As the NBA Finals rage on, the Sixers are stuck poking around for ways to improve their roster and finally, mercifully get past the dang second round of the postseason.
With big money committed to Joel Embiid, big money likely committed to James Harden, and big money regrettably committed to Tobias Harris - not to mention big money eventually committed to Tyrese Maxey - the possibilities are not exactly limitless. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey needs to work his magic to make the Sixers better with marginal resources, both in cap space and in valuable + moveable assets with which he would willingly part.
And yet all signs indicate Morey would like to continue star hunting this offseason, which would likely necessitate the movement of numerous pieces and the commitment of even more big money to another player.
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Is this the best way to make the Sixers contenders? Stars win in the NBA, but so too does depth. Look at the Celtics: they have one superstar (Jayson Tatum), one star (Jaylen Brown), and a bunch of very good players behind those two.
NBC Sports Philadelphia producer Mike Mulhern posed this question on social media last week:
This got me thinking about what Morey could do - and who he could target - if he can find an agreement with another team about a player to select with the Sixers' No. 23 overall pick. (The pick isn't able to be traded ahead of time because the Sixers already traded their 2023 first-round pick in the Harden deal.)
So what if Morey forgoes the star chase and tries to turn No. 23 and some other assets into a good and useful player?
Here are five potential targets I came up with, including theoretical trade proposals:
PHI receives: B. Bogdanovic (2 years remaining, both at $18M)
ATL receives: D. Green, M. Thybulle, J. Springer, No. 23 overall pick
Bogdanovic is one of the names who frequently came up when the initial idea was tossed around on Twitter.
Bogie will be 30 when the 2022-23 season begins, and at this point it feels like he's a known commodity: his points-per-36 has been between 18.5 and 19.9 the last four seasons, he averages roughly four boards and four assists per game, and he's a career 38% three-point shooter and 82% free throw shooter. Good stuff!
But if you haven't paid close attention to his game, here's something that may have snuck past you: after being a legit defensive liability in his first NBA season, Bogdanovic's on/off defensive numbers were basically the best of his career, from points/100 possessions (1.4) to opposing eFG% (0.7%) to turnover rate (1.7%).
The guy is still offensively-minded, but he feels like a real two-way player now, which is great because the Sixers desperately need those.
Here I send out Danny Green's unwanted money (the Hawks feel ready to blow things up a bit so they'll take it), Matisse Thybulle who we're giving up on (the Hawks want to get young and he still has some upside), Jaden Springer (upside!), and the No. 23 overall pick.
Atlanta takes on a vet to grab youth while unloading a costly vet who doesn't fit their current trajectory. Win-win.
PHI receives: H. Barnes (1 year remaining at $18.3M)
SAC receives: D. Green, F. Korkmaz, M. Thybulle, No. 23 overall pick
Like Bogdanovic, Barnes will be 30 when next season begins. Entering his eleventh (!) season in the league, Barnes is similarly a known commodity at this point: a bucket-getter.
An exciting development in his recent game as he's reached vet status? He's much more efficient now! Barnes went from a career 54% true shooting percentage in his first 540 games as a pro to 60% in his last three seasons, including two straight years of 62% or better. He hits his threes nearly 40% of the time, including shooting a monstrous 42.4% on catch-and-shoot threes last year on 3.5 per game. That's very good!
The downside with Barnes is his defense. He's fluctuated year-to-year, but he's never been particularly good and while his recent stretch of seasons on an objectively bad team in Sacramento didn't help, his on/off defensive splits in opponent points/100 possessions, eFG%, and turnover rate were all bottom 10th percentile in the league. Yikes.
Losing Thybulle in this trade is a big part of why Sacramento would actually do it, along with the No. 23 overall pick. Green has to go in order to make the money work. The Furkan Korkmaz experiment is over. The Sixers get better at shooting, and then they need to find defensive difference makers elsewhere in free agency.
PHI receives: M. Beasley (1 year remaining at $15.4M, team option for 22-23 at $16.5M)
MIN receives: D. Green, M. Thybulle, No. 23 overall pick
I've been interested in Malik Beasley on the Sixers for years now. Maybe he's just a guy I like, but I think the 25-year-old would bring some much-needed juice at the wing.
The same problem that we had with Barnes - defense - remains true for Beasley, who has been decidedly bad in terms of his on/off numbers during the first five years of his career.
How much of that comes down to the player and how much of that comes down to operating within a putrid defensive system in Minnesota? No idea. He's averaged at least one steal per game in each of his seasons in the league, and his 1.2 defensive win shares last year was his second-highest mark of his career. But he would indeed need to be better to be considered an actual two-way upgrade.
