The Los Angeles Lakers made the biggest trade of the offseason in trading for Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards. That will no longer be the biggest trade of the offseason is the Philadelphia 76ers are able to move Ben Simmons.
The trade speculation began as soon as the 76ers were eliminated from the playoffs and Simmons played terribly. They have continued to escalate to the point where Simmons has reportedly made it clear that he has absolutely no interest in playing for Philly and won’t report to camp.
That is a blow for Simmons’ trade value, which was already at an all-time low because of how bad he looked in the NBA Playoffs. Despite that poor showing, Simmons is still an elite defensive player and facilitator. He has two elite traits and is still relatively young and that is very hard to come by.
No matter how low his value gets the Los Angeles Lakers are not going to be in the market for Simmons after trading for Westbrook. However, that does not mean that the team isn’t impacted by a Simmons trade. A Simmons trade will impact the landscape of the league, which impacts a contending team like the Lakers.
While every team site is putting together their trade packages for Simmons, a lot of the potential deals do not make a lot of sense for Philly. Again, they don’t have much leverage, but they still are going to take the best package available.
There is one potential landing spot for Simmons that has the contract to send in return and the perfect reason to go all-in on Simmons and hope that he fixes the holes in his game.
That one potential landing spot is the one team the Los Angeles Lakers should worry about — the Portland Trail Blazers.
The trade makes itself. Portland sends Philly an all-star in return in CJ McCollum, who does not have as high of a ceiling as Simmons but fits what the Sixers need out of him. The team needs a scorer that can help with the floor spacing and CJ is just that. He is a great no. 2 to score 23 points per game alongside Joel Embiid.
The money is right where it can be a one-for-one swap and Philly can probably still get a pick or two out of Portland to make it happen. If they were smart, they would ask for picks that are multiple years in the future, as Damian Lillard and Simmons could be gone by then and the Blazers would be more likely to trade them.
Why does Portland make this move? The writing is on the wall for Damian Lillard to leave the team and Portland has to do everything it can to make him happy. While he and CJ have been great together, it obviously is not a FInals-worthy pairing. And while Simmons might not fix that, he is much easier to talk yourself into than McCollum.
This actually would give Portland a solid starting five and crunch time lineup that would probably be better than most people would expect. Lillard, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons and Jusuf Nurkic would be the closing five.
They have the main scorer in Lillard, the second star in Simmons, the stretch options in Powell and Covington and the defense of Covington and Simmons. That is a fairly big closing lineup and could actually give most teams fits.
While the Los Angeles Lakers are likely still going to be a better basketball team, this version of Portland definitely has the potential to be the second-best team in the West and give the Lakers a run for their money.
Covington could guard LeBron, Simmons could help on Anthony Davis and the hope for Portland would be that Russell Westbrook tries and plays too much hero ball and it costs the team. Damian Lillard could definitely get buckets on Westbrook, and if the defense is much improved, Portland could have something special.
I still think the Lakers win a seven-game series 8 times out of 10 but if we have learned anything about basketball it is that nothing is guaranteed. And quite frankly, I would be more worried facing this version of Portland than facing Utah in the Western Conference Finals.
Any other landing spot does not really impact the Los Angeles Lakers that much. No other Western Conference contenders make sense for the Sixers and an Eastern Conference team would only matter in the NBA Finals.