Sixers fans held their breath until the final seconds of the NBA trade deadline today. The action kicked off around midnight last night with Delon Wright, a name once linked to Philadelphia in trade rumors, the first of many to find a new home. By this afternoon, things really started to heat up. Heading into the final hours before the deadline, the Sixers were regarded as top contenders to land the face of the Toronto Raptors and North Philly native, Kyle Lowry. And as 3:00 PM approached it started to feel more and more realistic. At one point earlier in the year, Danny Green discussed the possibility of being traded for his former championship teammate. Last night, Lowry discussed how things were pretty “weird,” as he was unsure what his future held.
But in the end, like the James Harden deal, the Sixers didn’t acquire their reported target.
George Hill come on down
The biggest shakeup the 76ers made was acquiring former Spur, Pacer, King, Cav, Buck, and Thunder point guard, George Hill for a few second-round picks. Hill is a proven winner. He is one of the few players in the entire NBA whose game always seems to elevate come playoff time.
Per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, a look at the three-teamer:
To PHI— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) March 25, 2021
G. Hill- $9.6M and $10M ($1.3M guaranteed with the balance protected on 8/1)
I. Brazdeikis- $1.5M and $1.8M (T)
T. Ferguson- $3.9M (RFA)
1 open roster spot
A. Rivers- $3.5M, $3.25M and $3.15M (last 2 years are non-guaranteed)
T. Bradley- $3.5M (RFA)
Per ESPN’s top-gun of the day, Adrian Wojnarowski, who has earned himself one heck of a nap:
Sixers send second round picks in 2025 and 2026 to the Thunder, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 25, 2021
Hill has always been a terrific fit for the Sixers. A combo guard, more than comfortable playing on or off the ball, Hill shoots over 38% from downtown when healthy (Hill hasn’t played since late January after undergoing thumb surgery). He is a terrific fit alongside Ben Simmons. He should also give bench units a boost as a battle-tested floor general. His former coach, Gregg Popovich once admitted that trading him to Indiana for Kawhi Leonard was by far the scariest decision of his career. That’s how much the greatest coach ever valued Hill.
Hill is out of his cast and might be healthy enough to suit up soon, but between you and me, off the record, I honestly wouldn’t even mind if they kept him in a hyperbaric chamber in order to fully heal and recharge his 34 year old legs, because he has been such a difference maker in the playoffs spanning his very underrated career.
But the bigger story of the day is kind of a disappointing one. It was an anticlimactic trade deadline for the Sixers.
The Denver Nuggets improved by landing Orlando’s high-flying Aaron Gordon and Matisse Thybulle’s Bubble Vlog rival, and dude who has won 3 rings in 4 years, JaVale McGee. The Boston Celtics landed the sweet-shooting French guard from Orlando in Evan Fournier, a player many Sixer fans regarded as a terrific fallback trade option should they whiff on bigger fish. The Heat landed Victor Oladipo and Nemanja Bjelica. The Portland Trailblazers got perhaps the best value of the day, landing Toronto’s wing Norman Powell. Powell, who recently won Eastern Conference Player of the week, became a hot commodity in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, and plenty of Sixer fans had their eye on him too:
Portland just got a shooter.— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) March 25, 2021
Out of 64 NBA players that have tried at least 200 3s this season, Norman Powell currently ranks 3rd in 3P%.
He's made 43.9% of 269 attempts from beyond the arc this year.
Only Joe Ingles and Joe Harris have been more accurate this season. pic.twitter.com/nhcKgBDnMQ
Per ESPN’s Zach Lowe, last Friday, on the possibility of Powell to Philadelphia:
“If Lowry and the Raptors decide to engage, there is a reasonable deal to be made with Philly.
If they don’t, why wouldn’t Philly turn its attention to Powell? Powell is a borderline lock to decline his $11 million player option for next season, raising a pressing dilemma for the Raptors. Powell is going to get capital-P paid; executives expect a $20 million annual salary.
Do the Raptors want to pay him — making him their fourth high-salaried player going forward? Maybe. They could always try to sign-and-trade him, but that requires Powell’s cooperation. Powell is not a playmaker/organizer like Lowry, and maybe that is the skill set Philly craves given Ben Simmons’ limitations in crunch time. He’s a worse defender than both Lowry and Green. But Powell is clearly reaching a new level as a scorer. His Bird rights have real value.”
So with these names flying off the board, it left many Sixer fans hoping the team could land perhaps one of the two biggest names left on the trade market in New Orleans’ Lonzo Ball and of course, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry.
There never was much reason to get our hopes up for Ball, who is having a breakout season, having successfully altered his shooting stroke, now up over 38% from 3 on nearly 8 attempts per game. That’s especially impressive considering where he started as a shooter in this league. Woj let many of us who hoped for that outcome down rather succinctly:
No Lonzo Ball trade, sources tell ESPN. He's staying in New Orleans.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 25, 2021
And that basically left Kyle Lowry.
