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With eyes on the NBA Draft lottery, Morey, Brand and the Sixers may be thinking super team

There are a few rumors that the Sixers might be trying to land another star, and somehow that relates to tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery drawing.

2012 NBA Draft Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Later tonight at the NBA Draft Lottery drawing, a handful of teams will hang on each envelope NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum reveals, as they learn their respective pick placements for June’s draft.

We still don’t know if the Sixers will have a first-round pick, that depends on what the Brooklyn Nets decide. But if Sean Marks and co. defer their option to 2023, then Philly will be on the clock with pick No. 23. next month trying to recreate some Tyrese Maxey (21st overall in 2020) magic.

The days of the Sixers hoping their pingpong balls would come through are long gone. They already found their MVP candidate with the third overall pick back in 2014. As a playoff contender ever since Joel Embiid came into his own, the Sixers have not made a lottery selection in four full seasons.

But that doesn’t mean Daryl Morey, Elton Brand and the rest of the Sixers’ front office won’t have a rooting interest when the full order is revealed later tonight. What they’re hoping for though, figures to remain a mystery.

But we can read tea leaves. The latest from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst:

What Windy said in that second tweet above has sent Sixers fans into a minor frenzy over the last 24 hours trying to suss out which mystery star Philadelphia might covet. Here’s the full transcript. Read it carefully and put on your detective cap full costumes.

Windhorst offered plenty of good NBA Trade rumor slop for us on the #GreeNY show with Mike Greenberg and Paul Hembekides:

“I think Harden will be back. It’ll just be a matter of negotiating the contract and making sure that it makes sense for the Sixers to improve because I promise you that Daryl Morey has big, giant plans to acquire another star. Whether he’s gonna execute it I don’t know, but part of getting that done is gonna require Harden to take some sort of pay cut.”

“Philly has dreams and plans as Daryl Morey does. A key factor here is that they have Tobias Harris who would have value in a possible trade. And they have Tyrese Maxey who would have value in a possible trade. And you would need a player, potentially near the end of his contract, to come and say, ‘I would like to go play in Philadelphia.’ Is that something that could happen? Maybe, we’ll see. I know that Philly and Daryl are gonna try to make it happen. A lot more will be clear about the market after the draft lottery tomorrow night. There’s some teams that depending on where they move in the draft lottery or don’t move could be open to deals that they may not today.”

OK, so first off, let’s focus on that last part — which teams could see a major change after tonight?

We present you, via Tankathon, the key players:

See any stars on any of these teams you think the Sixers may be eyeing?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a name the Sixers had their eye on once. But would the Thunder striking gold tonight, landing the first or second pick make them more likely to move SGA? Meh, probably not right? And like Damian Lillard, (another name we considered here) he’s inked for years to come. So Windy would have been deliberately obfuscating if he meant SGA or Dame when he said “near the end of his contract,” since neither of them are.

The Pelicans seem highly unlikely to trade Zion Williamson.

So unless Windy was being tricky about that contract part, that mostly leaves us Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, doesn’t it?

What we do know is that all of these third star dream (or fourth star depending on what you think of Maxey and whether or not the second-year phenom could be involved in a possible trade, since Windy did name him as a trade asset here) ideas depend on James Harden opting out and restructuring a long-term salary that affords Morey and Brand more salary cap wiggle room. You know, like Tom Brady or Tim Duncan would.

Harden has expressed a willingness to do just that. He has a one year player-option the size of a full four-year deal at $46.8M. There were rumors he didn’t file the paper work in time to get that mega check cleared back in February. Did he just “forget” to? Whatever the case, now fans should be glad The Beard never opted in.

Because like Windhorst, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne says Morey is dreaming very, very big.

Per a recent appearance on “NBA Today,” Shelburne said:

“Well the first step here is he’s got a player option June 29. $47.4M... But my expectation is that the Sixers go to him and say ‘hey, that’s a lot of money...’ but from where he is in his career and also what he said [after Game 6] he said ‘I’ll work with the team and I’ll do whatever it takes to build a team that can win here.’

