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Opportunity amidst the chaos for Elton Brand and the 76ers: Jrue Holiday and some Pacers vets

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Last week Indiana Pacers’ guard Victor Oladipo suffered a quad injury that will end his season and shakeup the Eastern Conference hierarchy. Yesterday, the landscape of the entire NBA was jolted. It was reported by Adrian Wojnarowski that Anthony Davis wants a trade, and now we’re learning that his preference is the Lakers.

Is there opportunity amidst the chaos for Sixers’ GM Elton Brand to improve his roster?

It sounds like the Sixers are not interested in any seismic shifts that would ship out Ben Simmons. So what else is out there? Where do the New Orleans Pelicans go from here? Would they part with former Sixers’ guard Jrue Holiday? Will the Pacers part with any of their expiring veteran contracts who could address Philadelphia’s needs?

Pelicans

According to Zach Lowe yesterday, on the Lowe Post Podcast the Pelicans recently made E’Twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle available. My esteemed colleague Sean Kennedy just outlined the case for Mirotic. But also relevant here is that it seems with Davis and these three that perhaps everyone on the New Orleans roster might be on the table.

Sixers fans will never forget Jrue Holiday.

You know him well, so I won’t bore you rehashing his game.

But I’ll try to add a few tidbits that interest me.

He’s shot 36.5% on catch and shoot triples over the last two and a half seasons (334 attempts). This is a more relevant sample than at previous points in his career because he has played more off-ball recently. About 37% of his three point attempts over the last two-and-a-half seasons have come off the catch (334 catch and shoot attempts out of a total 891 3 point attempts). He really seems to enjoy playing off the ball and that would be key alongside Simmons.

He would be an upgrade for the Sixers defensively as he gives them someone who could finally defend the opposing team’s best ball-handlers. He’s unselfish and a quiet leader. He would be amazing as a team’s third or 4th best player.

But what would he cost? Zach Lowe recently said this regarding a potential Mike Conley trade:

‘You want to know my favorite Mike Conley, just the absolute most bonkers Mike Conley trade would be? To Philadelphia for expiring contracts and Markelle Fultz. And then Philly has Conley, Simmons, Butler and Embiid. You don’t, you cannot pay all four of them going forward…. Conley then gives you leverage with [Butler], a little bit.”

If we substitute Conley’s name for Holiday here we can try to approximate his price tag. Holiday’s in for 3 years for a guaranteed $78.2m. He has a player option for the 2021-2022 season.

Here is one version of a possible deal:

It seems a bit unlikey to me a package centered around Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith and/or draft picks would get a deal done. The Sixers young guards just haven’t played. The Pelicans might feel they’re able to do better on the open market. But it’s worth a shot. A Holiday, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid core could potentially form one of the best playoff defenses we’ve seen in a long time.

Paying Holiday this much would mean forgoing a seat at the table for upcoming free agents like Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Tobias Harris, and many more. But he’s good enough that it represents a safe hedge from those less likely possibilities. A bird in hand...a bird who happens to be an elite two-way combo guard.

Of course, to consummate a deal here the Pelicans would be smart to request Jimmy Butler. From the Pelicans point of view, they might be able to get an asset or two off of Philadelphia for Holiday and then call up the Houston Rockets and get yet another bundle of future picks from Daryl Morey for Butler.

Andrew Porter of WIP recently made up a three-team trade that seems like it might appeal to all-parties:

Here is an unlikely and wacky type of three-team deal that might be smart for everyone. Draft assets would need to go New Orleans’ way here from both sides:

Parting with Butler would really sting. But there is no shortage of credible rumors that the fit between Butler and the Sixers has been less than smooth.

Having Holiday (28) under contract for another two or three years isn’t as much of a risk as giving Butler (29) a five-year deal two months before his 30th birthday. Doing such a deal would also leave Philadelphia enough cap-space to sit down with some premier free-agents in July.

Both versions of this deal would offer exciting possibilities for Sixers fans. Either you get an elite big-four, or you lock in Simmons, Embiid and Holiday and can go either star-hunting or depth-hunting again this summer.

Pacers expiring contracts

Without Oladipo the Pacers are in a tricky situation. Do they want to trade some of their expiring contracts and net some draft assets? They’re facing a first round playoff exit whether they do or do not so it makes sense to sell. Who might the Sixers want?

Cory Joseph (PG, expiring, $7.9m)

It’s hard to engineer a better combination of price and fit for Philly than CoJo. He’s a very good catch and shoot player, (94th percentile per Synergy) 37% overall from 3, and he’s a pitbull on defense (96th percentile defending pick-n-roll ball handlers per Synergy). He’s only 27 and is a champion and former Spur. Brand should check in daily on this guy, he’s worth a late round pick.

Darren Collison (PG, expiring $10m)

I made a case for trading for Collison last week. Like Cory Joseph, Collison is one of the better pick-and-roll defenders in the league among guards (80th percentile per Synergy). He’s also effective when challenged in isolation. He’s a good catch and shoot player, over 40% from deep. He dropped 23 points in game 7 of a near win to knock off the Cavs in the first round last year. If Indiana isn’t willing to part with Joseph who is several years younger than Collison, (31) then DC might be more affordable. He would be an upgrade over T.J. McConnell on each end of the floor. Maybe that Bulls second rounder Philly owns comes into play here?

Bojan Bogdanovic (SF, expiring $10.5)

Shooting over 40% from three over the last season and a half Bogey would be an immediate boost to the Sixers’ bench. Bogey is not a liability on defense, he’s actually pretty good at it. As a versatile wing he can play either the ball-handler using a screen or switch on to the roll man and perform admirably there as well. He’d be better to have off the bench than Marco Belinelli once was because of his two-way play.

Tyreke Evans (SG expiring $12.4m)

Relative to all the buzz surrounding the Chester, PA. native a year ago, Evans has had a quiet year. But he’s managed to earn a 95th percentile ranking defensively across his 268 possessions. That’s up from his 81st percentile defensive rank with Memphis last year per Synergy.

In 2017-2018 he played the point for the Grizz. He’s back to off-guard this year, and like most of Nate McMillan’s back court he’s really bought in defensively. He’s also shooting over 40% from three on catch and shoot triples dating back to the start of the 2017-2018 season.

The Sixers could try for one of these guys by using Mike Muscala and draft assets or try for two like this below, using Amir Johnson as a proxy for the cap-value of draft picks:

Thaddeus Young (PF expiring $13.76m)

This would be a fun reunion. But it seems a little trickier cap-wise since he’s a shade pricier than the other guys. Thad ranks 18th overall in the NBA in Defensive Rating and 14th in Defensive Win Shares but you’d probably have to include a draft asset, Mike Muscala, Justin Patton and possibly waive Amir Johnson. There’s enough moving parts that I don’t see it happening. The others are simpler.

All of these Pacers would allow the Sixers to improve their bench a lot and perhaps win a playoff series they would not have otherwise. None of these players are on the books for next year unless you choose to make them an offer, a nice luxury.

Certainly a chance for Elton Brand to turn the Pelicans and Pacers misfortune into opportunity for the Sixers.