The 2020-21 NBA season is scheduled to start less than two months from now on Dec. 22, with the Draft and free agency set to take place/start within the next two weeks. The Sixers had a busy offseason before them as it was, and when you throw in the truncated schedule and a new front office you could imagine they’re feeling quite a bit more pressure than other clubs.
Daryl Morey and his new front office are technically allowed to start making trades for next season on Nov. 16, two days before the NBA draft, and while there’s a lot of buzz around the Sixers potentially being aggressive this offseason given various circumstances, we should consider any trades for big names less likely than some might lead you to believe.
Nonetheless, if Morey does decide to make a splash, here are five names who have been linked to the Sixers and would make sense for the front office to target:
1. Chris Paul
CP3 has been a natural link to Philly for a while, and that only became more credible with the addition of Rivers as head coach and Morey as GM. Both men have a history with Paul, and while we shouldn’t read into that too much, it’s not a bad thing. Any riffs between CP3 and Rivers are overblown, and the driving force behind Paul’s interest here would still be Embiid and Simmons.
Concerns about his age (35) are more than fair, but he’s coming off one of the most efficient offensive seasons of his career—highest FG% (48.9) since 2010, second-highest true-shooting % (.610) of his career. He’s an elite facilitator who’s proven capable of sharing lead-guard duties at two stops now, and he more than satisfies the Sixers desire to add a pick-and-roll threat to pair with Embiid.
With two years remaining on his current deal I really don’t see any reason age should be a concern. Veterans, and pretty much only veterans, win in the NBA—if anything Paul’s Hall-of-Fame career’s worth of experience is an asset, let’s not get it twisted. This would definitely be a tricky trade to pull-off, as the Sixers would certainly need to involve a third team to make the money work (OKC won’t take money back) but that won’t deter Morey.
2. Buddy Hield
Heild is the name you hear most consistently in trade rumors, and he’s been a natural link to the Sixers for a while. He more than satisfies the desire to add spacing around Ben and Joel, as he’s one of the best perimeter shooters, specifically one of the best catch-and-shoot threats in the entire league (41% on high-volume, high-difficulty).
We know the Kings are looking to shed his $24 million annually to make room to re-sign Bogdan Bogdanovic, their preferred option at shooting guard, so this is more than a realistic option for Morey and the Sixers.
The main drawbacks are his vulnerability on defense and his inability to contribute in other areas offensively (outside of spacing). Heild is very similar to JJ Redick in regard to the give-and-take considerations that go into paying an elite shooter, and despite the obvious reasons not to pay that sort of player I think it’s fair to say the Sixers miss Redick. Heild and JJ’s flaws are the kind that rightfully scare away most teams, and the price doesn’t make that easier, but given the Sixers dire need for spacing he’s an obvious fit.
On the latest episode of “The Pulse of the City” podcast we were joined by Sixers Wire’s (USA Today) Ky Carlin, who eluded to the strong match between the Kings and Sixers to work out a deal. The angle is that both teams have a bad contract that they want to get rid of (Horford for Philly, Heild for Sacramento), and both players fit the needs of the other team better—therefore a swap of bad contracts is in the interest of both clubs. Obviously Morey would need to sweeten that offer a little to get it done—maybe Korkmaz and an early second rounder—but the larger point is that this is the exact type of deal the Sixers will look for.
3. Zach Lavine
I’ve written about Lavine to the Sixers in the past, and when you square a lot of considerations it’s hard to deny his perfect fit next to Ben and Joel. Elite scorer? Check. Shooter? Check. Pick and roll threat? Check. Young? Check. Team friendly contract? Check. Available for trade? Check (though he’s not exactly “on the block”).
Lavine isn’t the big name of Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, or anyone like that, but he’s not far behind offensively. His defense has been derided at times in the past, but when you take a deeper dive at his resume he actually holds up near the middle of the pack of perimeter defense while consistently drawing the most difficult matchups in the league—he’s undervalued because of this, and Morey surely knows it.
For a more detailed breakdown of why I love Lavine on the Sixers more than I initially expected to, you can check out this piece from earlier in the offseason:
“Sixers: Is Zach Lavine the missing piece?”
4. Jrue Holiday
Holiday rumors have bounced around for a while, and Jrue’s past in Philly combined with being an ideal off-ball PG to pair with Ben makes him an obvious fit here. My only concern is that we’d be getting him right at the tail-end of his prime, and thus won’t be worth his current contract.
Having said that it’s hard to deny the appeal—he’s a dogged defender (2X All-NBA Defense), strong three-point shooter (35.4% career clip), and can operate with or without the ball in his hands. In a lot of ways he’s the more ideal player for the role Josh Richardson fills than Josh. While Richardson is an excellent defender like Holiday, he’s not the same catch-and-shoot threat (Josh prefers to shoot off-dribble), and we found out he’s not a reliable lead guard when Simmons goes to the bench. J-Rich is a good basketball player on a good contract, but he’s not the best fit here; Jrue, on the other hand, absolutely is.
The Sixers have a history of seeing players immediately underperform their contract as soon as they get here, and given Jrue’s age (30) any sort of decline and he might not be worth $51.5 over the next two seasons. Throw in the idea of giving up assets for him and maybe this isn’t Morey’s first call, but it certainly is a move he should consider.
5. Victor Oladipo
Oladipo is a name you’re starting to hear floated around the league, but his recent injury history complicates things. On one hand he figures to be more affordable than you’d expect because of uncertainty around his overall health and the fact that he has just one year left on his current deal; on the other hand you have just one year of control and you can’t be fully sure what you’re trading for.
Given the Sixers recent offseason blunders this feels like a lot of risk for them to take on, but let’s assume for the sake of conversation that Morey believes he can stay healthy—this is the exact sort of stressed asset that he’ll be looking to pounce on. Oladipo would instantly provide the Sixers with a 3-and-D wing around Ben and Joel, while also being a more than capable backup ball-handler to supplement Simmons.
If Oladipo was healthy this would be a match made in heaven—though his value would obviously be much higher, and he’d be anticipating a max deal in the offseason—but right now he’s a wildcard. Best case scenario he would be the undervalued, distressed asset and “third star” the team is looking for; or worst case scenario he’d be an oft-injured, overpriced mistake, and another name in a list of disastrous offseason moves. While something tells me the Sixers won’t be the team willing to take on this sort of gamble, the idea is certainly intriguing.