The Sixers are star-hunting, and Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal are the top names available. Which one makes more sense for the Sixers?
All offseason long, rumors have circulated about the brewing divorce between Ben Simmons and the Sixers. Since the team was abruptly eliminated by the Hawks in the second round, the performance of the all-defensive point guard has been under a microscope.
The offensive limitations of the former first overall pick have been a heavy topic of discussion, and many have pondered if the Sixers would be better off without Simmons. His poor free-throw shooting and habitual hesitancy when attacking the rim have repeatedly hindered the Sixers. Paid to be one of the engines of the offense, Simmons has instead been a liability far too often.
Despite his shortcomings in the half-court offense, Simmons still presents tremendous trade value. On top of being Inarguably one of the top five defenders in the league, the lefty guard is still just 25-years old. Having yet to reach his prime, his sky-high potential cannot be ignored.
Again, his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, but one would be hard-pressed to find more than a couple of dozen better players in the league- making him a premium around league circles. So far this offseason, front office executives haven’t been shy about expressing their adoration for the Sixers point guard.
With every rising of the sun, a new batch of Simmons-centered trade scenarios surfaces on the internet. Names like D’Angelo Russell and De’Aaron Fox have been listed as potential packages for Simmons. There have also been rumors of shipping Simmons to the Warriors in exchange for the pair of lottery picks (7th and 14th overall) they own in the upcoming draft.
The trade rumors are unlikely to slow down anytime soon, and people will toss out all sorts of wild scenarios. Despite the outside chatter, Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey has remained firm in his asking price of an all-star caliber player in any deal involving Simmons. Rightfully so, when considering moving on from someone as supremely talented as Simmons, Morey refuses to settle for less than a star in return.
Sixers Immovable on Asking Price
When discussing realistic, worthy trade candidates for a Simmons deal, there aren’t many that fit the bill. Frankly, there are only two plausible options- veteran guards Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard.
Not only are both rumored to be available for trade- more available than they have been in the past, at least- but they also carry the all-star pedigree that Morey covets. Landing either of the dynamic guards would be huge for the Sixers and vastly improve their title odds.
If the Sixers are going to break up the duo of Simmons and Joel Embiid, a tandem that led Philly to the No.1 seed this past year, it should be for either Beal or Lillard. But which superstar scorer makes the most sense for the Sixers between the two?
One of the premier talents and most clutch players in the NBA, Damian Lillard would no doubt be an excellent fit in Philly. During his career, Lillard has earned All-Star honors six times.
With each passing year, he appears to grow more unguardable with time. The former sixth overall pick averaged nearly 30 PPG this season and was tied with Steph Curry for the most games with 40+ points and 5+ assists this season.
Pairing him with Embiid would be a match made in Heaven. Swapping Simmons for Lillard as the starting point guard would instantly remedy the limitations Simmons places on the Philly offense.
Lillard does not carry an ounce of the hesitancy Simmons does to shoot. One of the most lethal deep threats in the league, Lillard is always a threat to get hot in a hurry and score in bunches. He obviously isn’t near the defenders Simmons is, but his proficient scoring ability should make up for that.
If there is any way to get Dame in Philly, Daryl Morey and the Sixers have to be willing to do it. A Lillard-Embiid pairing would make for an all-time duo and would exponentially increase their title odds.
The price may be what gives Morey pause, though. If they are to acquire the star point guard Lillard, they are going to have to exhaust all the draft capital they have. Additionally, the team would likely have to trade generational defender Matisse Thybulle to Portland to sweeten the offer. Something they may not necessarily have to do for Bradley Beal. Still, despite the steep cost, the Sixers should be all-in on the Lillard sweepstakes.
Bradley Beal: Professional Scorer
Despite his all-star caliber, record-shattering play, Bradley Beal remains fairly underrated. Perhaps it is because of the relatively small Wizards market, but Beal does not seem to get the same praise his peers do.
Make no mistake, contrary to what you may have heard before this article, Beal is one of the top ten players in the league. Landing him would be a home run move for Philly.
Standing at 6’3, Beal is built more like a point guard, but his scoring dominance justifies his role as the two-guard. The Saint Louis native averaged a whopping 31.3 PPG, a career-high for him and the most of any player in the Eastern Conference. This is the second straight season in which he averaged 30+ points per game.
Like Lillard, Beal would also negate the stagnant scoring stretches the team experiences with Simmons at the helm. Defenders would be hard-pressed to slow a Beal-Embiid led Sixers core. And, unlike when trading for Lillard, the Sixers may be able to acquire Beal without having to offer up Matisse Thybulle. They still may very well have to, but the odds are significantly lower.
Who Is The Better Fit?
Ultimately, I think that Lillard is the more natural fit since he plays the same position as the player he would be traded for in Simmons. Slotting him as the starting point guard would allow the Sixers to keep Seth Curry in the lineup as a scoring-minded shooting guard instead of trying to make either he or Maxey assume the starting PG spot.
With that being said, if Beal can be acquired without including Thybulle in a deal, I think the Sixers have to take that offer. Especially given how relatively similarly gifted Beal is at scoring the basketball as Lillard. As the NBA draft nears, the trade chatter will only grow louder. When the dust clears, perhaps the Sixers will have either Beal or Lillard in tow.