NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Ben Simmons, Lakers' Targets and Goran Dragic

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2021

NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Ben Simmons, Lakers' Targets and Goran Dragic

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    You never really know what will happen at the various media days around the NBA.

    Maybe coronavirus vaccines will dominate the conversation. Maybe David Letterman will pop up for some reason. Maybe both will happen at the same session.

    It's predictably unpredictable, though there are a few pressing plot lines that you know will surface. The Philadelphia 76ers, for instance, were sure to get bombarded with questions about Ben Simmons in light of his trade demand.

    The Sixers mostly attempted damage control on Monday. Joel Embiid told reporters, "I really hope he changes his mind." President of basketball operations Daryl Morey expressed "a lot of optimism that we can make it work here."

    The franchise hasn't given up a reconciliation, but has that swayed Simmons at all? We'll explore that question more and the latest rumor roundup.

Ben Simmons Thinks Joel Embiid Partnership 'Has Run Its Course'

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Almost as soon as the Simmons-Embiid partnership took shape in Philadelphia, outside observers questioned the fit. Simmons does his best work in the open court, while Embiid dismantles defenses with precise attacks in the half-court.

    Simmons apparently shares those concerns, which is among the reasons he remains interested in a change of address despite the pleas for him to stay put.

    "As [Simmons] sees it, sources say, the organization's choice to build its basketball ecosystem around Embiid's style simply isn't conducive to the way he needs to play," The Athletic's Sam Amick reported. "So while Embiid insisted to reporters on Monday that he wants Simmons back, this much is clear: The feeling is not mutual."

    The source went on to tell Amick that Simmons thinks the pairing "has run its course."

    The talent level shared by Simmons and Embiid is so immense that the pair has often succeeded in spite of the less than perfect fit. But if Simmons thinks he can only be fully optimized by splitting with Embiid, then nothing felt by anyone else in Philadelphia will change this conversation.

Lakers Mulled Several Stars Before Focusing on Russell Westbrook

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    Wally Skalij/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers punctuated their 2019-20 season with a world title. Their 2020-21 campaign, though, fizzled out in the first round.

    That's enough to make any organization consider making sweeping changes to the roster, but it's especially relevant to the Lakers with LeBron James approaching his age-37 season. So, when L.A. went looking for a quick fix this offseason, it mulled several different targets as part of a big-game hunt.

    Among the names considered, per The Athletic's Amick, Bill Oram and Shams Charania, were: Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan and Russell Westbrook. The Lakers deemed Westbrook the best fit since he "checked the superstar box" and "as a dynamic playmaker...would help ease the burden on James."

    Trade cost perhaps played a part in the thought process, too, since Lillard and Beal—who may not be available—surely would've demanded a much greater return than Westbrook. The Lakers eventually consolidated most of their trade chips to bring the Long Beach native and former UCLA star back to Hollywood.

    It's tough to tell for now where these Lakers will rank in the NBA hierarchy, but with Westbrook now alongside James and Anthony Davis, this club has as strong an argument as any as the league's most fascinating team.

Raptors Keeping Goran Dragic for Now, Want to Compete

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    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    When the Toronto Raptors acquired Goran Dragic from the Miami Heat in an August sign-and-trade deal for Kyle Lowry, it seemed more likely than not the relationship would be short-lived.

    Dragic himself seemed to share that sentiment.

    It's possible that will be the case, as the Lowry-less Raptors wouldn't have much of a need for the 35-year-old Dragic if they veer into a youth-focused rebuild. However, that's not the direction Toronto plans to take right now.

    As veteran NBA scribe Marc Stein reported, the Raptors hope to be competitive this season, which would certainly change the tune with Dragic. Toronto also feels, per Stein, that Dragic's trade value should only rise in-season as point guard needs begin to crystallize around the Association.

    That latter part, though, might be contingent on Dragic orchestrating something of a bounce-back season. He battled both injuries and inefficiency in 2020-21, posting his fewest points per game in nearly a decade (13.4) and the third-worst field-goal percentage of his career (43.2). The Raptors need something better than that whether they plan on keeping him around or shopping him in trades.