It seems nowadays Sixers fans are only good for two things: booing their home teams and wanting Damian Lillard on the Sixers. While I also would love to see Dame time in the Wells Fargo Center, there are a lot of possible repercussions for trading for a potential top 10 players in the NBA.
Let’s start with what I think it would take for the Blazers to send the best player in their franchise’s history to the Sixers. If I had a guess, a potential trade would be this
Blazers Receive: Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, and 2 1st round picks
Sixers Receive: Damian Lillard and Robert Covington.
Now before the basketball nerds start calling me an idiot on social media, the Sixers would need to use their 8 million trade exception that they acquired when they sent Al Horford to OKC. With that added salaries work for both sides and I think the deal would go through. So what are the pros and cons of this potential deal? Trust me it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, but let us look at the pros first.
Pro: We finally have a Go-to scorer in the Clutch
There have been a lot of reasons why the Sixers in the Embiid era haven’t made it past the 2nd round. I truly believe that the biggest one is that we have yet to find someone who consistently hits tough buckets in the clutch. We technically had one in Jimmy Butler, but he obviously left for Miami after being in Philly for less than a season.
Lillard is about as clutch as you can get in today’s NBA. You don’t just get the nickname Dame Time for nothing. Once again that was no exception this season. Lillard averaged 7.3PPG in the 4th quarter this season which was good for 5th in the NBA. Lillard was also top 5 in the NBA in points in the clutch. This is when the game is under 5 minutes left and the score is within 5 points.
The funny thing about adding such a clutch player like Lillard is that the Sixers were actually first in the NBA in +/- during the 4th Q with a +1.4 this season. Clearly, this improvement in the regular season did not roll over to the playoffs, but it’s interesting to note that the
Sixers for the majority of the season were a very clutch team. Lillard will clearly be an upgrade over Tobias Harris as a go-to scorer. Also just watch this video of all these ridiculous clutch shots he has hit.
Pro: The Spacing would be Unreal
If there is one thing that I can absolutely not defend Ben Simmons on, it is that there is nowhere to put him in the clutch, especially in the half-court. Putting him in the dunker’s spot forces Embiid to play on the perimeter where he is clearly less effective. He doesn’t have a good enough handle to break down a defender and obviously, he isn’t pulling up on any defender and shooting a jump shot.
If this hypothetical trade goes through, the spacing for Embiid and the Sixers would make them almost impossible to guard. Teams in the playoffs have gotten away with doubling Embiid and forcing the ball to average 3pt shooters. If Lillard is traded to the Sixers, say goodbye to trying to double team Embiid.
To put things into perspective, Lillard is a career 37.5% 3pt shooter. This season he shot 39.1% from 3 on 10.5 attempts per game. That is not just good, that is unbelievable efficiency. There is only one better 3pt shooter in the NBA if you factor in difficulty/efficiency, Steph Curry.
If Embiid is doubled, the possibility of kicking it out to either Damian Lillard (39.1% 3pt shooter) or Seth Curry (45% 3pt shooter) is a defensive nightmare for any NBA coach. Not to mention if Covington was added to the deal he was a 37.9% 3pt shooter this season. If the worst shooter in your lineup is Tobias Harris, who shot 39.4% from the 3pt line this season, I think you finally surrounded Embiid with enough shooting.
Pro: We Would have 2 of the Top 10 Players in the NBA
This one seems obvious, but the magnitude of this is much greater than people believe. How many teams in the NBA can say they have 2 of the top 10 players in the NBA. Lakers, Nets, and maybe Clippers? That depends on how much you love Paul George. The point is that this puts the Sixers in some elite company and you would still have Tobias Harris who is probably a top 30 player in the NBA. If we are just going off 3rd options he is definitely in the top 5 of that category.
One of the reasons I thought the Sixers never had a chance was because the Nets and Bucks big 3 were simply better than the Sixers. Acquiring Lillard changes that for me and while you could still argue the Nets trio of KD, Harden, and Kyrie are still superior, the gap lessens.
Alright, let’s get to the cons.
Con: Could the Defense be good enough to win the Championship?
Let’s break this down into two separate categories. First, Lillard’s history of being a below-average defender. In Lillard’s 9 seasons in the NBA, he has only had 2 where his DBPM (Defensive Box Plus MInus) was positive. In both of those years, it was .3 which is not impressive at all. Ben Simmons, on the other hand, has had a very impressive DBPM notching a positive number every year he has been in the NBA reaching an impressive 2.5 this which of course was a huge reason he was runner up for DPOY this season.
In the 9 seasons, Lillard has been in the NBA, his team has ranked in the top 10 in defensive PPG once (the year they made the Western Conference Finals). 6 times the Blazers have ranked in the bottom third of the league in defensive PPG.
I mentioned before that the Bucks and Nets have elite trios that you will have to go through to make the NBA Finals. Yes, it would be very hard for those teams to guard the Sixers, but now it is even harder for the Sixers to guard them. Before we had 2 of the top 5 defenders in the NBA in Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle. If they are traded, who is going to guard KD, Harden, and Kyrie? Not only would the Sixers perimeter defense take a huge hit but so would our defense overall. If you thought it was hard to get stops on Trae Young with Simmons and Thybulle, good luck with stopping KD and Giannis.
Con: A lot of 1 on 1/Iso basketball
While I mentioned in one of the pros that it would be a great thing that we would have an elite Iso scorer in Lillard to take us home in the clutch. To win in the NBA championship it hasn’t changed, you have to move the basketball.
While Embiid is really good at a lot of things, the truth is that he is a ball stopper. You throw the ball to him in the post and let him go to work. Listen, I would call that play every time if I had Embiid on my team too. Yet, too often the Sixers became too reliant on Embiid and the ball would go to the post and end any ball movement the Sixers had before that. The Sixers ranked 23rd in the NBA with 23.9 assists per game. The Trail Blazers averaged 21.3 which was good for last in the NBA.
The easy answer is that Lillard and Embiid both have very high usage ratings. Embiid was 3rd in the NBA with a Usage rate of 39.4% and Lillard was tied for 5th with 39.1%. Both these guys have the ball a ton and the rest of the players clear out and let them go to work. If they are on, good luck stopping them but when it’s deep in the playoffs and defense intensifies going all iso is usually not the answer. In fact, in the last 10 NBA seasons, the champions of the NBA have not ranked below 13th in assists per game. 4 of those teams ranked 1st.
Con: No more Excuses for Embiid
While Philadelphia fans are known for trashing their best players in their franchise’s history like Ryan Howard and Donovan McNabb, Embiid somehow over the years has escaped the scrutiny from Sixers fans. As I have stated before, in the Embiid era the Sixers have gone through 2 head coaches, 4 general managers, and 3 complete roster changes. If Ben Simmons is traded, Embiid would be the only one left.
This causes the blame if the Sixers failed once again to be directed at one person and one person only, Joel Embiid. No more excuses, no more we didn’t get it done because Simmons won’t shoot or Brett Brown can’t coach. If this trade goes through, get it done, simple as that.