The Philadelphia 76ers are likely hoping to improve their roster before the February 7th NBA trade deadline comes and goes. But there’s not exactly a smorgasbord of impact players on the market. With the Western Conference standings packed tighter than a can of sardines and the 11th place Orlando magic only 2.5 games out of the Eastern Conference playoffs, there could be a bloated pool of buyers and only about six or seven sellers come the week of the deadline. Likely among those sellers will be the Memphis Grizzlies, and they may be able to do the Sixers a favor.
The Grizzlies started the season well but have faltered as of late, dropping 9 of their last 10 games. The recent struggles in Memphis are forcing management to consider prioritizing long term goals over a desperate playoff push: according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Grizzlies are listening to offers for franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
The Sixers are not an ideal fit for Mike Conley and the $67 million he’ll be paid in the next two seasons; nor are they a fit for 33-year-old Marc Gasol, who I can’t imagine would be content filling the role of Joel Embiid’s backup. So why is Woj’s report pertinent to the Sixers? Well, it might indicate that Memphis, learning from their mistake of holding on to Tyreke Evans through last year’s deadline only to see him walk in free agency, is ready for a fire sale. In such a case, Elton Brand should dial up Chris Wallace and work the margins. Specifically, Garrett Temple could be a solid, low-cost get for a Sixers team in need of wings.
Temple’s early NBA career saw him bouncing around the league as an afterthought and he even played a season in Italy following the 2011 NBA lockout. But in recent years, Temple has turned himself into a reliable NBA rotation option. This season, Temple is averaging 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.5 stocks in 31.5 minutes per game. Not exactly eye-popping production from someone playing starter minutes, I know. But the Sixers could desperately use a player who is competent on both ends of the floor, and Garrett Temple can provide that two-way play even if he’s not pouring it on in the points column.
Given the Sixers’ lack of effective wings, Temple fits in with the team pretty seamlessly. His presence would usurp much of the floor time Furkan Korkmaz is seeing, and possibly minimize or eliminate the dreaded TJ McConnell-Ben Simmons lineup minutes. Depending on match ups, Temple could even be a feasible spot-starter, allowing Wilson Chandler to come off the bench.
Temple isn’t a marksman by any stretch, but his distance shooting is right around average for his career (35.7%) and the current season (35.8%). When factoring his catch-and-shoot percentage of 38.9% from distance, Temple should provide ample floor spacing and is especially compatible with Ben Simmons-led lineups. Now, although I stress an importance and need for capable three-point shooting given Philly’s roster construction, no one will complain about adding players with layers to their offensive game. At 32-years-old, Temple sort of is what he is — so he’s unlikely to develop any further. But while he’s not exactly the most dynamic scorer the NBA has to offer, Temple doesn’t need to be relegated to only spotting up in the corner. According to Synergy, this season the 6’6” guard-forward is above-average when cutting (1.324 points per play) and in transition (1.24 ppp). He’s fared well when isolating but on a very small sample size (1.067 ppp on 15 possessions). Defensively, Temple is an immediate upgrade over any of the players on the Sixers bench unit. He’s generally an engaged and effective team defender. However, he can sometimes struggle one-on-one or defending the pick-and-roll.
There are some obstacles GM Elton Brand would have to overcome to make this trade happen. Temple is on an expiring contract (good), but the value of his contract is $8 million (meh). To find the salary exchanges required for a deal, a contract must be sent to Memphis. Something like swapping Mike Muscala, who is on a $5 million expiring deal, for Garrett Temple could suffice. Admittedly, I have a tenuous grasp on the NBA’s CBA and the financial stipulations therein. But the trade works in both the RealGM trade checker and the ESPN trade machine. If those are mistaken and more space needs to be cleared, Amir Johnson could be a casualty. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer stated on a recent podcast that waiving Amir may be an option for the Sixers, as it would create cap space/a roster spot in preparation for the buyout market, regardless of a trade. Making that move would free up another $2.7 million, bringing the total outgoing salaries to $7.7 million.
Still, issues arise. Why would Memphis do such a deal? Well, they wouldn’t. Elton Brand would need to sweeten the pot with draft capital (or, can I interest you in the rights to Anzejs Pasecniks?). By no means should the Sixers put a first round pick on the table to acquire journeyman Garrett Temple. But tapping into the plethora of second round picks in Philly’s portfolio could be an acceptable option.
If Philly sends out Mike Muscala and waives Amir Johnson, suddenly a lot of responsibility is thrust upon young Jonah Bolden: Muscala is both playing the four and backing up Joel Embiid. It is questionable whether Bolden is up to the task. So in a way, the Sixers are in danger of solving one problem by creating another. But a simple solution could be to find a big in the buyout market; someone like Robin Lopez (though the Bulls are rumored to have desires of trading Lopez rather than buying him out). Lopez has looked washed at times this season, but that could happen to any veteran playing for the 11-36 Chicago Bulls. At only 30-years-old, RoLo may just need a fresh start on a contender to get the lead out.
The plan proposed above effectively swaps Mike Muscala and Amir Johnson with Garrett Temple and Robin Lopez. That’s not anyone’s definition of a sexy trade deadline. But the Sixers can’t afford to burn more premier assets just to win a few more regular season games (an approach that is partly responsible for why the Sixers are depleted of depth in the first place, along with trading two starters for one). Given the players potentially available and the tight financial situation of the Sixers, they’re likely not adding anyone that could be the difference between advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals or exiting in the first round. There are a lot of moving parts in this scenario and the idea of doubling Jonah Bolden’s responsibilities is a bit off-putting. But the proposal lays a solid framework for addressing (edit: one of) the Sixers’ main weaknesses (wing depth) without hindering the franchise’s long term plans.
Would you be interested in acquiring Garrett Temple?
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