Ladies and gentlemen, we did it. We survived the James Harden soap opera, as the mercurial guard has reportedly been dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers.
This is wonderful news for two big reasons: 1. The strong vibes with new head coach Nick Nurse and budding star and reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Tyrese Maxey can continue and 2. Daryl Morey now has draft capital to work with in a trade — in addition to cap space this offseason.
On the second part, we’ve already got early reports leaking out on who the Sixers could potentially target to complement Maxey and reigning MVP Joel Embiid:
Some of the early chatter on names to watch with Philadelphia: Zach LaVine and OG Anunoby. LaVine is the kind of scorer/ball handler the Sixers could use. Anunoby is the versatile defender Philly needs against Boston/MIL in the playoffs.— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) October 31, 2023
Let’s start with LaVine, a name that has been linked to the Sixers before. The high-scoring guard — and the remaining four years and nearly $180 million left on his contract — was reportedly dangled this summer. According to multiple reports, the Sixers and Bulls engaged in talks about LaVine, but they were all preliminary discussions. KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reported on Chicago’s asking price:
One league source said the Bulls would be focused on getting a good young player, multiple first-round picks and salary filler if they decide to trade LaVine. Another said one first-round pick and an established, high-end player might be sufficiently intriguing.
Not sure the Sixers would have the “established, high-end player” the Bulls would be looking for. Would something like Jaden Springer, two firsts and flipping a couple players from the deal with the Clippers get it done? Possibly, depending on how Chicago’s season goes. It doesn’t seem like it’s going great to start, for what it’s worth.
LaVine is a high-volume scorer, three-point shooter and a shot creator. The duo of Maxey and LaVine could work if they can develop chemistry and continue to play the team basketball we’ve seen thus far. Despite his zero-assist 51 piece last week, LaVine has proven to be a decent playmaker for others during his time in Chicago. Embiid, LaVine and Maxey would be as good of a trio as there is in the NBA.
OG Anunoby is another very intriguing name. Considered one of the best and most versatile defenders in the league, Anunoby still might have untapped potential on the offensive end. He’s gotten off to a slow start this season, but a reunion with Nick Nurse and playing alongside guys like Embiid and Maxey could do wonders for the 26-year-old.
His ability to guard every position on the floor is akin to how Aaron Gordon fits in with the Nuggets. The key difference being Anunoby has proven to be a much better offensive player, especially when it comes to outside shooting. Coming into 2023-24, Anunoby shot 38.4 percent from three over the last four seasons. Giving him a max deal or something close (he has a player option for 2024-25) after completing a trade would be risky. You’d be betting on him still having room to grow offensively.
The biggest obstacle is likely dealing with Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri, who has put ludicrous price tags on his players — to the point where he didn’t move Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet, who both signed elsewhere. It’s super early, but Toronto does seem a little rudderless and ripe for a rebuild.
It’s important to note that while these names have come up, the player empowerment era has created volatility around the league. LaVine and Anunoby seem like players that could be moved for some of the reasons listed above, but you never know which potential star could be available between now and Feb. 8.