Anticipation is building for the Philadelphia 76ers' 2015-16 campaign. As Brett Brown has sculpted a tenacious defenseout of the raw roster Sam Hinkie has assembled, the Sixers are starting to turn many doubters around the league into, not necessarily believers, but positively intrigued spectators. With Joel Embiid set to return in the fall, at least two 2015 first-round picks in Hinkie's pocket and another year of development for the rest of Brown's players, the team just announced its '15-16 season ticket campaign has transitioned from "Together We Build" to "This Starts Now." Did we mention new uniforms are coming in the fall, too?
All the above has discussion about the Sixers leading up to the trade deadline featuring a far different theme than a year ago. Let's take a look at how Philly has factored into the deadline rumor mill before it passes at 3 p.m.
Denver is the new Philly
The Sixers roster has no more Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes or Thaddeus Young to sell. As Jake Pavorsky previously alluded to, it's very unlikely any Sixer outside of Luc Mbah a Moute, Henry Sims, Andrei Kirilenko or Jason Richardson is dealt. Meanwhile, the Nuggets are looking to sell, sell, sell. It seems like a forgone conclusion that either Wilson Chandler or Arron Afflalo will be moved to a West contender looking for wing depth. Ty Lawson's name has been thrown around a bunch. Kenneth Faried is always discussed in trade talk. Simply put: Executives around the league are talking about the Nuggets like they were about the Sixers this time last year, a team full of players that could, in theory, soundly bolster a contending team's roster.
Sixers staying quiet
Without those players to willingly move at the deadline, the Sixers should have a relatively quiet deadline. It seems impossible for Philly to come away with less than one or two additional second-round picks. The Sixers are just about $20 million under the salary cap, with plenty of wiggle room to take back salary in exchange for a pick. Philly only has one available roster spot, however, which will limit their flexibility. Hinkie is the first call many GMs make when trying to incorporate a third party to help facilitate a trade.
Besides that, teams around the league aren't expecting the Sixers to make any splashy moves before the summer of 2016. Outside of an unforeseen James Harden or Kevin Love-esque scenario, rival teams aren't predicting the Sixers to aggressively pursue adding talent outside of the draft. Why trade for a big name or sign a free agent when you don't even know what your current crop of players will turn into? There's really no point of signing Jimmy Butler when the Sixers could potentially take Stanley Johnson and he becomes a max-level player, for example.
I have a feeling that until Michael Carter-Williams signs his second contract and shows he can be a difference-maker in the playoffs, trade rumors will swirl around him and the Sixers like they did with Rajon Rondo in Boston. The truth of the matter is, MCW is towards the bottom of a loaded barrel of point guards in today's NBA. He's got loads of potential — which I certainly still think he can realize — but he's 45th in PER among point guards this season. His trade value doesn't seem like it will garner enough in return to pull the trigger on a deal.
There's a pretty good point guard market this trade deadline. Lawson is definitely available. Then there's the Phoenix Suns' point guard situation, where Goran Dragic has requested a trade and reportedly won't re-sign this summer and the Suns could easily move the Dragon and backup Isaiah Thomas, too. There's also Reggie Jackson and the thought Oklahoma City might look to move him to avoid paying the luxury tax. Brooklyn is trying to move Deron Williams as well, although his contract makes it extremely unlikely.
If a contender is looking for point guard help, there are far easier, and better options than MCW.
First round picks are now more available
Just a season after teams were coveting 2014 first round picks like a Willy Wonka golden ticket, teams seem to generally hold a lower value for future first round picks this season. We've already seen 2015 first round picks change hands five times this season — although that's including Minnesota's which is top-12 protected and will not be going to Boston this season — and Adriean Payne was dealt for a 2017 first rounder, too.
With teams like Portland and Boston potentially looking to re-tool for the playoffs — nobody knows whether the Celtics will be buys or sellers and could even end up being both — while stocked with picks, we could see more future firsts on the move. Along the future pick lines, the Sixers will be competing with Sacramento, New York and Utah to open up roster spots in exchange for future assets. I've heard those three teams mentioned as organizations that are gearing to dip their toes into the 10-day contract pool following the deadline. Yet, Sac-Town could also turn into buyers with new head coach George Karl already looking ahead to next season. The last team to keep an eye on in this regard is Orlando. The Magic have several valuable players they could move, most notably Channing Frye, and it wouldn't hurt to acquire more future picks to surround their very raw, young core.
Lastly, I have no idea why Nik Stauskas' name keeps getting thrown around with rumors involving the Sixers. I've definitely heard that Philly was intrigued with Stauskas during the pre-draft process last summer, but the fact that it would seemingly take Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, K.J. McDaniels or Robert Covington to land him seems like a pretty high price. Covington himself is a perfect example of why I think NBA teams should never pay a premium for shooting. The Sixers signed him for essentially nothing and he's become one of the best three-point shooters in the entire NBA. Why throw away the chance to develop a superior athlete and more well-rounded basketball player for a chance at Stauskas?Especially when Covington's old team, the Houston Rockets, called Troy Daniels up from the D-League just before the playoffs last season and he helped the Rockets get to Game 7 against Portland. There will always be cheap shooting available in the NBA. It makes very little sense to trade away valueable young players for a guy like Stauskas who, at this point in his career, has shown to be very one-dimensional offensively, struggles mightily defensively and can barely get on the floor for a 18-34 Sacramento team. Obviously, Sacramento's questionable decision-making leaves them a pretty enticing trade partner, but I'd only be phoning the Kings if I was trying to steal Ben McLemore or give my best offer for DeMarcus Cousins.