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Trade rumors: Sixers have shown interest in Cleveland forward Larry Nance Jr.

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New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

It’s trade season so we’re bound to hear plenty of reports and rumors, and most of them will not materialize. But it sounds like Team President Daryl Morey and General Manager Elton Brand have at least been active and working the phone lines. One position the team could use some help with is the backup center spot. Now Dwight Howard has been pretty good. Fresh off of a championship campaign where the Lakers often overwhelmed teams like the Houston Rockets, Nuggets, and Heat by featuring some massive, megalithic lineups, Howard proved quite helpful. And this year, the former Magic, Laker, and Rocket has maintained effectiveness as a rim protector:

But Sixers’ fans reading this will know very well by now, that one of the keys to unlocking Ben Simmons’ full potential is surrounding him with snipers, and despite drilling a clutch triple against Utah the other night, a sniper Howard is not. If this were all a “Game of Zones” episode, Seth Curry, Danny Green, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton might be our archers firing off flaming arrows, while Dwight would be our formidable, statuesque giant who helps protect the wall from ice zombies.

Larry Nance Jr.

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It might be a bit of a stretch to describe Larry Nance Jr. as stretch big, but he’s vastly improved his game over the years. The former Laker was once acquired by Kobe Altman, along with Jordan Clarkson, to help LeBron James pursue a title his final year in Ohio.

Nance Jr. enjoyed a leap in productivity this season before injuring his hand. He was leading the NBA in steals and is still second in steals per game (only T.J. McConnell on his Bonnieless-Clyde rampage robbing everyone in sight has surpassed him). And most importantly, Nance was shooting over 38 percent from deep on more than three attempts per game, while providing stalwart defense.

Per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

“Nance would help a lot of teams and he’s on a multi-year bargain deal that makes it easy to come up with matching salaries. He’s the kind of versatile piece that contenders covet because of his defense, playmaking, shooting and impact on winning. According to sources, Nance is the player the Cavs have received the most calls about. Sources say the Minnesota Timberwolves have been aggressively pursuing him since the offseason. Nance’s old teammate and buddy D’Angelo Russell is a strong Nance advocate. Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Miami and Dallas have also shown interest.

But the Cavs keep telling opposing teams that Nance, who is expected to be back in the lineup on March 12 following surgery on his fractured left hand, isn’t available. They recognize what he means to the city and organization.”

That list of interested teams should provide a clue as to Nance Jr.’s value, there are a lot of smart people making calls. Mike Zarren who reportedly works the phones often for the Celts, his former colleague in Daryl Morey, Morey’s former Lieutenant in Gersson Rosas who is now in Minnesota, David Griffin in New Orleans, Pat Riley and Adam Simon down in South Beach. The smartest nerds with the coolest jobs love Nance Jr.

Averaging 9.3 points, 1,9 steals per game, .5 blocks, 6.8 boards, and 3.2 assists, Nance Jr. has developed into a valuable all-around player for the Cavs.

James Harden is certainly not the only one to fall victim to a Nance Jr. Poster. Nor is he the only current Nets’ superstar to make LNJ’s resume:

So you can imagine how fun it would be if Ben Simmons could play a handful of his minutes per game along with a player who can a) keep up with him in transition, b) provide both vertical and 3 point gravity, while c) offering rim protection. That would go a very long way in boosting the Sixers’ current bench woes. And he shoots well enough to provide some floor spacing for Joel Embiid also.

But perhaps the key here is what Fedor says about Nance Jr.’s value to Cleveland. The son of a Cavs’ legend, Larry Nance Sr., and one of the more exciting young players on the roster (a runner up in the NBA Dunk Contest a couple of years back, the first of which his father won) the team may be reluctant to part with him.

Nevertheless, the Sixers are looking in the right places. They know they need help for the times when Joel Embiid rests a game or takes a rest, and they likely realize that as helpful as Howard has been, they could really use a backup big with some shooting prowess.