After another Sixers season ends with an early playoff exit, it’s become increasingly clear that the team’s nucleus of talent is still a star-level piece away from competing for a Finals. In his post-season presser, Daryl Morey acknowledged that the team “needs to get better,” admitting, “Frankly if we’re just squeaking by the second round, we are not good enough to win the title.”
More specifically, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons need to be paired with an elite scorer who demands double teams on the perimeter, and that reality hasn’t changed from previous seasons. Last week, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported, “There’s a consensus around the league that Morey resisted [trading for Lowry at the deadline] because he’s angling for an even greater star [in the offseason].” The implication being that he has his eye on names like Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine, and the like.
You could certainly argue that “getting better” doesn’t necessarily have to involve adding another star piece, but it’s pretty clear that’s what the Sixers need. Last offseason the Milwaukee Bucks eschewed depth in favor of top-end talent in an attempt to better position themselves for a Finals run, and it’s easy to see how adding Jrue Holiday has paid off for them in these playoffs. After the Sixers maximized the role players around their big-three last offseason, it’s time for Morey to go in the other direction this summer.
There aren’t any stars or superstars currently on the trade block, but in the NBA things move fast when a player becomes unhappy with their situation, and there are a number of candidates who could theoretically become available as soon as this offseason. While Lillard is the white whale of these discussions, the chances of him being moved are effectively 0%. LaVine, on the other hand, has been an ideal target for a while, but doesn’t appear to be as close to the trading block as some media assume. That leaves us with Beal, who I believe is the most likely high-profile trade candidate of the 2021 offseason.
To be clear, Washington won’t be in a hurry to move the face of their franchise, but with just one year (and a player option) remaining on his contract, their leverage in trade negotiations will expire in the next few months unless Beal signs an extension (October would be the earliest allowable date). However, with Beal approaching an inflection point in his career (he’ll turn 28 next week), I doubt that he wants to kick the can down the road in regard to his future—he’s been in limbo with Washington for long enough.
All of this leads me to believe that his divorce from the Wizards is coming sooner than later. The strong relationship between Beal and the organization means there likely won’t be an ugly breakup that kneecaps Washington’s leverage in trade negotiations, and as it stands right now both sides are incentivized to work toward a mutually beneficial outcome—assuring that the Sixers or any trade suitor will be paying near full-price for Beal. However, that relationship also assures that when Beal decides he wants out, the Wizards will grant that wish as soon as possible.
In the event that Beal is ready for greener pastures outside of DC, Morey and the Sixers have clearly indicated that they’ll be ready to pounce. Here’s one trade scenario that theoretically works for both teams:
Would Washington do it?
The headline of the package is shared between Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle—one established, near All-Star player; and one of the most prolific perimeter defenders in the league. Where Matisse would factor into the Wizards long-term plans, Tobias would be in a position to pad his numbers and boost his trade value to be flipped down the road (though at 29 years old and under contract, Washington would have options with him).
Beyond that, Milton is a really nice young piece who may not have high potential, but as a legitimate NBA rotation player who can dribble and shoot, it’s fair to say that he has trade value (however marginal). Hill, on the other hand, falls into the “flippable asset” basket—for the sake of conversation, consider him as another second round pick in terms of trade value.
That leads us to the bounty of picks—this season’s 28th overall pick, a 2023 unprotected first rounder, the best available second rounder in 2023 between ATL/CHA/BK, and a top-3 protected first rounder in 2026. While none of these picks figure to be premium, they’re a good starting point for a rebuild on top of the assets already included in this deal.
While I would understand if some Wizards faithful didn’t approve of this deal, this would be one of the more impressive hauls for a star in recent NBA history. Organizations with a star on his way out the door are just fortunate when they don’t receive pennies on the dollar in return, and this package is certainly worth more than that.
Would the Sixers do it?
If you’re still holding out on a deal like this after the playoff exit we just witnessed then I’m not sure what to tell you. This trade adds the runner-up scoring champ in Bradley Beal and a sharpshooting big wing in Davis Bertans, all while preserving Simmons and Maxey. If you think Morey can add someone of this stature without giving up Thybulle or Maxey, you’d be wrong.
Beal is the missing piece in the Sixers offense, and his fit next to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is undoubtable, if not damn near perfect. As an off-ball wing scorer who can also operate with the ball in his hands, Beal can coexist with both of these stars while also being the closer that the team has desperately needed.
The key to this fit is that he’s a shot-maker who doesn’t dominate the ball or demand that offense always flow through him—a rare skillset for today’s star players. If anything, playing alongside Ben and Joel will grant him more freedom than when he was paired with John Wall and Russell Westbrook.
While I understand this move thins out the Sixers depth, that’s a risk worth taking in pursuit of a player like Beal. Here’s what their new rotation would look like:
- Tyrese Maxey
- Bradley Beal
- Danny Green (re-sign)
- Ben Simmons
- Joel Embiid
- Seth Curry
- Davis Bertans
- * 3-and-D wing *
- * backup PG/ball-handler *
- * stretch 5 * (possibly BBall Paul)
As far as “top-7’s” go, this is a major step up from what the team presented last season, and would arguably be the best 7-man group in the league. Adding a 3-and-D wing, a backup ball-handler, and a stretch-five will be vital to filling out the team’s rotation, but ultimately it’s the top half of the roster that determines playoff success, and there’s no doubt that the Sixers top tier of talent improved in this scenario.