NBA Draft Week Brings Urgency to Trade Talks; Latest Ben Simmons Buzz

Jake Fischer@JakeLFischerContributor IJuly 25, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons warms up before Game 5 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

There are several teams known in league circles to be eyeing a trade up into Thursday's NBA draft lottery, and pick Nos. 9-13 are considered prime landing spots for any front office hoping to do so.

There are also 13 teams without second-round picks at their disposal, which appears certain to change. Cap-conscious teams have developed a growing affinity for rostering players on minimum-salary, non-guaranteed deals.

"I think we could see the most draft-night trades ever," said one team's cap guru.

But all that activity doesn't seem likely to include the Ben Simmons blockbuster. Rival front offices believe Daryl Morey was hoping that would materialize by now. Perhaps if Bradley Beal were to request a trade away from the Washington Wizards—as two sources close to the All-Star guard told Bleacher Report he was considering—Philadelphia could emerge as a serious front-runner with a Simmons offer. In the event Beal does not become available, the Sixers have yet to make serious traction on any other Simmons deal, sources said.


The Simmons Market

Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, sources said. Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by B/R, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he's played in Philadelphia.

But one problem: there has not been an All-Star-caliber player made available that Morey and his staff have had strong interest in moving Simmons for, sources said.

Time is on Philadelphia's side. The Sixers are not required to trade Simmons, although the overwhelming expectation around the league is that he will be moved before the 2021-22 season tips. That could occur in August; team executives are anxiously awaiting Damian Lillard's return from the Tokyo Olympics, and a potential trade request that could occur if the All-Star guard doesn't endorse Portland's offseason roster adjustments.

"I think Daryl is just waiting for the Dame situation to explode," said one team official.

Beal's potential availability has sparked significant discussion among league personnel, but there appears to be less confidence Lillard will seek a different team prior to training camp. Warriors officials have expressed doubt Lillard would eye Golden State as a destination.


Teams Actively Seeking Win-Now Help

Bob Myers' front office has felt a similarly cool market for their package of picks Nos. 7 and 14 as Philadelphia has for Simmons. Canvassing sources around the league, it seems few veteran impact players are considered to be available at the moment.

The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create room for Conley in free agency.

League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O'Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.

Utah's Bojan Bogdanovic is one of several Jazz players available for trade, according to B/R sources.
Utah's Bojan Bogdanovic is one of several Jazz players available for trade, according to B/R sources.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

For any team searching to trade into the lottery—whispers of New York's interest continue—their highest opportunity may be at Sacramento's pick. The Kings at No. 9, and Pelicans, holding No. 10, have been active in trade conversations, sources said. Both teams seek to add veterans to bolster their respective playoff pushes. Both the Hornets and Pacers, the two Eastern Conference play-in teams who did not advance, would seemingly have interest in moving their picks at Nos. 11 and 13, respectively.

Sources said the Pelicans have generated traction with the Grizzlies in a framework that would swap that 10th selection for the 17th pick while also sending Eric Bledsoe back to Memphis.

And the Rockets have discussed a deal that would send Eric Gordon, plus Houston's No. 23 pick, to Indiana for the Pacers' 13th selection. There's an expectation that Indiana is once again gauging the trade market for Myles Turner.

Lastly, the Lakers rumors have not gone away. Los Angeles has been linked by multiple sources to having interest in attaining Russell Westbrook, although the cap gymnastics to acquire the 2017 MVP will surely be tricky. It remains clear that Los Angeles' main objective this offseason is to find an on-ball creator that can lessen the playmaking duties of LeBron James.


Jake Fischer covers the NBA for Bleacher Report and is the author of Built to Lose: How the NBA's Tanking Era Changed the League Forever.


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