All of the focus around the Sixers has rightfully been surrounding the Ben Simmons saga. While there’s still time ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline, a deal involving the three-time All-Star seems far from imminent.
It would be a disappointment for Daryl Morey to not improve the current roster and maximize Joel Embiid’s title chances during an MVP-caliber campaign.
But Morey intimated during a radio hit last month with 97.5 The Fanatic that he believes he can make an upgrade, even without a Simmons blockbuster.
“I like any year you have a chance,” Morey said. “Last year, we made a trade at the deadline [for George Hill] that didn’t quite work, but generally, historically, I, personally, have a good track record at bringing folks in at the trade deadline. So, regardless of if it’s some of the big trades involving Ben that people are expecting or something (else), we would like to add to this team.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five players that, while not the sexiest of names, could help the Sixers.
Kenrich Williams, F, Oklahoma City Thunder
($2M this season; $2M in 2022-23 (non-guaranteed))
Williams is at the top of this list for good reason. At 6-foot-6, he’s a strong defender capable of guarding one through four. That kind of versatility would be invaluable to the Sixers if they encounter Brooklyn or Milwaukee in the postseason, with their dangerous trios of perimeter threats. He’s also a solid rebounder from the wing, averaging seven boards per 36 minutes this season.
The fourth-year forward isn’t a slouch offensively, either. He’s hit 41 percent from three on two attempts a game the last two seasons. He’s not a total zero with the ball in his hands, with the ability to attack overaggressive closeouts and even hit the occasional shot off the dribble. His free throw shooting is a legitimate cause for concern (53.5 percent this season), but it’s better than 34 percent.
The 27-year-old ticks a couple of boxes you’re missing with Simmons out. Williams’ defensive versatility and rebounding should take some burden away from Embiid in both areas. Plus, he’s signed to a dirt cheap deal through next season. Sam Presti will likely ask for more draft capital than Morey will want to part with, but it’s worth exploring.
Justin Holiday, F, Indiana Pacers
($6M this season; $6.2M in 2022-23)
Justin Holiday, the younger brother of Jrue, had his own nine-game stint with the Sixers during The Process years. Since then, Holiday has become a solid 3-and-D wing at the NBA level. He’s hit 38 percent of his threes on what would be a career-high 6.8 attempts. In his three seasons with the Pacers, he’s hit 38.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Holiday isn’t the defender or rebounder Williams is, but he’s a better shooter at a higher volume. With Furkan Korkmaz’s struggles, Holiday can offer a decent alternative as a high-volume shooter off the bench. Speaking of Korkmaz, you’d likely have to move him in order to get Holiday. The issue there is age, as Holiday will turn 33 by season’s end and Korkmaz is still just 24.
Torrey Craig, F, Indiana Pacers
($4.8M this season; $5.1M in 2022-23)
Craig signed with the Bucks as a free agent ahead of last season and was eventually traded to the Suns for cash. The veteran wing had a solid postseason run with Phoenix, playing in 22 games, hitting over 40 percent of his threes and playing tough, physical defense.
It hasn’t really worked out for Craig in Indiana, but it’s fair to wonder if he’d fit in better with a more talented group like the Sixers. The 31-year-old has played 55 playoff games and could add a measure of toughness, length and defensive versatility on the perimeter.
Kemba Walker, G, New York Knicks
($8.7M this season; $9.1M in 2022-23)
Admittedly, this one would be tricky. In order to match salaries, you’d have to move a piece or two you may not want to move. Perhaps acquiring Walker as a piece in a Simmons trade or as a possible buyout target is more feasible. It’s also clear that Walker is not nearly the player he once was.
Are you still with me after all that? Cool. Thanks for sticking around.
Walker is not the four-time All-Star player that routinely gave the Sixers problems in Charlotte, but that doesn’t mean he’s totally ineffective. The Sixers need ball-handling, playmaking and can always use more shooting. Walker ticks all three boxes. The idea of using Walker as a sixth man/microwave scorer off the bench to back up Tyrese Maxey is appealing. A Walker-Andre Drummond pick-and-roll would’ve been super exciting in 2018. In 2022, both players could make it a productive action for Doc Rivers’ bench-heavy lineups.
Cory Joseph, G, Detroit Pistons
($4.9M this season; $5.1M player option in 2022-23)
Shake Milton will be back eventually, but it still feels like the Sixers could use some ball-handling. Joseph is a solid veteran guard that can run an offense, hit an open shot (42.3 percent from three) and gives a ton of effort on defense.
Is Joseph an upgrade over Milton? Eh. Joseph has a significant advantage in playoff experience, but maybe not as far as skills. I’d view Joseph as an insurance policy or competition. Perhaps, Milton could play off the ball next to Joseph if Korkmaz continued to struggle (or was sent to Detroit for Joseph).
Ty Jerome, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
($2.4M this season; $4.2M in 2022-23; RFA in 2023-24)
Bring Jerome home. The Virginia product was actually a Sixers draft pick, but was moved on draft night in order for the team to move up and select Matisse Thybulle (seems like the right call!). Jerome spent one season in Phoenix before being shipped to OKC in the Chris Paul deal.
I’m sure many of you reading this are not remotely impressed with Jerome or view him as a player that could help the Sixers. Fair enough. But Jerome seems like a player in need of a better opportunity. He actually was good for the Thunder last season, averaging 10.7 points with a 58.5 true shooting percentage (including 42.3 percent from three on 5.1 attempts) in 23.9 minutes a game.
The Thunder now have four promising guards that are all younger than the 24-year-old Jerome — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (23), Josh Giddey (19), Lu Dort (22) and Tre Mann (20). I’d be intrigued to see what Jerome could do with more run and while surrounded by better talent in a winning environment. He can dribble, shoot and pass. Sounds like a guy the Sixers could use!