Deals to Finally Trade Ben Simmons, Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard
The 2021 NBA offseason is quickly running low on fireworks.
It started off incredibly strong with the Russell Westbrook stunner, a talent-rich draft and a spending frenzy at the start of free agency. But save for the sporadic signing (Dennis Schroder to Boston, Lauri Markkanen to... well, still waiting on that one), there isn't much artillery left.
Unless, of course, the trade market gets rocking. And given some of the names who have circled through the rumor mill this summer—in particular, Ben Simmons, Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard—no one should rule out the possibility of an internet-breaking blockbuster.
So, let's strike a few matches and a fire up the trade machines to broker some major moves with these heavyweight hoopers.
Blazers, Sixers Swap Stars
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Damian Lillard
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, 2022 first-round pick and 2024 first-round pick
When the 76ers look outside the organization for help, their eyes keeping locking on Lillard and no one else.
"Since the Sixers' season ended the team has ... kept a watchful eye on the status of Lillard in Portland," The Athletic's Derek Bodner reported. "From the Sixers' perspective, it would be fair to say the goal is less to trade Ben Simmons and more to acquire Damian Lillard."
Portland will have one of two responses to that: either laughing off the idea or saying, "Start with Simmons, but we want everything else, too." It's possible the Blazers could aim for even more than they're getting here, perhaps squeezing out rookie Jaden Springer or an extra first-rounder or some pick swaps, too.
But this seems reasonable enough, especially if the Blazers see star potential in Maxey and view Thybulle on a short list of elite stoppers. They would have to commit to tailoring the roster to Simmons' exact specifications, but if they're losing Lillard, a top-to-bottom overhaul is unavoidable. So, why not try building around a 25-year-old former No. 1 pick who is a brilliant defender, an open-court locomotive and a 6'11" playmaker?
This only has a chance of happening if Lillard forces his way out, but considering the front office answered his call for urgency with minor moves for Tony Snell and Cody Zeller, would anyone be shocked if Lillard's frustrations boiled over?
If Lillard wants out, he'll have a hard time finding a better fitting co-star than Joel Embiid. The pairing could push Philly's attack into unstoppable territory on offense, and as long as the second-ranked defense doesn't completely collapse without Simmons, the Sixers would be on the fast track to title contention.
Warriors' Wish Granted with Beal Blockbuster
Golden State Warriors receive: Bradley Beal and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Washington Wizards receive: Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody
The Warriors have a nagging win-now itch and one of the strongest trade packages should the right star come along. Actually, the "right star" isn't some theoretical elite, but rather Beal himself.
The organization has "deemed [Beal] to be the best player and best fit for the Warriors among the players who could potentially be available this offseason," The Athletic's Marcus Thompson II reported. NBC Sports Bay Area's Kendra Andrews added a source within the franchise said "there is only one player" they'd sell the farm for, and while that player wasn't named, Andrews added the obvious assumption is Beal.
They just need Beal to become available, which hasn't happened yet.
There's little reason to think it will this offseason given the sweeping changes around him—new coach (Wes Unseld Jr.) and new backcourt mate (Spencer Dinwiddie) for starters—but Beal could decide at any moment this club isn't close enough to contention. Similarly, the Wizards might conclude that chasing playoff cameos isn't the optimal way to use a premier asset.
If Beal hits the market, the Warriors should put their best offer on the table. He's a perfect fit for their offense as an equally dangerous shot-creator and spot-up sniper. On defense, the extra scoring support he'd receive from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could allow Beal to refuel and get back to being a serviceable stopper.
Tack on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as a plug-and-play three-and-D wing, and the Warriors might either become the Western Conference favorites or at least put themselves in the conversation.
As for the Wizards, any Beal deal would kickstart a rebuild, and this return package would put that project on a solid foundation. Wiseman has star potential as a two-way anchor, Kuminga pairs explosion with drool-worthy shot-making, Moody is a no-maintenance two-way wing and Wiggins hasn't exhausted his potential as a 26-year-old former No. 1 pick. That's a haul, folks.
Pelicans Win Damian Lillard Sweepstakes
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Damian Lillard
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Brandon Ingram, Kira Lewis Jr., Jaxson Hayes, 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick and 2024 first-round pick (via LAL)
For different reasons—but sort of the same reason—the Blazers and Pelicans needed to win the offseason. Instead, both will be lumped together on most offseason loser lists you'll come across.
Both needed to sell their stars on their ability to construct a contender around them. The Blazers didn't even budge the needle by adding Snell, Zeller and Ben McLemore. The Pelicans either spun their tires or backtracked by essentially turning Lonzo Ball (whom Zion Williamson wanted to stay), two first-round picks and two pick swaps into Devonte' Graham, Tomas Satoransky, Jonas Valanciunas, Garrett Temple and a pair of second-round picks.
Neither Lillard nor Williamson can be thrilled with the direction of their clubs, but maybe they'd find happiness together. An offensive system built around Lillard-Williamson pick-and-rolls (and transition attacks) might be as prolific as it gets, and New Orleans would still have its newcomers plus a hopefully re-signed Josh Hart.
Is that a top-shelf championship contender? Probably not. But it could crack the second tier, and then a well-timed break or two might be all New Orleans needs to probe a lot deeper than expected into the postseason.
Portland, meanwhile, would turn Lillard into a 23-year-old All-Star (Ingram) and more. There isn't a right way to sell a fanbase on trading away an icon, but that seems like a good way to start.
Ingram is an effortless, efficient scorer who's growth as a playmaker gives him major focal-point potential. Lewis can run offense at ludicrous speed—a pace that would weaponize Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little and Greg Brown III—and Hayes can fly along with them as a rim-runner with bounce. Add three first-round picks to further brighten the future, and Portland's post-Lillard rebuild would be off and running.
Simmons to Sacramento in Three-Team Trade
Sacramento Kings receive: Ben Simmons
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Buddy Hield, Goran Dragic, 2022 first-round pick (unprotected via SAC), 2023 second-round pick (via TOR), 2024 first-round pick (top-three protected via SAC) and 2025 second-round pick (via TOR)
Toronto Raptors receive: Marvin Bagley III and Furkan Korkmaz
If these three teams are willing to wait until Dec. 15 when Korkmaz can be traded, there's win-win-win potential here.
Sacramento would see centerpiece potential in Simmons, who should fit seamlessly on the same timeline as franchise pillars De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. The Kings are fans of Simmons, per Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee, and might better position him for success with a greater emphasis on playing with pace and extra shot-makers around him.
By getting Simmons off the ball more, the Kings could weaponize him as a screen-setting attacker and distributor. Pinballing him off high screens for Fox or Haliburton could help Simmons feast on 4-on-3 opportunities with downhill drives to the basket or quick kicks to open shooters in the corners.
The Sixers don't technically collect the "All-Star-caliber player" they want for Simmons, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, but this is in the ballpark.
Hield is on a short list of the game's greatest quantity-plus-quality shooters, and he's been a 19-point scorer since the start of 2018-19. Dragic would scratch an itch for perimeter shot-creation having just completed a campaign in which he averaged 18.1 points, 5.9 assists and 2.5 threes per 36 minutes. The four draft picks would give Daryl Morey ammunition to chase an impact piece in a separate swap.
Finally, the Raptors would add two more players for their post-Kyle Lowry chapter. A healthy Bagley could be a really fun frontcourt fit with do-it-all rookie forward Scottie Barnes—a pairing that might embolden Toronto to trade Pascal Siakam for a mountain of assets—while Korkmaz would add a reliable outside shot (career 37.7 percent) and a stable future by way of his new three-year, $15 million deal.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.