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The Sixers should look to trade Mike Scott

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We all love Mike Scott, but the smartest move for the Philadelphia 76ers is to trade their fan-favorite forward.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Scott’s relationship with Philadelphia reminds me a lot of T.J. McConnell’s.

Both solidified fans’ love by hitting huge game-winning shots. T.J. against the New York Knicks:

And Scott in the playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets:

Both are beloved in the locker room. McConnell was voted Best Teammate on the Sixers for the 2016-17 season.

And Scott has had plenty of fun moments, including gassing up Joel Embiid after his fight with Karl-Anthony Towns.

Both made appearances on Live Ricky’s (Rickies?), and Scott has been especially interactive with fans, going to Mike Scott Hive events and frequently responding on Twitter.

These two players have another thing in common, though — a thing that people have accepted about McConnell, but are struggling to accept with Scott. Neither is a particularly good NBA player.

Scott is an above average 3-point shooter — slightly above average. He’s shooting 36.2 percent from 3 so far this season, just above the league average of 35.5 percent. This has so far been a bit of a down year for Scott from deep, as he shot a fraction above 40 percent each of his previous two seasons. But Scott is right on his career-average of 36.3 percent.

When Scott’s 3-point shot isn’t falling, he’s pretty much useless. Scoring-wise, he’s made just 30 shots inside the arc in 29 games played. He doesn’t handle or pass the ball well. He’s a below average rebounder, despite his 6-foot-7, 237-pound frame. And although he usually seems to be giving good effort, he’s one of the worst defenders in the regular rotation (another similarity to McConnell).

In 18.9 minutes per game this season, he’s averaging 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.1 blocks. Counting stats don’t say it all, but they’re a good indication of how unproductive Scott has been in abundant minutes this season.

Advanced stats aren’t particularly high on Scott either. He has a Multi-Year PIPM of minus-1.70 and a 3 Year RAPM of minus-0.72. Both of these metrics peg Scott as approximately a replacement-level player.

It was expected that Scott would lead bench players in minutes this year, providing much-needed shooting in reserve. But the season hasn’t necessarily played out that way.

Furkan Korkmaz leads bench players with 21 minutes per game (although he has started 11 games compared to Scott’s four). Scott is second with 18.9 minutes per game, and Matisse Thybulle and James Ennis are right behind him with 17.8 and 17.5 minutes, respectively.

Among these rotation regulars, Thybulle (46.8 percent) and Ennis (40.9 percent) are shooting significantly higher percentages from 3 than Scott, albeit on far fewer attempts. Korkmaz (36.4 percent) is right around Scott’s percentage on slightly more attempts per game.

Most of Scott’s numbers are right on his career averages, and at 31 years old, he’s unlikely to improve much. He’s not a particularly good or bad player — not a disaster in the rotation, but not beneficial to the team in his role.

Mike Scott hasn’t been impressive this year, but you could still argue he’s played up to his contract. He’s making $4,767,000 this season, the most of any Sixers reserve, but not ridiculous for a team’s eighth-best player (which Scott is to the Sixers).

But when you take a look at who the Sixers may hope to acquire, trading Scott becomes the only realistic path toward landing certain players without giving up a member of the starting five.

Trades involving the Sixers are extremely complicated. Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights can explain the different scenarios better than anyone. Here’s what he told me about the Sixers’ trade options.

Based on these numbers, we can figure out how much salary the Sixers would have to send out to acquire some of their top targets. Most players Sixers fans want the team to pursue make more money than anyone on their bench. Here are three popular examples.

Davis Bertans makes $7 million this season, meaning the Sixers must send back at least $3.9 million. Mike Scott is the only Sixer outside the starting five who could be swapped for Bertans 1-for-1.

Bogdan Bogdanovic will make $8,529,386, so the Sixers must send back $4,773,935. This is a mere $6,935 above Scott’s salary, so any bench player could be paired with Scott to make a Bogdanovic trade work.

Robert Covington becomes a bit more complicated because his contract is high enough for the luxury tax to come into play. Covington is making $11,301,219, so the Sixers must send back at least $7,053,765 to stay below the cap.

Here is Jeff Siegel again, with an explanation of why swapping Mike Scott and Zhaire Smith for Robert Covington would work for the Sixers.

All three of those potential targets make more than anyone on the Sixers bench, so the challenge would be how much money the Sixers can send out.

For that purpose, the alternatives to trading Scott are unwise or unrealistic. They’re not going to trade Matisse Thybulle for a bench player (nor should they). James Ennis is another replacement-level player, but he’s currently giving the Sixers more as a 3-point shooter and perimeter defender than Scott. Plus, Ennis is on a minimum contract, making him less useful in terms of outgoing salary in a trade.

To send out significant salary without trading Scott, the Sixers could try to package a few low-salary guys like Trey Burke, Raul Neto, Furkan Korkmaz, Kyle O’Quinn, Jonah Bolden, or Shake Milton. But any deal focused on these players makes no sense — mainly because no other team wants them. Scott is at least good enough to appeal to some teams.

That leaves one other bench player: Zhaire Smith. Smith hasn’t played a minute with the Sixers yet this season, and he apparently hasn’t done enough with the Delaware Blue Coats to warrant that changing. Smith makes $3,058,800 this season, the second-most of any bench player. This makes Smith another guy who could go. As a mid-first round pick in 2018, he is definitely someone who has a bit of value around the league.

But the drop-off in salary between Scott and Smith makes trading for the above players (or players of similar salaries) much harder.

For example, the Bogdanovic trade could go through with Scott and any other player. But if you use Smith instead, and you assume Thybulle is off the table, the only Sixer backup with a high enough salary to make a 2-for-1 deal work is James Ennis (who, again, is probably someone the team should rather keep than Scott).

Without giving Scott, a 2-for-1 for Covington is impossible. And to reiterate, a 3-for-1 or 4-for-1 deal consisting of bench players who never see the court for the Sixers makes little sense for any team unless the Sixers were willing to pile on draft picks. They have enough incoming seconds to sweeten a deal, but it’s hard to see them getting any highly sought-after players with second-rounders as the main pieces.

For Bertans, a 2-for-1 using Smith and any other player is possible, but even potentially completing that deal shouldn’t make the Sixers less likely to pursue someone like Bogdanovic. The team is more than one player away from solidifying a strong rotation, and Scott’s contract would be their last opportunity to meaningfully do so.

Mike Scott is not the great sixth man many like to think he is. Scott, Korkmaz, and Neto are three Sixers regulars who are not good enough to carry heavy minutes on a team with championship aspirations. The back end of the rotation is undeniably a weak spot. But because of Scott’s salary, he is the most tradable of that group. For the Sixers to maximize their potential, they need to turn Mike Scott’s contract into a much better player.

The Mike Scott Hive can continue even if he’s traded. Scott is a great guy who really connected with the Philly fans, and that doesn’t have to go away just because he plays for another team. I would definitely attend a tailgate for Scott’s return to the Wells Fargo Center.

Everyone loved T.J. McConnell. Everyone knew his time with the team should be up after last season. We still loved him then and now. It can be the same with Mike Scott.

Scott isn’t a bad player, but for the Sixers, he’s far more valuable as a cap number than on the basketball court. That’s not a stain on his time here, but it’s a reality we need to accept.