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Early-season intel: Sixers continue to reportedly be ‘an expected suitor’ for LaVine

More reports are linking Zach LaVine to the Sixers, but does the high-scoring guard make sense in Philly?

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Chicago Bulls v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

NBA Insider Shams Charania’s latest had various details that either mention the Sixers directly or impact them in some way, shape or form. Starting off with the area that directly mentioned them, Charania listed the Sixers and Lakers as the two teams that are “expected suitors” for Chicago Bulls’ guard Zach LaVine:

The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers are expected suitors for LaVine, but both are operating from positions of patience and due diligence. And now, as the Bulls have found their stride over the past week and are just one game out of a Play-In Tournament spot, teams will continue to monitor their approach with LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The Athletic’s Sam Amick recently reported that DeRozan’s preferred trade destinations are the New York Knicks and Miami Heat if he does end up being dealt.

The Sixers have been linked to LaVine since it was announced he’s been made available. Although, most of the smoke seems to be originating from outside of Philly. Thus far, the Sixers have signaled patience as the team has been performing well. They also currently have the second-best offense in the entire league, so it isn’t exactly like they need LaVine right now.

Is LaVine worth a phone call from the Sixers’ perspective? Absolutely, especially if his price has tanked. He’s an All-Star and proven scorer who would be a good fit alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. However, his injury history isn’t great and his contract isn’t exactly a bargain. Expect the Sixers to be continuously linked to LaVine for the reasons above, but that patient approach seems to be the theme.

Let’s switch gears to another team that might blow things up in the near future: the Toronto Raptors. Currently, the team is on the outside looking in with a lackluster 9-13 record. Factor in OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam’s free agencies looming and things don’t look great. Charania listed several teams who might be suitors for the forward duo, but them Sixers were not among them:

“Teams such as the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers are expected suitors for Siakam or Anunoby but believe Siakam appears to be the likelier player to be dealt, league sources tell The Athletic. Siakam, 29, is earning $37.9 million in the last year of his Raptors contract this season while Anunoby, 26, has a $19.9 million player option for next season that he will almost assuredly decline to enter free agency.

The Hawks held intense conversations with the Raptors surrounding a Siakam deal over the offseason, as The Athletic reported, and the Pacers and Kings have both checked in and engaged at different points with Toronto over the last year. For the Kings, a better start to this season than a year ago (12-8 this season compared to 11-9 last season en route to a 48-win campaign) provides confidence that they can grow internally rather than compete for the expected cost of talents such as Siakam and Anunoby.

A season ago, the Raptors elected to play through a trying campaign and forge ahead with efforts to compete come playoff time. They ultimately lost guard Fred VanVleet for nothing as a free agent to the Houston Rockets. How will the Raptors’ front office handle two big-time free-agents-to-be this time around?

Around the league, many expect the Raptors to scan their options all the way up until the trade deadline. And negotiations with the Raptors will always be, in the words of one rival executive, “a game of chicken.”

Anunoby would be a tremendous fit in Philly, especially with the Sixers’ defense underperforming. However, Anunoby will have a lengthy list of suitors and it’s possible multiple teams will be throwing out large offers for him. And that’s assuming he’s even made available in the first place (we are talking about Masai Ujiri here).

The last relevant note about the Sixers pertains to our old friend P.J. Tucker. As most know, the Clippers’ season has been a roller coaster at best with James Harden at the helm. Tucker, who was included in the Harden blockbuster, has been slowly phased out of L.A.’s rotation, logging multiple DNP’s.

Charania reports that Tucker is working with the Clippers to resolve his frustration with a lack of a role in L.A.:

“Forward P.J. Tucker has expressed frustration about his current situation with the team, and both sides are discussing ways to resolve a role for him there or elsewhere, according to league sources.

The 13-year NBA veteran has been a key, big-minute contributor across the last 12 years — including starting three games and playing over 22 minutes for the 76ers a night prior to his trade with James Hardento the Clippers — but the 2021 NBA champion has been a DNP-CD in the last five games and has not played since Nov. 27 as coach Tyronn Lue moved rookie Kobe Brown into the rotation to infuse youth and athleticism. Tucker has been professional by helping Brown and his younger teammates while navigating his new reality with the Clippers.

Multiple contending teams are monitoring the Tucker situation in LA. For the season, Tucker, 38, has averaged 1.3 points and 2.9 rebounds. He is earning $11 million this season and has a player option worth $11.5 million for the 2024-25 season.”

Tucker’s offense was non-existent in Philadelphia, so it makes sense that he’s been struggling to get run on a win-now team. It’s unclear if Tucker has anything left in the tank, but it’ll be hard for him to get time in a playoff setting with most teams if he is moved from the Clippers.

Keep in mind, Tucker has a player option worth roughly $12 million for next season. So this won’t be a simple problem to solve for the Clippers if he does get moved. Most teams will probably view that as a negative alone. Let’s just be glad that the Sixers never had to cross this bridge.

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