Sixers analysis

A rundown on Sixers' pickups in Harden trade, what the team looks like now

The Sixers are adding four players on expiring contracts.

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As the night wound down Sunday following the Sixers’ 28-point win, a big screen in the team’s locker room showed another blowout: The Clippers were cruising to an easy victory over the Spurs. 

Some of those Clippers are expected to have spots in the Wells Fargo Center home locker room soon.

The Sixers’ agreed-upon trade to send James Harden, PJ Tucker and Filip Petrušev to L.A. doesn’t alleviate all of the team’s uncertainty. For one, the four players coming to the Sixers — Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, KJ Martin and Marcus Morris Sr. — are all on expiring contracts. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey suggested multiple times that a Harden deal could result in the team positioning itself to later land a top-end talent. Indeed, the draft picks acquired will serve that aim.

As for the short term, where do the Sixers stand? Here’s a rundown on their new additions and a couple of thoughts on their post-trade roster:

Robert Covington 

Covington started his professional career with Morey’s Rockets and thrived for the 2013-14 Rio Grande Valley Vipers, winning the D League’s Rookie of the Year award. Sixers head coach Nick Nurse had led RGV to a championship the season prior. 

Many Sixers fans remember Covington’s next steps as a fixture of “Process”-era teams. He established himself as a 3-and-D forward who tallied tons of steals, deflections and blocks year after year. Covington’s small-ball center experience — another link to Morey, naturally — is notable as well, especially in light of the Sixers losing two frontcourt players in Tucker and Petrušev.

Nicolas Batum 

We imagine Nurse won’t mind that Batum also has a wingspan over 7 feet and a good track record with forcing turnovers.

Batum is past his prime — he’ll turn 35 years old in December — but he’s tended to be useful in a wide variety of situations because of his well-rounded game. Batum can guard most players, regardless of position; his playmaking is nice to have on a second unit; he’ll take and make open threes. 

Kenyon Martin Jr.

Sixers general manager Elton Brand was the 1999 NBA draft’s first pick. Martin’s father, Kenyon Martin Sr., went No. 1 the next year. 

Martin is still developing and has no playoff experience yet, but he’s an exceptional athlete and dunker.

The 6-foot-6 Martin’s 173 dunks ranked seventh in the NBA last season, according to Basketball Reference. That is a wild stat, but it makes sense when you watch Martin play.

Marcus Morris Sr. 

Morris and twin brother Markieff were born and raised in Philadelphia.

The Clippers had been listing Morris as out with a “coach’s decision” designation to begin the regular season. He dealt with a groin injury during the preseason.

Morris, who played for Nurse in Rio Grande as a rookie, leans on his jumper. He made a career-high 47.3 percent of his three-pointers in the 2021-22 season, but his long-range mark has dropped to 36.5 percent over the past two years. 

So, if this 2.0 version of the 2023-24 Sixers does take the floor, who will start? 

Covington and Kelly Oubre Jr. are each potential options to fill Tucker’s spot. So is Batum, although in our view, the notion of his playmaking in bench lineups without Tyrese Maxey sounds better on paper. 

Has anything changed about the team’s strengths and weaknesses? 

Maxey and Joel Embiid are the unquestioned core pieces now. The continued growth of their two-man game — and continued health — will be essential. Nothing about Covington, Batum, Morris or Martin should force the Sixers to dramatically alter their style. 

Tucker’s impact genuinely went far beyond his modest stats. Danny Green, who will reportedly be waived for roster-space reasons, is also a significant loss in the veteran wisdom and leadership department. Patrick Beverley may now fill an even larger role in terms of telling stars like Embiid some uncomfortable truths and helping to maintain strong team habits day-to-day behind the scenes. 

Strictly from a team chemistry standpoint, Covington's relationship with Embiid shouldn't hurt at all. We can expect to hear some Embiid-Batum conversations in French, too.

The Sixers have a slightly different situation now behind Embiid, although it still seems likely that Nurse will trust Paul Reed at backup center. Perhaps this trade will push the plan to give Reed power forward minutes next to Embiid down the road a bit.

Again, there’s not much that’s fully settled and many questions remain about the Sixers.

However, for the first time in a long time, none of them relate to James Harden. 

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