If the Sixers plan on making any noise come playoff time, they're going to need to make some significant changes. While some still look at the challenges in transitioning into a “Big Three,” the biggest question mark is still the bench production. By trading Robert Covington and Dario Saric, the team knew they were sacrificing depth for star power, but that doesn’t mean they have to sit tight now while the bench flounders. The trade has helped out in terms of production from the starting unit, but now the bench unit is as weak as we’ve ever seen it.
At the moment, if the Sixers try to give their trio of stars any type of rest, they run the risk of blowing a potential lead. There just seems to be no confidence in the backups at the moment. This isn’t to say there isn’t some upside with the group. Jonah Bolden has shown flashes of being a solid defender and rim runner, T.J. McConnell always brings his scrappy style of play, and Landry Shamet has been the first usable late first-rounder the Sixers have drafted in a long time.
The problem with this is you don't know if you can count on these younger players on the Sixers bench to contribute late into the year and into the playoffs. A sense of reliability is missing and the Sixers have the ability to fix that in time for the playoffs through smaller trades and by utilizing the buyout market.
There probably isn’t going to be a player the Sixers could acquire that would completely change the outlook of the playoffs, but some extra additions could give the team a boost. Last year’s additions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova weren’t earth-shattering moves, but still helped. That's what needs to be done again.
Depending on what the Sixers are willing to give up in a trade, they could look to upgrade the starting power forward position with someone from a bad team, such as Markieff Morris of the Washington Wizards. The problem with this move is that it does come with some injury concern. Morris was diagnosed with transient cervical neuropraxia in his neck and won’t be available to play for an extended period of time, possibly into March. With the trade deadline set for February 7th the Wizards would have to be willing to acquire substantially less in order to move an injured player, and the Sixers should jump on that. A potential trade package isn’t yet known but if the Sixers feel comfortable with Morris’ recovery by the trade deadline they may be able to land a starting power forward for a fraction of the normal cost. An added toughness will be brought to the starting lineup and Wilson Chandler would shift to a less strenuous role off the bench with decreased minutes as a result.
A change to the starting power forward spot may not be the top priority, so look for the possibility of new wing players to the bench unit. Players that stand out as possible trade targets are Garrett Temple, Terrence Ross and Jonathon Simmons due to their ability to space the floor and play serviceable defense on wings. Temple seems like the most sensible target due to some moves the Memphis Grizzlies have already made, getting him to be a veteran floor spacer and defender would be a solid move. With the hopeful return of Zhaire Smith and a possible acquisition of one or two of these three, the Sixers bench all of a sudden has a bit more depth and defensive capability than what is seen now. What exactly the Sixers would have to give up in order to get another wing piece isn’t clear, but all of these options seem to be affordable.
Besides smaller trades the Sixers also have until March 1st to sign free agents that have been bought out from their contracts. Players available on the buyout market aren’t known just yet, but one player that should garner the Sixers attention if he is bought out is Atlanta Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon. The lack of depth for the team as a whole is concerning, but when Joel Embiid isn’t available the problems at center are highlighted. Without a true center on the roster besides Embiid the addition of Dedmon would help give the Sixers a big physical body in the middle that could give the franchise center some extra rest. Having a reliable backup center will help keep Embiid fresh down the stretch, something that the Sixers haven’t had all year.
Acquiring some combination of Morris, Temple and Dedmon won’t be the flashiest of changes, but nonetheless changes that need to be made in order for the Sixers to be taken seriously come playoff time. The “Big Three” can carry the team for the most part, but having reliable secondary players helps them not need to carry all of the load themselves.