Sixers analysis

Which areas could slumping Sixers most use help before trade deadline? 

How should Daryl Morey handle the impending trade deadline?

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Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey surely wouldn’t have minded more clarity in the days leading up to this year’s NBA trade deadline.

Joel Embiid had a procedure Tuesday on his injured left knee and will re-evaluated in approximately four weeks. Past that, Morey can’t have complete certainty about the reigning MVP’s future.

Embiid, who will turn 30 years old next month, may very well have won a second straight MVP award this season if he’d stayed healthy. In our view, it wouldn’t be logical to consider this year automatically hopeless because the Sixers have struggled without Embiid. Yes, his injury has dented their championship odds. But if Embiid is (or might be) available for the playoffs in his prime years, that season is meaningful and it’s therefore worth trying to improve the roster around him. 

Of course, the Sixers are primed to have ample flexibility in the summer. Only Embiid, Paul Reed and Jaden Springer are currently under contract for the 2024-25 season and it’s absolutely valid for Morey to estimate the likelihood of needle-moving offseason deals and weigh that as as he handles this year’s deadline. Again, not a clear or easy job.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that the Sixers are “going to continue to be buyers at this trade deadline” and “are trying to improve themselves on multiple fronts.”

So, ahead of Thursday afternoon's deadline, let’s examine several areas where the Sixers could use help:

‘Healthy bodies’ 

Before diving into anything deep, we’ll mention that healthy players alone would boost the Sixers. 

The team has been severely depleted for a while; Embiid, De’Anthony Melton, Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington all sat out Monday night’s loss to the Mavs. For Sixers head coach Nick Nurse, simply adding a player or players capable of filling minutes would be nice.

“Listen, I think we certainly have some flexibility,” Nurse said Sunday when asked about the Sixers’ deadline approach. “We certainly have some assets. I know it’s very difficult right now with so many guys in and out of the lineup. So just seeing what we can do to shore up — healthy bodies, things like that — they’ll have to explore those things.” 

Outside shooting

The Sixers obviously shouldn’t be chasing all of the NBA’s specialist shooters.  

However, their lack of three-point volume and subpar work overall from long range has become a glaring problem. According to Cleaning the Glass, the team ranks last in three-point frequency outside of garbage time and 18th in accuracy.

While Melton and Batum will be useful whenever they return, the Sixers could undoubtedly benefit from acquiring a willing and able shooter or two.

Shot creation 

Lightening the offensive load on Maxey would be quite valuable.

When healthy, Harris makes the offense look a tad brighter in terms of the Sixers posing multiple threats to a defense who can score 1-on-1 buckets late in the shot clock and bail out some stagnant possessions. 

Kelly Oubre Jr. has given the Sixers another scorer, although he’s slumped lately from three-point range, falling to right around his career long-distance percentage of 33.0. Oubre’s passing contributions have also been minimal; his 0.28 assist-to-usage ratio is in the first percentile for NBA wings, per Cleaning the Glass.

Melton and Batum have tools in their games besides catch-and-shoot, and backup point guard Patrick Beverley’s run plenty of offenses in his day. Still, shot creation is definitely not one of the Sixers’ strengths. 

A player like Bogdan Bogdanovic would address all of the areas just covered, though Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer reported Friday that Atlanta values the 31-year-old guard “as highly as any player on its roster not named Trae Young and Jalen Johnson.”

A proven big man 

Paul Reed is a tenacious rebounder and versatile defender who impressed in two spot starts last postseason, totaling 28 points and 20 rebounds in wins over the Nets and Celtics. Mo Bamba is a talented shot blocker who can knock down pick-and-pop jumpers. 

Both have well-known weaknesses, however, and it would be perfectly fair if the Sixers added a reliable, rotation-caliber veteran center. (Andre Drummond's a trade candidate who's had that role in Philadelphia before.) We imagine Nurse would appreciate any enhanced depth and dependability at the position without Embiid. Specifically, it would be great to have a big man who’s competent in the pick-and-roll and can make solid reads out of the 4-on-3 situations that occur when defenses blitz Maxey. 

Regardless, the Sixers’ offense against blitzes will likely accumulate many reps while Embiid is out. 

“Be in the same spot every single time (Maxey) gets blitzed,” Oubre said Monday night. “You see with Luka (Doncic) and Kyrie (Irving), we blitzed them and (their teammates) were in the same spots every single possession. And they were comfortable in those spots and knocking those shots down. That’s what we need. When Tyrese gets blitzed or whoever gets blitzed, we need to have outlets and guys who are ready and confident to make them pay for it.”

A Nurse-style player 

Like any good coach, Nurse aims to be adaptable and change his game plans based on whatever’s thrown his way.

His teams have a distinct look when they’re at their best, though. Nurse's squads tend to dominate the possession game, mix up their defenses, score regularly in transition, and wear on opponents with constant effort. 

The Sixers did much of the above during their 29-13 start.  It would be a bonus for a deadline pickup to naturally supplement Nurse’s style 

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