By the final 15 minutes or so it had been a roller coaster. We’d heard Woj on television say that the Sixers were “out” on Lowry, that the price was simply too high. But then we heard ESPN’s Brian Windhorst offer a glimmer of hope, suggesting that everyone involved might be playing hardball and the price might well come down as the deadline approached.
In the final moments before 3:00 PM eastern, the biggest rival for Lowry’s services, the Miami Heat, had acquired Houston’s Victor Oladipo. Oladipo and Miami have been rumored to have mutual interests for a long time. He’s a risk-reward player. If VO is able to recover from the catastrophic quad injury he suffered a couple of seasons ago, he could be a true difference-maker for the Heat, who gave up very little for the former 2nd overall pick today; another worthy gamble for Pat Riley.
But when Sixer fans learned that Miami refused to include Tyler Herro in any deal for Lowry, and Pat Riley and co. pivoted to Oladipo, there was a minute or two of suspense before we saw this:
The Raptors are keeping Kyle Lowry, source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 25, 2021
And then stuff like this:
I’m told the Sixers were willing to get in on a Kyle Lowry deal at the right price— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) March 25, 2021
But I’m hearing the Raptors asking price was very high
Draft picks, multiple quality young players, and veteran to make the money work pic.twitter.com/8JdxRXqO67
Almost assuredly, that veteran would have been Danny Green, while not a star, is an integral part of their rotation and a team leader. Also likely to have been involved would have been Mike Scott in order to match salary, one of Matisse Thybulle or Tyrese Maxey, then their upcoming 2021 first-round pick (if not more draft capital).
It would not have been cheap by any means. And then, after the year you have to talk big-time extensions for player who is no spring chicken.
The discipline of a monk
And that was basically it. Philly will now turn towards the buyout market in an effort to address their still rather sizable roster flaws; chiefly, not having a backup five who can adequately space the floor by shooting 3s for minutes/games when Joel Embiid is out. So often this season we have had to squint watching Tony Bradley’s (traded today for Hill) or Dwight Howard’s defender double team Ben Simmons without consequence.
But that issue can be addressed via waivers. More importantly, they just needed another playmaking shooter and they certainly won’t find anyone like Ball, Lowry, or Powell on the wire.
Daryl Morey’s Sixers used a cautious approach when former Rocket James Harden became available. A combination of Simmons, multiple first-round picks, and a young player or two was the Sixers walk-away point, for better or for worse. And today, we experienced a similar result. The Sixers apparently felt that the ask for Lowry, who is on an expiring contract, and 35, was simply not worth it. And the Raptors were simply not compelled to make a deal. After all, Lowry has had the best career of all-time in that dinosaur uniform. And their team can always look to orchestrate a sign-and-trade if Lowry wishes to find a new home come this summer, recouping at least some value.
Just like in the Harden sweepstakes, Brooklyn is the biggest winner today. They dodged lots of bullets, and no team appears to have really put a sizable dent in their “on-paper-if-fully-healthy” league-wide-supremacy. But the Nets are not guaranteed anything and beating them at all costs this season should never have been the Sixers exclusive mindset. There was merit to digging in to a point with Harden, and that decision was probably even easier regarding a 35-year-old free agent to be.
There was pressure on this franchise from the fans to make something big happen. And maybe letting players like Fournier or Powell find other homes at reasonable prices, while Philly pursued bigger fish was a risk the 76ers were willing to take.
Knowing what they know now about Ball and Lowry, might they have pushed for Powell?
But on the bright side, it allows for the possibility that should an even more exciting, better fitting or younger All-Star caliber player become available this off-season, the Sixers will have a full arsenal of ammo to pursue him. And hey, some of the young players who were likely on the block today, like Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey, could soon make a leap.
Oh how delicious that crow might taste one day for anyone who wished them gone.
Maybe the front office didn’t have the assurances from the incoming player that he would stay long term. Maybe the Sixers’ front office didn’t have the green light from ownership to commit another near-max salary this offseason with luxury tax fees already on the way. And maybe factors like that kept them from pushing more chips into the middle of the table:
In making trade offers for Kyle Lowry, teams had to take into consideration whether he would turn out to be a rental for the season --- or if they would be able to meet his contract expectations to stay in free agency. That impacted how far teams were willing to go on him.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 25, 2021
We’ll probably learn more down the road. But what we know now is that being disciplined is not always fun. Delaying gratification, and knowing one of the NBA’s smartest front offices will still have a chance to win the title this season along with plenty of assets to work with moving forwards isn’t a bad thing. And if someone better than today’s batch of players is within reach, it could even work out in their favor down the road.