Yes, LeBron James is by all accounts the number one priority for the Philadelphia 76ers when NBA Free Agency kicks off at midnight on July 1.
Right behind James is priority 1A: signing G/F Paul George.
After that, Philadelphia may consider a trade for another top option: Spurs’ F Kawhi Leonard.
However, with each of the for mentioned players comes a huge risk that the player will sign elsewhere or stay with his current team.
Missing out on those three options would disappoint many in Philadelphia, as I could see a portion of fans believing the offseason would be a failure.
Yet, I believe there is a bonafide option for adding a star-caliber player to the Sixers’ lineup that no one is considering:
Trailblazers’ G Damian Lillard
As recently as last week, Lillard was said to be requesting a meeting with the Portland Trailblazers’ owner, Paul Allen, according to John Canzano.
Earlier this year, Lillard reportedly met with Allen to discuss the team’s direction.
Now, requesting a second meeting in the weeks leading up to the offseason could mean that Lillard wants to know what the team plans to do to improve its roster.
It could also mean that Lillard wants out.
Lillard, 27, earned a first team All-NBA selection for his work during the regular season, which included averaging 26.9 points per game along with 6.6. assists and 4.5 rebounds.
While primarily playing point guard for Portland, Lillard’s ability to play off the ball and create his own shot make me believe that he could slot in at two-guard.
What would it take to get Lillard?
Assuming the Sixers get to Plan D, it may not be as costly as one would think to acquire Lillard.
Yes, the team would most likely have to forfeit last year’s first overall pick G Markelle Fultz along with a draft pick or two. However, Fultz is currently an unknown commodity and the draft picks could have conditions set upon them to make them less likely to transfer to Portland in a trade.
Now, to sweeten the deal, the Sixers would probably have to take back a bad contract (think C Meyers Leonard or F Mo Harkless) along with giving up F Robert Covington or a combination of F Jonah Bolden, G/F Timothe Luwawu-Cabborot, and F Justin Anderson.
Overall, I think the most likely scenario would be this:
- G Damian Lillard
- C Meyers Leonard
- 2020 second round pick
- 2018 First Round Pick (#10 overall)
- 2020 First Round Pick (conditional)
- 2022 First Round Pick (conditional)
- F Robert Covington
- F Justin Anderson
On paper, some may say that it doesn’t look like the Trailblazers are getting enough back for Lillard.
News flash: when you trade a star, no matter what league you’re in, you will NEVER get the same value back in a trade.
However, your aim when you trade someone of Lillard’s caliber is to acquire as many useful pieces for the future as possible, such as young players and draft picks.
The above trade would give the Trailblazers three possible first round picks, Covington (who is both young, under contract for a few seasons and just named to the first team All-NBA for defense) and Anderson (who is another young player.)
By ridding themselves of Lillard and Leonard’s contracts, the Trailblazers give themselves enough cap space to do some maneuvering in free agency, while also allowing G C.J. McCollum to become the primary ball-handler.
So, let’s say the Sixers land Lillard…
To me, landing Lillard would still be a successful key move to the Sixers’ off season.
Lillard would immediately play next to G/F Ben Simmons, and be the source of missing offense Philadelphia needed all season.
Playing off the ball would allow Lillard to get some wide open looks to nail down as a jump shooter, while still possessing the athleticism that would allow him to run the court in the Sixers’ high tempo offense.
The starting lineup could look something similar to this (assuming J.J. Redick and Ilyasova return):
PG – Ben Simmons
SG – Damian Lillard
SF – J.J. Redick (small lineup) or F Dario Saric (big lineup)
PF – Dario Saric (small lineup) or Ersan Ilyasova (big lineup)
C – Joel Embiid
That team would be an offensive juggernaut, that would only struggle defending bigger, athletic wing players.
Next year, the Sixers will have for mentioned F Jonah Bolden and F Furkan Korkmaz in the fold, adding additional options along the wing.
Of course, the team could address the wing position in free agency as well.
Overall, I believe that there is more than one route to making the Sixers an NBA Finals contender.
Yes, signing LeBron James or PG13 in free agency MAY BE easier.
However, if those scenarios go awry (more than likely) there may be other options to take advantage of, like the one I’ve outline above.
If you have questions or comments and would like to broach the content of this article with me, tweet me @caleahearn11 or message me on Facebook.