NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Ben Simmons Trade Talks, Damian Lillard, Paul Millsap

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 31, 2021

NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Ben Simmons Trade Talks, Damian Lillard, Paul Millsap

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    The NBA was due for a break.

    Operating at an accelerated pace since last season's restart at the Orlando bubble, there had been a whole lot of moving and shaking in the basketball world. Teams needed a bit of a recharge, and they're getting a small one now with offseason work mostly finished and about a month remaining before training camps open.

    That has slowed the rumor mill considerably, though it never really stops moving.

    In fact, some of the league's biggest names are involved in the latest buzz, so let's break it all down.

Executives Still Expect a Ben Simmons Trade

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia 76ers have made it clear they're in no rush to move Ben Simmons. It's not that they're suddenly set on keeping him, but rather no one has met their lofty asking price.

    They aren't out of bounds to feel this way. He obviously has his faults—the worst of which were on full display during his playoff meltdown—but he's still a 25-year-old, three-time All-Star who can generate annual buzz in the Defensive Player of the Year race. That's not the type of talent anyone should be giving away.

    Saying all of that, Philly's patience so far changes nothing in regard to league expectations for Simmons' future.

    "While the 76ers have told teams they are comfortable bringing Simmons back for the 2021-22 season, rival executives believe it's only a matter of when—not if—the All-Defensive team stalwart is moved," The Athletic's Shams Charania wrote.

    That has more or less been the word coming out of Philadelphia this entire time, as the Sixers appear ready for life after Simmons but only on their terms. They want to get a star in return, ideally one who proves a much smoother fit with franchise centerpiece Joel Embiid.

    It's important to remember that just because the right deal hasn't surfaced yet, it could be out there and discovered at any time.

Sixers Covet Damian Lillard, Blazers 'Fully Focused' on Building Around Him

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The Sixers' desire for a significant return for Simmons reaches beyond wanting something of equal value for a 25-year-old star. What they really want is a trade package they can turn and flip for a new co-star for Joel Embiid.

    And they already have someone in mind: Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard, per Charania. There's only one snag, and that's the Blazers "have fully focused on continuing to build around Lillard."

    That's likely to remain Portland's stance until Lillard demands otherwise. For now, he's willing to head to training camp while still evaluating the only NBA employer he has known. But he wants the Blazers to prove he can contend with them, and when their most significant offseason move was a coaching change, that probably didn't inspire a ton of confidence.

    The longer it takes for Lillard's situation to be resolved, the longer Simmons and the Sixers could be stuck in limbo. Philly has no need for a rebuilding kit with Embiid in his prime, but that might be exactly what Portland would want in a Lillard trade. If the Sixers send out Simmons for a future-focused return, they need to be confident they can flip it for a win-now star almost immediately.

Several Contenders Pursuing Paul Millsap

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    There aren't many needle-movers left in free agency, but Paul Millsap might qualify.

    The 36-year-old's All-Star days are behind him, but he's still a steady two-way source of savvy and skill. When he plays, his per-minute production ranks right in line with his career numbers.

    Win-now shoppers have taken notice. Charania reported at least four teams are pursuing Millsap: the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls.

    All four have significant ambitions for the upcoming season, and each has a frontcourt opening the veteran could fill. This situation bears monitoring, because he could wind up filling a not insignificant role for a championship chaser.