The Philadelphia 76ers kicked off the NBA trade deadline with a wise, inexpensive move to bolster their bench and add a little more offensive firepower. They dealt three second-round picks (Dallas's 2020, Denver's 2021, and Toronto's 2022) to the Golden State Warriors for Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III.
Then, there's the matter of how both players fit into what the Sixers needed to add to their bench.
The Sixers need to make plenty of improvements right now, and more three-point shooting is one of them.
Even though Robinson is the more limited shooter of the two new guys in terms of volume and shot difficulty (he also does a lot of his damage from the corners), he's effective. He’s played a career-high 31.6 minutes per game this season to average a career-best 12.9 points. Over the last five years, he’s shot 38.1 percent from deep on 1.8 attempts per game (3.5 per 36 minutes), including 40 percent on 3.5 attempts per game this season.
He's fairly active off the ball, and knows how to relocate around the arc to find space and catch defenses off guard. Plays off screens only account for 12.8 percent of his possessions, but he ranks in the 73rd percentile on these plays. This is something the Sixers should take advantage of alongside their other shooters.
Robinson doesn't have much else to offer on offense. 33.5 percent of his shots come from three, and he doesn’t get to the rim too much. He also takes a fair amount of mid-range jumpers, which he’ll ideally cut down. Nevertheless, he’s a capable cutter and can dribble past a closeout for simple straight-line drives or short pull-ups.
The Sixers don't need much from Robinson anyway. His main job will be serving as a catch-and-shoot threat, and he can do that well.
It’s Burks that offers more as a spark plug scorer.
Alec Burks is clearly the best acquisition in this trade for Philly. His numbers benefited from him playing a large role on a terrible team this season, with career-highs in points (16.1), rebounds (4.7), assists (3.1) and steals (1) per game, with a rather average 55.2 True Shooting Percentage. He obviously won't be asked to do as much in Philly, so it's the skills as a shooter and complementary creator he's continued to show that are important.
Burks can provide some scoring from all areas of the floor. Even though he isn’t a great decision-maker or passer (the Sixers shouldn't expect much from him in this regard), he's a capable pick-and-roll player, with his handle, driving ability and shot off the bounce. His scoring as a pick-and-roll ball handler ranked in the 71st percentile with Golden State this season, as he used pick-and-rolls on 43.2 percent of his possessions. Letting Burks work with the Sixers' bigs and Ben Simmons as a roll man would be a nice option to mix into the offense.
Burks' free throw rate is something else that will benefit the Sixers, who only rank 21st in free throw attempts per game at 22.2. He’s averaging 4.7 attempts per game and making a stellar 89.7 percent of them. Per 36 minutes, his average of 5.8 attempts is more than all Sixers except Joel Embiid.
Despite shooting rather poorly at the rim this season (only 51.6 percent), Burks at least shot 59.8 percent there over the first eight years of his career. A lower usage rate in Philly should help his efficiency, too. He has some burst and craftiness to get inside, and his ability to draw contact and get to the line will be a useful weapon off the bench.
More diverse shooting is another area Burks can help in. He's comfortable firing off the bounce with defenders nearby and has a pretty quick release. From distance, he's shooting a highly respectable 37.5 percent on 2.7 pull-up threes per game this season.
The Sixers have sorely needed more perimeter creation and quick-trigger shooting this season. In addition to his scoring inside the arc and at the line, any shooting off the dribble Burks can provide out of dribble hand-offs and high pick-and-rolls will be a welcome addition.
As I’ve laid out, the most important factors with these new acquisitions is what they bring on offense. However, their defense should hold up as well.
Burks is fine. He’s fairly quick on his feet with some size at 6’6”. This alone will help, as the Sixers can use Burks as a ball handler off the bench while maintaining size — this hasn’t been the case at all with Trey Burke (6’0”) and Raul Neto (6’1”).
Robinson has a bit more to offer at this end of the floor. He’s more explosive than Mike Scott, and with a sturdy 6'7" frame and 6’10” wingspan, Robinson has some switchability and good physical tools to work with. He's a defensive upgrade over other reserve wing/forward options on the team, and while he isn't excellent in terms of his lateral quickness to guard faster opponents, he can still be a positive. The Sixers don’t need Robinson to be a top wing defender. He can contribute, and provide some resistance against opposing forwards and some guards.
Lineups and adjustments
With their starters still in tact, the best adjustment the Sixers can make at this point is moving Al Horford to the bench. It doesn't fix all of their offensive issues by any means, and Horford may need to lose a few extra minutes as well, including in late-game situations. But this would make the starting lineup more fluid by increasing shooting (whoever takes Horford’s place) and sliding Tobias Harris to the 4, and it limits Horford's minutes with Embiid as much as possible. Burks and Robinson can also take away plenty of Scott’s minutes, who’s been having a rough season.
Now, the Sixers can embrace added spacing with Burks and Robinson, including more spacious lineups around Ben Simmons.
For instance, a lineup featuring Simmons, Furkan Korkmaz, Robinson, Harris and Horford would provide plenty of space from positions 2-5 and maintain some defense on the perimeter led by Simmons and Robinson. Alternatively, the Sixers could get slightly smaller and add Josh Richardson’s defense to the mix. A lineup of Simmons, Richardson, Burks, Harris and Horford would feature more complementary ball handling alongside Simmons’ screening and rolling, more point-of-attack defense, and still have plenty of shooting.
However new lineups shake out, Brett Brown has more options — and more space — to play with now.
Looking forward, both Burks (who’s on an expiring $2.32 million deal) and Robinson (on a $1.88 million salary, with a $2.07 million player option for 2020-21) could end up as rentals. Burks will likely want to cash in on a productive season and is after a salary around the $8-10 million range (according to The Athletic’s Anthony Slater). This would make Burks too expensive for the Sixers to keep. With Robinson having the best season of his career so far as well, he’ll likely pursue more money elsewhere, too.
There isn’t much cap space available around the league next summer, though, and both players could end up with small deals. The Sixers won’t have either player’s Bird Rights, so that makes it more difficult to retain both in free agency. The Sixers can only offer them 120 percent of the NBA’s minimum salary using the non-Bird exception. Using the taxpayer mid-level exception to offer a little more will likely be their best option.
No, this trade doesn’t make too much difference for the Sixers. Burks and Robinson can’t fix the fact that this team still needs more high-level, go-to perimeter creation. The Sixers weren’t able to make any other notable moves before the deadline either. They only flipped James Ennis to Orlando to acquire the Lakers’ 2020 second-rounder and free up a roster spot required for the Burks-Robinson deal. Meanwhile, Trey Burke has been waived. There’s also the issue of Horford’s fit with the starters (and him underperforming) that hasn’t been solved. Furthermore, if either Burks and/or Robinson don't re-sign in free agency this summer, they won't be impacting Philly's strength as a contender moving forward either.
That said, Burks and Robinson don’t need to be anything special for this to be a beneficial move. The low price the Sixers paid in this trade, to bolster the roster for their high playoff goals, was worth it. Regardless of what happens in free agency.
For now, both players should make a positive difference with skillsets that can help address some of the team's weaknesses. All things considered, this was a quality trade for the Sixers.