NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Damian Lillard Trade, Ben Simmons and Pacers

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 10, 2021

NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Damian Lillard Trade, Ben Simmons and Pacers

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    The basketball gods have spoken: Let there be NBA trade talk.

    It's right on time, too, since the calendar says we're on the cusp of trade season.

    The pool of trade candidates will exponentially expand Wednesday, when most free agents who signed this offseason become eligible to be moved. In addition, clubs have completed roughly one quarter of the campaign, which in most cases provides a good enough snapshot for franchises to know whether they should buy or sell.

    Trade waves are starting to rumble, so let's dive in.

76ers Have Made an Offer for Damian Lillard; Knicks Have Not

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    The Portland Trail Blazers could be on the cusp of a major shake-up. In some ways, it has already started, as they changed coaches this offseason (from Terry Stotts to Chauncey Billups) and recently axed president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.

    If the Blazers keep moving parts, the roster is the next place to turn, and trade suitors are surely hoping that the reshuffling will include a massive move involving six-time All-Star Damian Lillard.

    The Philadelphia 76ers have already made an offer, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The New York Knicks have not, but Wojnarowski noted three teams with interest in Lillard are "waiting on him to make an offseason trade demand before calling Portland."

    Lillard has said he won't ask out of the Pacific Northwest, but rival teams will take those words with a generous serving of salt. The Blazers have been bounced out of the first found in four of the past five seasons, and this group could struggle to even get that far.

Ben Simmons Has Been on Lillard's List of Preferred Running Mates

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Count Lillard among the many expressing #FreeBenSimmons support.

    The stranded Philadelphia 76ers star is one of several defensive-minded players Lillard has expressed interest in playing with, per B/R's Jake Fischer. Jaylen Brown is on the same list, as was Aaron Gordon, presumably before his 2021 deadline deal to the Denver Nuggets.

    Lillard, it seems, can see what so many can with Portland's roster: There isn't enough size or defense on the perimeter to make this work. The 6'2" Lillard starts alongside CJ McCollum and Norman Powell, both score-first players who stand just 6'3", which leaves this lineup overexposed. Portland sits just 28th in defensive efficiency, per

    The root of the problem seems straightforward, but the solution is not. Coveting a player on the level of Simmons or Brown is one thing; cobbling together the assets needed to acquire them is quite another.

Major Changes Could Be Coming to the Pacers

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    Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

    Look to the intersection of Rock Road and Hard Place Boulevard, and you will find the Indiana Pacers.

    Their roster looks good on paper, but it has been wholly uninspiring. They are better than their record (11-16), but they aren't near the championship race. They are financially committed to this core, but they have no obvious way to raise their ceiling. Their veteran nucleus lacks superstar talent, and that's probably too high of a bar to set for their few prospects.

    They might be stuck in the middle—or, so far this season, a step back of the middle—and that's never where an NBA team wants to be. The Pacers are no different, as they are reportedly "moving toward a substantial rebuild and are expected to open up trade conversations around some of their veteran stalwarts," The Athletic's Shams Charania and Bob Kravitz.

    The reporters mentioned Caris LeVert and "either" Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner as trade candidates. LeVert is off to a slow start but has previously flashed high-level talent as a scorer and shot-creator. Sabonis and Turner have stood out as a jumbo-sized frontcourt in the modern NBA, but the partnership has never seemed like the best use of roster resources. Either player should interest just about anyone hunting for an upgrade at center.