Ben Simmons trade talks reportedly picking up, but not for Damian Lillard

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On Dec. 15, most of the players who signed contracts this summer become eligible to be traded, opening up the possibilities for a lot more deals to get done.

Including a trade for Ben Simmons.

Talks have heated up around the 76ers’ All-Star — currently away from the team saying he is not mentally ready to play — and teams are discussing deals. However, Damian Lillard remains off-limits, the Trail Blazers have told the 76ers. All that according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN.

Despite the wishes of people outside Lillard’s circle — particularly some fan bases and a few in the media — Lillard has repeatedly said he wants to win in Portland and has not asked for a trade. The Trail Blazers aren’t going to trade him unless he asks for one (probably). Portland is more likely to deal CJ McCollum and/or Jusuf Nurkic to bring in talent to put around Lillard rather than to trade the All-NBA guard himself.

Two quick thoughts on a Simmons trade.

First, don’t be surprised if Oklahoma City is involved as a third team. The Thunder are the only team with cap space (a little more than $34 million) and can take on a bad contract so long as more draft picks or young players flow their way.

Second, keep an eye on the Indiana Pacers, who are open to trading their best players. While 76ers president Daryl Morey continues to hold out for a top 30 player, getting an All-Star in Domantas Sabonis and a quality wing player in Caris LeVert would make the 76ers better right now and help the defense in the playoffs. Philly may not see a better offer.

It’s all things to watch. The NBA trade market is starting to heat up (and it’s not just Ben Simmons).