This morning ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Wizards may be open to breaking apart their nucleus. Just 5-11, even if they could turn things around and make a push for the playoffs, it seems clear there is no title hopes for the team as presently constructed.
Following a four-year period where the Wizards won no more than 29 games over a 5 year period (one of which was the lock-out shortened season), the team was able to stock pile 4 top 6 picks:
But unlike Sam Hinkie, Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld was not able or willing to supplement his rebuilding years with a bevy of additional assets (some 25 odd picks or swaps the Sixers accumulated under Hinkie’s leadership) to help off-set any misses he may have had, like Jan Vesely. And now it’s clear that he’s lacking in talent and chemistry to continue a title quest.
This is the time to make some big changes.
Sixers recent GM candidate, and now Senior VP of Player Personnel, Marc Eversley recently worked under Grunfeld, just before Bryan Colangelo brought Eversley to Philadephia. Perhaps he has the relationships within the Wizards front office to open the kimono for a potential deal.
But what would realistic bids look like?
Heading into the 2017 NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, John Wall was an ALL-NBA talent. But since then, and because of this honor, he became eligible and received a supermax contract. He also underwent knee surgery. Now he has $141.6m guaranteed, with a ~$47m option for 2023. Even though it seems as though his productive days are far from over, it’s one of the leagues ghastlier contracts and a case-study in why the Designated Veteran Extension is often unappealing to teams (see DeMarcus Cousins).
For the Sixers, there is no scenario where Wall appeals to them. His on court fit, his personality, his injury history, and his contract are all non-starters here. Let’s move on.
There are many Sixers fans who dream of Bradley Beal in the other red-white-and blue uni just up the coast from D.C. A career 39% three point shooter and 3 level scorer, he provides the floor spacing the Sixers have had so much trouble finding, and he can also create off the dribble. He just turned 25 years old and his injury problems appear to be behind him. He is making ~$25.4m this year. He is clearly the Wiz’s player with the most market value and certainly not a player they’d like to move first.
I wonder if anyone on the Sixers values his combination of skills, age, and salary enough to throw their hands up having recently used key assets to acquire Butler (in a walk year) only to hear that now Beal is potentially available.
A deal that reasonably aligns salary and gets the Wizards some of what they want might look like:
Wilson Chandler ($12.8m expiring)
Markelle Fultz ($8.3m, 2 years and a team option)
Zhaire Smith ($2.6m, rookie)
Landry Shamet ($1.7m, rookie)
Miami 2021 first round pick.
This is essentially all of the Sixers best assets. The problem is it may still not be close. GM Elton Brand certainly wouldn’t begin with all of this, but ultimately it’s a price he’d likely be very happy to make. Especially considering that he would have to trade or renounce most or all of the above players anyway in an attempt to later retain newly acquired Jimmy Butler, once Beal’s salary was accounted for. All of this assuming the team’s owners are prepared to be tax payers with exponentially mounting sums for 2 or more consecutive years, as well. Although a core of Beal, Butler, Simmons and Embiid seems worth paying for.
While the Wizards may not be better off simply holding onto Beal and their current core, the Sixers will not have much leverage. Keep in mind, all it would take would be an offer Washington prefers (either for Beal or as indicated by the ESPN article, another player). Which brings us to...
This poll did not demonstrate a willingness to part with former first overall pick, Markelle Fultz, but was likely cast by Sixer fans. The opportunity to hedge ones bets on the athletic sophomore with the shooting woes, by swapping him for the non-spectacular yet highly valuable swiss-army knife skill-set of Porter is one that would provide a massive lift to the Sixers’ standing in the Eastern conference both immediately and moving forward.
Considering Porter provides plus defense on at least 3 positions, floor spacing, someone who can both play on-ball in a pick and roll or roll man, and would allow the Sixers a much more switchable defense alongside the likes of Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler, it’s possible he’d allow Coach Brett Brown a brand of basketball that has not yet been fully available to the Sixers; allowing a synergistic “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” level of team play.
For Fultz, it would be the chance to return home, something that might not be unappealing to him, considering the challenging road he has faced in Philadelphia. To this end, Liberty Ballers has learned that this is not something Fultz is currently considering. He’s currently focused solely on improving his own game.
The price of the above deal would likely be insufficient even if the Sixers made it. It doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Wizards to do because if they were retaining Wall and Beal there may not be the minutes and patience to develop Fultz and his current shooting woes; although there may be pieces on other teams they’d prefer and be open to playing 3rd team facilitator as well. (A three-way deal between the Suns or Magic, Sixers and Wizards?)
Almost certainly, the Sixers would have to include more assets to make this work. The downside would be losing the opportunity to pursue better and only slightly more expensive stars this summer. This is something worth exploring with their burner cell-phones now to see who may be interested in joining Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. You wouldn’t want to react too quickly to hedge with dream scenarios floating out there.
Here is what The Athletic’s Frank Isola recently said about the possibility of the Sixers landing Kevin Durant:
If I were the Sixers I’d be very interested in Porter, but not at all interested if I felt I had a good or even reasonable chance to sign a true star.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Some Sixer fans have had their eye on Oubre Jr. He worked out with Joel Embiid under the Pure Sweat umbrella of Drew Hanlen this summer. He’s young and athletic, has an attitude and in theory a player with some upside. The problem is that as a restricted free-agent, if another team were to make an offer or him, it would be for a minimum of 3 years. And since he’s now shooting just 28% from 3 and not likely to solve the Sixers spacing issues, there would be a chance they don’t want to commit to him long term, which makes parting with the assets it could take to get him not worth their while.
It seems that both Beal and Porter are worth calling about. Unlike the Butler situation, it’s not likely that the asking price for Beal would change much between now and the trade deadline. I’d make a high offer for him and be prepared to be swiftly rejected. And regarding Porter, I’d have Eversley open the kimono now and see what an offer could look like. Then I’d have my team of spies begin making back-channel overtures to the Kevin Durants, the Kemba Walkers, the Klay Thompsons, the Kyrie Irvings, the Kris Middletons, the Tobias Harrises of the world.
I’d want to have a good sense of my chances as a player in the market before I pulled the trigger on Porter. But I’d strongly consider it if I could rule out all of those players as options.