The Philadelphia 76ers are keeping their sights set high as they explore opportunities to trade Ben Simmons.
Marc Stein reported Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey "continues to hold firm on his ambitions in a Simmons deal, seeking a return package for Simmons headlined by a player from the Damian Lillard/Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tier."
Morey has at least been consistent with his approach throughout this entire ordeal with Simmons.
Here's what Morey told 97.5's The Mike Missanelli Show in October (h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia's Noah Levick):
“So people should buckle in. This is going to go for a long time, because my only job is to help us have the best chance to win the title. Ben Simmons is a difference maker, so if we can get him back, he will help us win the title. If we can trade Ben Simmons for a difference maker, we will do it. I think that’s best for everyone in this situation.”
Last month, Sam Amick of The Athletic reported "there are approximately 30 players who would satisfy the Sixers in a Simmons swap" and there is an "internal belief that a fair amount" from that group could become available within the next year or two.
Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe, trade conversations for Simmons have gained momentum in recent days with "more teams engaged, more two and three-way deal structure talks ongoing as 76ers try to land a Top 25 player for Simmons."
Lillard's status with the Portland Trail Blazers has been a major talking point this week. Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that Lillard wants the organization to give him a two-year, $107 million extension when he's eligible to sign it in July.
Per Wojnarowski, the top-level candidates Portland is interviewing for its general manager position have "no enthusiasm to grant Lillard his massive extension contract through the 2026-27 season."
To this point, though, Lillard has not indicated he wants to be traded. He has even tweeted his frustration at reports that he is unhappy with the state of the organization:
The Thunder would seem to have no practical reason to trade Gilgeous-Alexander. He's two years younger (23) than Simmons (25) and signed a five-year rookie max extension worth $172 million in August.
Before signing that deal, B/R's Jake Fischer reported Gilgeous-Alexander is "no longer impossible to get."
Given how Oklahoma City has been stockpiling draft picks for future years, it's impossible to predict what general manager Sam Presti will do if a deal comes along that intrigues him.
Simmons has yet to play in a game this season as he continues to hold out for a trade. He also informed the 76ers in October he didn't feel "mentally ready to play to his expectations and needed time to step away," per Wojnarowski.
The LSU alum is in the second season of a five-year, $177.2 million contract that runs through the 2024-25 season. He has averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game in 275 starts with the 76ers.