3The Philadelphia 76ers have just been bludgeoning opponents lately, led by none other than Joel Embiid, who just continues rampaging.
2023-2024 NBA Points Per Game Leaders:— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) December 18, 2023
34.2 - Joel Embiid
32.7 - Luka Dončić
31.4 - Giannis Antetokounmpo
30.7 - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
30.6 - Kevin Durant
All Leaders: https://t.co/RyFea5vuv6 pic.twitter.com/OE2MPrfmIA
As we’ve all grown accustomed to, the only thing that tends to limit Joel is his own body, as the 2023 league MVP has popped up on the latest injury report with hamstring tightness.
Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and the team was merely abiding by the letter of the law even by listing him on the report. Joel has recently made a habit of taking the fourth quarter of games off after helping Nick Nurse’s team build up monster leads. But soft-tissue injuries (as James Harden can tell us all) do tend to linger.
Plus, by rule, one may never, ever underestimate even a mild injury suffered by the reigning MVP.
But let’s look at the latest rumors involving the Sixers.
Lauri Markkanen’s cost?
One name that was recently reported as “no longer untouchable” — by a former Liberty Baller-turned-NBA author and senior insider for Yahoo Sports Jake Fischer — is Utah Jazz Finnish star Lauri Markkanen.
But could the Sixers use the stretch-four and first Nordic player to make an NBA All-Star team? They do have Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris. Sr. (who many suspect would be included in a potential trade if Harris is retained), Nico Batum, Robert Covington, plus others who have played some four in the past. But Markkanen is a much better talent than those names. And it doesn’t seem like a glaring need on paper, but hey, star-power is star-power, right?
What’s the latest on the Jazz stud?
Well, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, Danny Ainge is looking for a Rudy Gobert-type offer for Utah’s top star:
The asking price for Lauri Markkanen could be around ‘five-ish picks,’ per @KevinOConnorNBA— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) December 18, 2023
“My impression from talking to teams is that it’s something resembling the haul the Jazz received for Mitchell and Gobert: so, five-ish firsts and/or players of comparable value.”
It’s an exorbitant ask, perhaps arrived upon by — a once viewed as hilarious offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Gobert — past blockbusters that insiders claim set the market for “stars” in today’s NBA. But you know Jazz exec and former Celtics Prez Danny Ainge. Just like Toronto’s President, Masai Ujiri, Ainge is a vicious negotiator who often backs out at the final hour. And when he doesn’t back out... well, ask Billy King or Bryan Colangelo about that element.
Kings suitors for OG?
Next, we have a report about Raptors’ stud wing OG Anunoby, long connected to the Sixers based on his seamless fit and clear talent as a two-way wing.
Per Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee, there’s also more mention of Markkanen:
“The Kings have been linked to the likes of Toronto Raptors forwards OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine and Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen as general manager Monte McNair looks to upgrade the roster. Sacramento’s apparent interest in Anunoby has generated enough buzz for oddsmakers to calculate the Kings’ chances of acquiring him before the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline.”
So the Sixers figure to have some steep competition for anyone talented that Daryl Morey, Elton Brand and the Sixers’ front office covets, whether that’s Anunoby, LaVine, Siakam or Markkanen; there are also unmentioned teams like the New York Knicks, who have a bigger draft-pick haul to work with than Morey and co., and Leon Rose’s squad may be looking to make a splash.
It is intriguing (or frustrating, depending on your vantage point) that the Kings have their eye on several names recently linked to Philadelphia. Could Sacramento put together a better package than Morey’s Sixers?
Perhaps they could, but on the other hand, the Kings recently traded away former 2021 No. 12 overall pick Tyrese Haliburton, who seems like a lock for one of the league’s 2024 All-NBA teams. They onboarded Domantas Sabonis last season and received lots of praise for the ill-fated shakeup. Almost comically, Monte McNair, the Kings’ Team Prez even won 2023 NBA Executive of the Year for his blunder (lolol!!!) so maybe he’ll feel encouraged to keep hemorrhaging top-end talent? Morey be calling him, ASAP.
