continue building the organization around Lillard. The Blazers have been open to discussing a deal for Simmons centered on guard CJ McCollum, but that conversation never gathered real traction, sources said.
Simmons has yet to play for Philadelphia this season, citing mental health hurdles in rejoining the team. He made a trade request after the Sixers’ loss to Atlanta in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks contributed to this report.