The NBA trade deadline, like the start of the season, has been bumped up this year. We’re just 22 days away from this season’s cut-off point. The Sixers aren’t looking to take on salary dumps in exchange for stockpiling picks for the now second year in a row. It still feels a little foreign. So what shape are they in? Let’s discuss:
Buyer or Seller?
Looking forward to next year, the Sixers will have just over $31 million in cap space after dropping their cap holds. Barring a trade this year or a restructured contract/extension somewhere, that’ll leave the Sixers with the third-highest “Practical Cap Space” for next season according to Spotrac (Lakers are #1 by a wide margin).
That has little to do with this year’s trade deadline, but a lot to do with the Sixers’ immediate future. The Sixers are in a holding pattern of sorts. Bryan Colangelo has made moves in the past with the seemingly sole purpose of keeping unnecessary money off of the books for this coming offseason to make a run at LeBron James/Kevin Durant/Paul George/whoever. Most deals that would be exciting in any way would bring a player in for a longer-term deal, and that doesn’t seem like it’s in Bryan’s playbook right now.
For those reasons, the Sixers are likely more seller than buyer, though not too much of either.
Who can move? Who is untradeable?
At this point, your only truly untradeable assets are Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Robert Covington is a big part of this team’s future, but his value was actually increased by signing him to a team friendly extension. T.J. McConnell also seems to be here for the long haul, but he’ll make less than $2 million next year and could be a target for a top-tier team in need of backup PG talent. Dario Saric’s rookie-scale contract makes him both valuable to the Sixers and any team who would want to acquire him.
The one stand-out as a movable asset is Jerry Bayless and his $8,575,916 salary for next year. In fact, removing Bayless leaves you with this full list of players who the Sixers will be paying more than $5 million to next season: Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, and Joel Embiid. That’s it. Dario Saric, T.J. McConnell, Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Richaun Holmes and Furkan Korkmaz will make a combined $11.2 million, and at least two of those players aren’t guaranteed to make it past the draft/next year’s deadline*. A Bayless move is the means to a cap-clearing end, so you’ll likely need to package a couple of 2nds or a 1st to even move him. If the Sixers think dropping picks is worth an extra $8.6 million next year (plus whatever they’d be off the hook for when it comes to paying draft picks), it’s a move they could pursue.
What do the Sixers need?
The question is more what don’t they need. They’re set at the starting center position, but a reliable backup could be valuable. They need shooters now and they’ll need them in the future should the Sixers not bring JJ Redick back. Dario Saric has been playing well, but someone to spend some time with him at the 4 who can stretch the floor more reliably would be valuable. Ben Simmons is the team’s point guard, but a backup point/combo guard would be valuable should Markelle Fultz’s situaton not resolve itself in the way that we all hope. Essentially, they can use almost anything.
What’s the dream trade?
For the reasons stated above, Jerryd Bayless would likely be the ideal trade candidate. Amir Johnson could be moved, but he’s off the books next year anyway, and the Sixers aren’t in a position to make moves in order to make a run at an NBA title this season (typically a real bad idea anyway).
TLC and Anderson, while both have shown flashes, may not have minutes on a team next season that is going to spend a lot in free agency, and they barely get them now. Neither have much value. TJ and Richaun have one more team-option season before becoming unrestricted free agents, but at least TJ is a candidate for an extension rather than a trade. Richaun should be, but he’s having a hard enough time seeing the floor now.
Our own Jake Hyman had two ideas. First:
With Atlanta’s Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova surfacing as early mentions on the trading block, Bryan Colangelo should have Travis Schlenk’s number on line one. Colangelo could comply with Atlanta’s demands of a high second-round pick, wielding both Brooklyn and the more favorable of New York or L.A. Clippers’ 2018 second-round pick. A Sixers-Ilyasova reunion would provide Brett Brown with a second unit floor spacer while acquiring Belinelli would create competition with Jerryd Bayless. I’d rather Colangelo avoid trading draft capital for a starting off-ball guard, while compromising Dario Saric’s starting role, and instead inject some life into a listless bench. Reinforcements might be necessary for creating some April noise as a playoff seed.
Both Belinelli and Ilyasova fit two of the needs outlined above, and neither are owed any money past this season. However, bringing them in to close out the season here with an eye towards giving them some affordable future roster consistency could be a smart move, if you think you can resign them.
Overall, it seems unlikely the Sixers will make any major waves before the February 8th cutoff. At the same time, we don’t know what’s in Bryan’s head, and there are moves he can make without compromising the team’s salary standing going into next season. We’ll just have to wait and see.
* We’re all operating under the assumption that Jonah Bolden comes over this off-season. If that’s the case, his salary will hardly be a blip on the chart.