The Al Horford trade was finally finalized on December 8. After what felt like months, the team finally gained the likes of Danny Green, Terrance Ferguson, and Vincent Poirier — who have begun practicing in the midst of the Sixers’ training camp. The Sixers also officially received their $8.2 million trade exception from the transaction, which they can use to improve the roster.
That $8.2 million can net the Sixers a valuable player when the opportunity presents itself. New President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey, has been very vocal about maintaining flexibility to improve the roster throughout the season, specifically mentioning not using the team’s mid-level exception until the buy-out market approaches.
So who can the Sixers target with this useful exception?
Before I list off some potential targets, I think it’s important to detail what exactly a trade exception is for those unfamiliar. A trade exception is created when a team trades a player to another team that is under the cap and doesn’t receive an equal amount of salary back in a deal. In reference to the Horford deal, the Sixers sent out a whopping $27,500,000 to the Thunder in which they only received $19,309,867 back. Simple subtraction shows that they shed $8,190,133 in salary, hence why the Sixers gained the exception amount.
These exceptions allow a NBA team to receive any player within the exception amount without sending any outgoing salary in return. For a realistic example, let’s say the Sixers want to add another shooter to their team. The Sixers could send any expendable contract along with other assets to net someone like Indiana’s Doug McDermott, who is making $7.3 million.
The Sixers could use this exception to land any player making $8.2 million or lower. You can also use this exception on multiple players. They could take on someone making $5 million and still have $3.2 million of their exception to use. These exceptions do expire within a year, however, so the Sixers will have until 12/8/2021 to use this exception before it expires.
So, now that we’ve gone over the basics of what a trade exception — or TPE — is, let’s discuss some realistic targets that Daryl Morey may have his eye on.
This probably isn’t the Houston Rocket you were thinking of when I brought up a possible trade, but make no mistake — P.J. Tucker could really help the Sixers. He fits comfortably within their $8.2 million exception too, as he’s making just over $7.9 million.
Tucker rejuvenated his career under Mike D’Antoni and the Houston Rockets as a coveted 3&D player. He has been an impressive defender for a contending team throughout the years, effectively guarding a multitude of players from LeBron James to Karl-Anthony Towns and everywhere in-between.
PJ Tucker's defense on LeBron & AD in the 4th quarter! pic.twitter.com/VokCqJ0RoE— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) September 5, 2020
There really aren’t many players in the NBA that can hold their own like this against LeBron James.
Tucker has also made noticeable strides on the offensive end of the court, becoming one of the best corner 3-point shooters in the entire league. He has previously led the NBA in corner 3-point attempts, as well.
Tucker could fix a hole in Philadelphia’s roster, bringing size and all-around defense to the table. He could be a great power forward off the bench, or even play center in small-ball lineups alongside Ben Simmons, which could be very useful for the postseason.
While there reportedly is a lot of tension between Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and Daryl Morey, dealing Tucker could make a lot of sense for the Rockets. Tucker was unhappy throughout last season, as the Rockets reportedly waited until the very last moment to guarantee his contract. That’s a strange move from the Rockets as Tucker has always been a great piece and player for them, and it was certainly an unnecessary distraction. It’s no secret that Fertitta is one of the cheaper basketball owners out there; he could shed salary and gain assets for what would be an expiring, unhappy player.
The Sixers could package someone like Terrance Ferguson — who is making nearly half of what Tucker is — along with some draft capital to land some needed 3&D. It’s very possible that Morey could look to land Tucker once again.
It seems like a yearly tradition in which I write about how good Reggie Bullock could be on the Sixers. Landing him in a trade would make a lot of sense and give the team even more flexibility to work with in the future. The New York Knicks are currently paying him a non-guaranteed $4,200,000 for the 2020-21 season.
Bullock follows a similar mold to P.J. Tucker, carrying the 3&D label. Bullock has good size and can cover many variations of NBA wings. Most importantly, he’s an above average shooter, shooting 39 percent from 3 for his NBA career.
Why does this deal make sense? Well, the Knicks aren’t making the playoffs this year. I’m not one to usually rule a team out before a season, but I’m just not high on their core of RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and Alec Burks. The Knicks are deep within their rebuild and picking up a draft asset like a second-round pick for an expiring bench player should definitely appeal to the struggling franchise.
Bullock’s time with the Knicks hasn’t been the best, either. The sides agreed to a deal a few years ago before it had to be re-negotiated just days later after Bullock failed a physical. Bullock didn’t play much for the Knicks after he got healthy either, as he only averaged 23 minutes a game on a team devoid of talent. Not the most ideal situation.
While the Sixers landing Bullock would definitely be useful, they would also have some additional flexibility in this scenario. They would have nearly $4 million of their exception left to use in additional deals down the road.
Trading for a player that backstabbed the former front office in contract talks? Yes, I am going there. It has been more than two years since Bjelica agreed to a contract with the Sixers, only to renege on the agreed amount a few days later. Bjelica stated back then that he wanted to stay close to his native country of Serbia — totally understandable and respectable. Then he agreed to the terms of a three-year contract with the Sacramento Kings.
So, why would the Sixers bring in a player that essentially double-crossed them in free agency? Well for one, he could really help the team. While signing Dwight Howard to the minimum was a great move, the Sixers lack a stretch five, something which could come to bite them in the postseason. Bjelica certainly isn’t a center, but he could come in and provide an Ersan Ilyasova-type role to the Sixers, as he’s a talented shooter coming off a career season from behind the arc.
Nemanja Bjelica buries the DEEP #TissotBuzzerBeater to lift the @SacramentoKings! #ThisIsYourTime pic.twitter.com/HqwMHDRGH0— NBA (@NBA) December 10, 2019
Bjelica is another expiring deal as well. He’s set to earn $7.1 million in the upcoming season.
The Kings will likely miss the postseason again. The team got worse by letting Bogdan Bogdanvic walk for... (checks notes) ... nothing! While De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are a fun backcourt to watch, it likely won’t be enough to let Sacramento crack a top-8 seed in a highly competitive Western Conference. The Kings should absolutely look to deal Bjelica for some form of compensation to avoid a repeat of losing a productive player for nothing.
The best part about all of this potential trade talk? The Sixers don’t need to make a trade right now. Are there holes in the current roster? Totally. Do they need fixed immediately? Not at all. The Sixers will have plenty of time and patience to do so when the right opportunity presents itself.
The Sixers likely won’t win a NBA championship this year, and that’s okay. This year should be viewed as a year to grow some of their talent and to begin acquiring long-term pieces to help the roster. All of these players above would bring long-term and affordable value if brought to Philadelphia and re-signed.
These are just three players that the Sixers could land to help boost their upcoming season. In reality, there’s many more that could fit within this option in a wide variety of trades. The Sixers will have plenty of time and opportunity to use this useful asset.
Daryl Morey certainly has a lot of options on which to use this exception. As the season progresses, we will see which holes in the Sixers’ roster are most obvious and need to be addressed. As other teams’ playoff hopes begin to fade, phones will begin to ring. You best believe Daryl Morey will be ready.