As the Philadelphia 76ers begin to gain momentum in talks about finding a trade for All-Star guard Ben Simmons, the Portland Trail Blazers reiterated that one of the Sixers’ main targets, guard Damian Lillard, is unavailable. to be chosen or traded, sources told ESPN.
The Sixers and Blazers connected in recent days and Portland interim general manager Joe Cronin made it clear to Philadelphia that the franchise’s plans remain to continue to build around Lillard as a cornerstone, sources said.
However, the Sixers are getting much more involved on multiple fronts in Simmons-centric conversations. Philadelphia has been aggressively trying to put together two- and three-team deal structures to deliver a package that would include a top 25 player, sources said.
Much of the increased momentum centers on Wednesday, when many players signed in the offseason and free agents became eligible to be traded. As of December 15, 84% of the 446 players under contract can be included in deals. Currently 65% of the League’s players are eligible.
The Sixers have long targeted Lillard, who reaffirmed his desire to remain in Portland at the start of the team’s training camp. Following the recent firing of president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, Cronin has said publicly and privately that the franchise plans to continue building the organization around Lillard. The Blazers have been open to discussing a Simmons deal centered on guard CJ McCollum, but that conversation never gained traction, sources said.
Simmons has yet to play for Philadelphia this season, citing mental health obstacles to rejoining the team. He made a trade request after the Sixers’ loss to Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks contributed to this report.