With the moratorium period of free agency beginning on July 1st, the Philadelphia 76ers have been at the forefront of trade rumors and superstar free agents. The Sixers began their offseason with a solid draft, acquiring Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith and an unprotected 2021 first round pick from the Suns (via Heat) for Mikal Bridges, Wichita State point guard Landry Shamet, and SMU combo guard Shake Milton. Looking ahead to free agency, here are a few players being linked to the 76ers and some that they should take a look at to accumulate more depth behind their starters:
Due to a mishandling of Leonard’s right quad injury by the San Antonio Spurs medical staff, the star forward has been vocally seeking a trade to another franchise. Over the past few weeks, general manager RC Buford has listened to offers from teams around the league for the two-way superstar. Buford has publicly made it known that the Spurs prefer to move Leonard to the Eastern Conference, per Sam Amick, USA Today.
In come the 76ers. Fresh off a 52-win season and their first playoff series win since 2012, the Sixers are considered a favorite alongside the Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Conference next season. Armed with Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and first time All Star Joel Embiid, the 2018 3-seed is looking to improve upon last season’s success. A recent article by Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin on June 25th listed a possible trade scenario between the Spurs and 76ers for the 2-time Defensive Player of the Year and All Star. The scenario is this: Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills in exchange for Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless, and the 2021 Heat first round pick
My answer to this scenario? Never in a million years. In this scenario, the 76ers give up two integral pieces of their 2018 rotation in First Team All Defense recipient Robert Covington and key glue guy and fan favorite Dario Saric, as well as former number one overall pick Markelle Fultz, who hasn’t come anywhere close to realizing his full potential. Covington is routinely at the top of the league in deflections per game, can hold his own against the majority of wings in the league, and shoots over 35% from three. Saric is the perfect power forward to play between Simmons and Embiid with the ability to provide floor spacing (39.3% from 3) and secondary playmaking. With a full offseason of training with Drew Hanlen, the same trainer who worked closely with Embiid last offseason, Sixers fans can expect a more refined, smooth shooting stroke from Fultz next season. Why give up this much talent and a possible top five pick for a player with one year left on his contract and who has publicly expressed his desire to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers? The Spurs are in no position to be demanding of these assets for a disgruntled player who will leave them for nothing after the 2019 season.
The King is a different story. As a free agent, the Sixers do not need to give up nearly as much to acquire his services. With $30.5 million to work with and an easy way to carve out more cap space, the four time MVP and three time NBA Champion should be at the top of the 76ers’ free agent wish list. By adding LeBron, the Sixers become immediate championship contenders and with the team’s defensive versatility and shooting, they could provide a challenge to the reigning back-to-back champions, Golden State Warriors. The fit with Ben Simmons could seem a little iffy, but the King always finds a way to bring out the full potential in his teammates. Now, how could the 76ers sign LeBron?
The 76ers will most likely exercise team options on both TJ McConnell and Richaun Holmes to bring them back. By trading or using the stretch provision on Jerryd Bayless, the Sixers could save $5-8 million in cap room to offer a max contract to James. In addition, the 76ers will have to bring JJ Redick back on a team-friendly deal. They cannot afford to pay him another $23 million contract. Because Redick enjoyed a career-year in Philly and has expressed his interest in returning to the squad, I am quite sure he would take a cheaper deal in order to satisfy LeBron James. Granted, LeBron’s decision will not be the be-all, end-all for the 76ers as they can expect further development from their young players, but it would not be a bad idea to bring aboard the best player in the world to increase our chances of improving upon last season.
Other Players to Consider:
With key bench players Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova, and Amir Johnson heading to free agency, the Sixers need to build depth behind their dangerous starting five. Teams like the Warriors, Rockets, and Celtics predicate their team success on a reliable bench unit. If the team does not win the LeBron James sweepstakes or sign these players to veteran minimum or mid-level exception contracts, here are three names to consider for depth:
Kyle O’Quinn, Center
O’Quinn has carved out a role for himself as a stalwart defender, ferocious rebounder, and above-average rim protector. In 18 minutes per game with the Knicks last season, the big man averaged 7.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.3 blocks while shooting 50% on mid-range jumpers between 10-16 feet and 44.1% on even longer two’s. At the age of 28, O’Quinn is three years younger, and is a better passer and shooter than incumbent Amir Johnson. He could provide quality minutes behind Embiid in an energizer role if Brett Brown deems Richaun Holmes is not ready to assume a primary backup role.
Nerlens Noel, Center
What if the Sixers could bring in a guy already familiar with their franchise cornerstones and head coach? That guy is Nerlens Noel. After the Sixers dealt the former Kentucky big man for pretty much nothing, Noel could not break into Rick Carlisle’s rotation with the Mavericks. When healthy, he still has exceptional abilities on the defensive end with the capabilities to defend the pick-and-roll and the rim simultaneously while being McConnell and Fultz’s best friend in transition and lob opportunities, which could prove vital to the 76er’s bench unit. Remember, Noel is still only 24 and was the favorite to be the number one overall pick in 2013 but fell to six because of a torn ACL. If there are no hard feelings about being traded in 2017, I would be more than happy to bring back a Founding Father of The Process on a much needed, cheap one year “prove it” deal.
Tyreke Evans, Shooting Guard/Small Forward
*This deal could only happen if the Sixers miss out on LeBron*
Before last season’s trade deadline, the 76ers were reportedly inquiring about Memphis Grizzlies wing Tyreke Evans. Coming off his age-28 season, the former Rookie of the Year averaged 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.1 steals on 45.2/39.9/78.5 shooting. Last season, the Sixers desperately needed a go-to bench scorer who could create his own shot. Granted, if Redick resigns with the team, that role would go to Markelle Fultz, but alongside Fultz and McConnell, Evans could bring the bench unit to a whole new level. Evans would provide both a defensive and playmaking improvement over Marco Belinelli, something that the Sixers need from their second unit.
University of South Carolina ’21