There are some very creative options that they can play with. If he does not pick up that player option, they can do a deal that’s more like four [years] for $120M, which is still $30M a year... but there is an option Malika [Andrews], and they’d have to get creative, but there is an option where they could create a second or third max slot deal if he were willing to work with them on a much shorter or less expensive deal. It would also involve a trade of Tobias Harris in that spot. But there is an option where you could bring in a third star to Philly if James Harden was truly willing to work with them in the way that he said last night.”

Very interesting....

So now with that in mind, we turn our attention back to Beal, whose team will feel either jubilant or meh later today.

The St. Louis native has a $37M player option for 2023. But he could make a heck of a lot more opting out and hitting the market. By staying put, he could net even more (well over $200M) from his hometown Wiz via extension or a new five-year deal.

There was a ton of speculation that the Sixers were highly motivated to land Real Deal Beal during the Ben Simmons saga.

There was even a rumor that the Sixers would angle to convince Harden to take less than a max so they could onboard Beal specifically back in March:

Former Warrior Andrew Bogut recently said there’s “a pretty big rumor… from some people that are pretty close to the situation” that Beal was “trying to get to Philadelphia in the offseason to team up with Harden and Embiid” which Dan Feldman of NBCS rounded up for us.

So this is most likely who Windhorst means.

And here is the math about how this... dare we say... super team path might work, via Bryan Toporek of Forbes.

Per Toporek:

“Rather than carve out enough cap space to sign Beal or another star to a max contract outright, the Sixers might prefer to pursue a sign-and-trade instead. That would enable them to remain over the salary cap and potentially maintain access to both the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($10.3 million) and bi-annual exception ($4.1 million) to spend on their supporting cast.”

Is there really a world where the Sixers could onboard Beal and also have access to $10M (about what P.J Tucker makes) and $4M (about what Dorian Finney-Smith earned in 2022) exceptions? How you feel about this might all depend simply on what happens to Maxey in a hypothetical blockbuster.

(To me if there were somehow magically a way to bring on Beal while also keeping Maxey, Harden and Embiid, I think Sixers fans should be delirious with joy, though I have already heard some smart people contend it would be better to focus on wing-depth and flexibility.)

But almost all of these instances involve moving Tobias Harris. And trading Harris and Maxey for Beal probably isn’t a no brainer in most fans’ minds. But that’s for another day.

OK, so brass tax time. If Beal is the target here, would Morey, Brand and the Sixers want the Wizards to move up in the draft or stay put? If you were the Wiz, would you be more open to trading your top player if you had the second pick or the 10th?

Do you say “OK, we’re on to the youth movement, let’s build around Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, or Paolo Banchero and get picks and young players for Beal”? Or do you say “you know what, Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Kuzma, Rui and Deni, a new guy, this is going to be a ton of fun.” Or do you say “why don’t we trade this pick, and more to bring in veteran talent and help Beal win now?”

Are you the 2019 Pelicans and moving up to No. 1 eases your mind trading Anthony Davis? Or are you the 2019 Lakers and moving up to No. 4 provides you with the needed ammo to bundle youth and acquire that next disgruntled stud and keep Beal around for the long haul?

If you’re Beal, do you care? Would the Wiz landing this pick entice you to take the extra money and continue being the loyal guy people discuss more during trade season than playoff season?

My gut says basically that the Wizards are the team the Sixers have their eyes on and Beal is the player they want. And since Washingtons’ status quo isn’t very appealing, Morey and Brand will be hoping that Tommy Sheppard’s guys wind up staying put at pick No. 10.

There is an 86 percent chance the Wiz land the 10th, 11th, or 12th pick. And that probably wouldn’t do much to inspire a guy like Beal that things will suddenly be much different next season.

So I’ll be rooting against Washington, and to a lesser degree rooting against the Blazers, just in case Windy meant Dame. I’ll also be rooting against the Knicks just because they’re in the division and linked to Donovan Mitchell. They don’t need more trade ammo in that top market. And if we’re really getting into this, I might root against the Thunder because the later they pick the more cap space they might have to take on a contract like Harris’ and play third-team facilitator.

Get some popcorn. And then watch Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat and Jayson Tatum’s Boston Celtics duke it out wondering what if.