Last week, in a trade deadline primer, Jim broke own the likelihood of some Sixers deals. He said it is “unlikely the Sixers will make any major waves before the February 8th cutoff.” Will and should are different ideas, but he thinks the team should be “sellers more than buyers, though not much of either.” Here is a counterpoint:
As of this writing, the Philadelphia 76ers are in position for a playoff spot. That hasn’t been the case for the last few years, so the team is in fairly new territory. They need to keep improving in order to keep that playoff spot. In order for this to happen, the trade deadline all of a sudden becomes an important time for the Sixers. While the play has been turning a corner lately, it doesn’t seem they have the firepower to stay consistently competitive with the super teams of the NBA. That is why at this point in the season attention needs to be turned toward bringing in said firepower.
The bench has been a topic of discussion for much of the season, and while injuries have taken their toll, the role players just haven’t been all that good this year. Right now the bench is 26th in the NBA in scoring, averaging 27.6 points per game, so if the starting lineup isn’t performing then the team is in trouble. There have been bright spots (TJ McConnell has grown into one of the best sixth men in the league) but besides that it has been a ton of mediocrity. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Jerryd Bayless have been plagued with inconsistency all year, and the big men have been replacement level so there is definitely room for improvement.
The addition of Markelle Fultz (whenever that may be) will be huge in whatever role he plays, just from the aspect of having another fresh body who can run the offense. Even with Fultz, the bench is still average, the Sixers will need to look outside of the organization in the form of wing players, their biggest weakness so far. Without Robert Covington on the court the wing play dramatically drops. In order for that to be fixed before the playoff run, the Sixers should look at rebuilding teams trying to sell off players and teams who are in basketball purgatory and aren’t in the position to make the playoffs.
How the next handful of games go will go a long way towards telling fans who the Sixers believe they are. Are they a team that doesn’t want to go all out at the deadline and just fix up a few flaws or even possibly stand pat? Or could they could pick up a player they believe could be a big piece of their future success?
If the team doesn’t want to make big waves, then Charlotte Hornets small forward Nicolas Batum could be a nice addition. Having a down year, Batum may not cost much in a trade as it seems the Hornets are trying to sell pieces like Batum and Kemba Walker. He has shown the consistency that the Sixers have been missing in the past, and a change of scenery may do the French forward some good. The Sixers have the cap space to take on Batum’s contract, which is what Charlotte seems most concerned about, so giving up future second round draft picks may be all it takes to secure him.
If the Sixers do in fact believe the time is now to trade for a bigger name, Rodney Hood of the Utah Jazz is available. Hood, who is the ideal mix of height and shooting ability, would cost more than someone like Batum, but he would also have much larger effect (Hood would also cost a $3.5 million option next year, while Batum is owed $70+ million over the next three seasons). Whether or not Hood would be willing to play off the bench might be the biggest question that halts this deal, as Covington won’t be moved to the bench in order for Hood to start and is smaller than Dario Saric who fills the role of stretch power forward well. Even with questions about how Hood would fit on the team, he would help them win games, simple as that, and he should be someone the Sixers should at least take a look at.
If the Sixers don’t plan to buy dramatically at the trade deadline, they still need to buy in some aspect. The bench has been a weakness for most of the year and bringing in a player to shore up a weak spot should be looked at as a necessary part of the big plan to eventually take over the NBA. For so many years the trade deadline was looked at as a time for the Sixers to move pieces in order to gain draft capital and set up for the future, but now that the future is here it is time to go out and make moves to better the team and try and win now.