That said, his offensive game is diverse enough to be a valuable addition. He's good at catch-and-shoot threes (38.2% last season), he can hit off the dribble (he made 51.1% of his shots off 3-6 dribbles), and he's a good free throw shooter (81% for his career).
Give me the springy, athletic wing who can shoot from deep and let's see if we can't get him to be a little more productive on both ends of the floor alongside a guy like Joel Embiid.
PHI receives: W. Barton (1 year remaining at $14.3M)
DEN receives: D. Green, M. Thybulle, No. 23 overall
Barton, 31, is entering his 11th season in the NBA and has one year left on a two-year, $30 million deal he signed with Denver. He counts for $14.3M against the cap next season, a relative bargain for a player who has shot 37% from deep over his last three seasons, adds five boards and 3.5 assists, and had a 56.1% effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot attempts last year.
The only real drawback might be his defense, which is unpredictable if you go by his year-to-year on/off defensive splits. He's been all over the board during his time in Denver, from a very strong showing in 2014-2015 to pretty ugly numbers in 2020-21. Being an average defender isn't a huge problem, but it's something to remember.
I see the value here for both sides.
For Denver, who landed 15th in defensive rating last season, adding Thybulle's defensive prowess would be a boon. We all know that team can score, and Nikola Jokic can get anyone open looks. Can they stop anyone? With Thybulle, things should improve. Danny Green's money can likely be repurposed, and they get a draft pick as well.
For the Sixers, they trade in a player they're ready to move on from in Thybulle and acquire more offensive depth while also moving off of Danny Green's contract next season. Addition by subtraction in multiple arenas.
PHI receives: D. Saric (1 year remaining at $9.24M)
PHX receives: M. Thybulle, F. Korkmaz, No. 23 overall pick
The return of The Homie!
I know the idea of bringing back a fan favorite often feels like hackneyed pining for days past, but I really do think 28-year-old Dario could fit on this Sixers team as a backup power forward, a small-ball center, and a general bucket-getter.
His role was reduced during his time in Phoenix so in terms of volume his numbers seemed to dip, but when you look at Saric's per-36 minutes he was actually averaging a career-best in points in 2020-21 while shooting 44% FG, 35% 3P, and 84% FT. He's relatively effective from all over the floor, inside and out, and would bring versatility to an offense that often felt stagnant when the Harden experiment was lagging.
For his career his defensive on/off splits were pretty shaky, but in his most recent season of action his numbers saw a dramatic uptick. Across 833 minutes he was in the 85th percentile league-wide in points/100 possessions, 78th percentile in turnover percentage, and a staggering 95th percentile in offensive rebounding percentage. That's solid! And considering the numbers jumped when the Suns became good, it would stand to reason they could be relatively sustainable if the Sixers remain good, especially with a guy like Joel Embiid on the team.
The question really is how exactly Saric's presence would jibe with Tobias Harris, who excels when he's a power forward. Saric would be coming off the bench, so in theory he could take power forward minutes when Harris is out, center minutes when Embiid is out, and be a gigantic small forward who can shoot if necessary.
He's also cheap and only signed for one more year, so if it's not the right fit it's a perfectly solvable problem.
PHI receives: B. Bogdanovic (1 year remaining at $19.5M)
UTA receives: D. Green, F. Korkmaz, M. Thybulle, No. 23 overall pick
The other Bogdanovic! Yes, I'm bookending this blog with Bogies. There's an agenda here.
This Bogdanovic is less appealing to me as a member of the Sixers: he's 33 years old, he's lost a step defensively as he's aged, and he's not as athletic as the younger Bogdanovic.
However! If Utah decides to trade Donovan Mitchell and/or Rudy Gobert and go into a rebuild-ish era, the aging Bogdanovic won't fit their future plans and he becomes a prime candidate to get moved as they look for young pieces.
Bogdanovic is decidedly a liability on the defensive end, so he's not my first pick. But he would absolutely help the Sixers on offense, providing James Harden and Joel Embiid a supremely reliable shooter: last season he made 38.8% of his catch-and-shoot threes, he hit 37.8% of his pull-up threes, and his 21.1 points per 36 minutes last season was the second-highest mark of his eight-year career.
Having a guy you can count on to space the floor, hit shots when you get him open looks, and grab a few rebounds would be tremendous. That was supposed to be Georges Niang, but Bogdanovic is an upgrade over Niang in every way.