The Sixers were arguably the busiest team in the NBA during the trade deadline, making moves that should theoretically help them take the next step toward competing for a championship. Everyone is still talking about the trades for Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler, and for good reason, but some of the smaller moves the team made could also have a pretty sizable effect on how the team plays down the stretch.
General manager Elton Brand was not afraid to make a splash at the deadline, but it was also his ability to work the margins that should help the team both now and down the road. Two players that haven’t made a name for themselves in Philadelphia just yet are two of the best examples of Brand making smaller moves in order to help the big picture. Both James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons are welcome additions to a team that struggled to find playable wing options off the bench. Thanks to the star power on the team, this lack of depth didn’t hurt the team too much, but getting a few extra options won’t hurt them down the road.
The trade with the Rockets to net Philadelphia James Ennis didn’t make national news, but it could be a move looked back on as one that helps the Sixers get over the hump. Too often this year, the Sixers have had to rely on players like Furkan Korkmaz and Landry Shamet to guard wings. That is not a winning formula because, for the most part, those players aren’t positives on the defensive end. Ennis won’t light the world on fire on the offensive side of the ball, but he does bring a hard-nosed style of defense that has been missing from the bench unit.
In the upper half of the Eastern Conference playoff race, every team has loads of talent on the wings that would exploit the Sixers’ lack of depth defensively. With the addition of Ennis, that weakness changes a tad. Ennis won't have to lock up Kawhi Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but if he can play strong defense and not allow the opposing bench to blow up, then he’s done his job. For only the price of a second round pick swap, the Sixers may have gotten someone that can take over for a net-negative defensive player like Furkan Korkmaz come crunch time.
One of the more publicized moves the Sixers made was trading Markelle Fultz to the Orlando Magic for Jonathon Simmons, a first round pick, and a second round pick. Simmons doesn’t exactly move the needle when talking about the return for a former first overall pick, but when coupled with a first round pick, the Sixers’ return seems pretty strong considering the circumstances.
Simmons enjoyed two strong seasons with the San Antonio Spurs as a reserve before signing a bigger deal with the Orlando Magic, where his play was up and down for the most part. In the second year of his contract, Simmons’ playing time dropped significantly because of his struggles shooting the ball. Only shooting 24 percent from 3-point range this season, Simmons still plays adequate defense and has shown promise as a primary ball handler.
The Sixers saw enough out of him to want to bring him on, and seem willing to give him the chance to work his way into the rotation. The only other point guard on the roster right now besides Ben Simmons is T.J. McConnell, and while he is beloved by fans, he can’t play the major role that he is forced to right now. Jonathon Simmons is still learning the system, but if Brett Brown feels comfortable letting Simmons soak up some backup point guard minutes, then McConnell’s role can be reduced to the point where he won’t be exposed for his flaws.
Even with such small moves being made to shore up the bench, the Sixers are now a deeper team than they were just a few weeks ago. No longer do they have to rely on middling players with capped potential, but they can bring in experienced vets that fit the role of defensive stoppers on the wing.