We certainly didn’t need an ounce of hindsight to know Sacramento blew it when they sold so low on the 23-year-old Indiana superstar in Haliburton.
“This was a bit of a coup by Pacers president Kevin Pritchard to get a rising star in Haliburton, along with one of the league’s best shooters in Buddy Hield. Domantas Sabonis is a good player, but he wasn’t moving the needle for Indy next to Myles Turner. It makes sense to look ahead, and Haliburton certainly represents a brighter future for them now.”
Yes, the Kings played well after that trade and moving Haliburton may well have unleashed De’AAron Fox. Sabonis totally balled out too. But the value they let get away should crush diehard Sac fans.
So you never know what a weird, perennially moribund franchise is going to do next. And maybe that makes things more difficult for Morey to predict even if he has an edge in terms of executive savvy.
More on the OG market
Truth is, we’ve been keeping abreast of the Anunoby market for weeks now.
Anderson continues, noting that the Kings are betting front runners to land reported Sixers’ target Anunoby:
“According to OntarioBets.com, the Kings are one of the five most likely teams to secure the services of Anunoby, a 6-foot-7, 232-pound small forward who won an NBA championship in 2019 and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2023. The website gives the Raptors +450 odds with an 18.2% chance of keeping Anunoby. They are followed by the New York Knicks at +700 (12.5%), Philadelphia 76ers at +1000 (12.5%) and the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings at +1000 (9.1%).”
I’d be ecstatic if the Sixers could somehow persuade OG to ask to be traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. The small forward out of Indiana is in a contract year, and if he merely hinted to Ujiri he wouldn’t re-sign in Canada come summer, the Dinos would be forced to seriously consider dealing him (in fear of losing him during free agency for nothing) the same way the Nets once felt compelled to move on from James Harden back in 2022.
I’m gonna leave you anyway, you may as well get something back.
Will Tobias Harris finally get moved?
An annual tradition since 2020, we’ve also read about Sixers’ four Tobias Harris being a name to watch ahead of the NBA Trade deadline in a recent report or two. Harris, talented yet still wildly overpaid by the pre-Morey-team owner Josh Harris-led “collaborative” front office, is in the final year of his $180M deal. Could he be on the move finally? Or is it still “he’s a little too good to take a crummy offer” season?
James L. Edwards III, (covering the 2-24, league-worst record) Pistons, mentions the former Piston for The Athletic:
“And, as a reported over the weekend, league sources tell The Athletic that Detroit is expected to be active in trade discussions leading up to the February deadline. Over the next 10 months, specifically, the Pistons will be looking to upgrade their roster significantly. League sources tell The Athletic that the likes of OG Anunoby, Tobias Harris and other proven forwards are going to be targets for the Pistons between now and free agency this offseason.”
And it sounds like NBC’s Helin is hearing similar tunes out of Detroit, unless of course he’s merely aggregating soundbytes:
“League sources tell The Athletic that Detroit is expected to be active in the trade market over the next few weeks and are eyeing a forward. One player I’m hearing that the Pistons are interested in, as is the rest of the league, is Toronto’s OG Anunoby. However, it’s possible Detroit will wait to see if it can land Anunoby in the open market next summer — the two-way wing has a player option for next season that he’ll most certainly decline — and avoid giving up some of its young players. Tobias Harris, who is an unrestricted free agent after this season, is another name the Pistons could target sooner rather than later if he becomes available before the NBA’s February trade deadline.”
The Sixers now have a few role players on the team that wouldn’t be bad to extend by next summer. Robert Covington could potentially be retained on the cheap, as well as Nico Batum. But is Morey hoping to spend a max contract and let names like that walk? Would he prefer to bundle a couple expiring names for a true stud he hopes to re-sign by July? If he is thinking that way, he might want to consider moving said names ahead of time, just in case.
But there’s always another dollop of trade slop waiting around the corner so we’ll see what tomorrow brings. In the meantime, we can expect Philadelphia to be connected to plenty of hot trade names.