Damian Lillard was on top of the 76ers’ wish list for a potential trade for Ben Simmons, and most likely still would be if available.
But on Monday, Simmons’ teammates will try to stop the six-time All-Star point guard instead of playing with him.
That’s when they’ll host the Lillard-led Portland Trail Blazers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers (4-2) are looking to extend their winning streak to three games.
To do so, they’ll have to contain Lillard and/or shooting guard CJ McCollum, another player listed as a possible trade target for Simmons this summer.
McCollum was averaging 24.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists heading into Sunday night’s game at the Charlotte Hornets. He was tied for fourth in the league in three-pointers made.
Lillard was off to a slow start by his standards, averaging 19.2 points to go with 7.6 assists. He’s shot just 26.2% on three-pointers. Lillard made just 2-of-24 three-pointers in his first three games. But the 10th-year veteran found his groove in Friday’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, making 5-of-7 three-pointers and scoring 25 points.
The Sixers realize they’ll have to play solid defense to stop Lillard, who averaged 28.8 points last season and 30.0 in 2019-20.
“You just look at the film and try to stick to our game plan,” the Sixers’ Seth Curry said of guarding his former Blazers teammate. “It’s a lot of ball screens and hall ball screens [that Lillard runs]. So it’s about trusting your teammates and pursuing. It’s a 48-minute job.
“I know Dame is looking to get going this year ... So we got to be ready.”
Lillard has expressed his desire to remain in Portland, where he’s under contract through the 2024-25 season. But there were reports that he was unhappy with the Blazers in the offseason, leading to speculation that he could be moved. The Sixers were hopeful they could acquire him.
That’s because he would be the elite point guard and closer the team desperately needs to pair with Joel Embiid. With Curry as a floor spacer and Tobias Harris as the third option, the Sixers would be tough to beat with Lillard and Embiid as the cornerstones.
Lillard’s presence would catapult the Sixers back into the NBA title contender conversation.
Simmons, who asked to be traded, has yet to play this season. His fate with the team appears to in a holding pattern.
League three-point leader
Curry leads the NBA in three-point shooting at 63.0% through six games. The shooting guard scored a season-high 28 points while making 7-of-10 three-pointers against the Oklahoma City Thunder last Monday. He made 6-of-7 while scoring 23 points in the first quarter of that game. ... The Sixers lead the NBA in field-goal shooting at 48.8%.