With less than a month-and-a-half to go until the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline, the landscape of buyers and sellers is beginning to crystallize. Although some teams remain paralyzed in indecision—here’s looking at you, Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors—others are starting to establish themselves as lottery-bound sellers.
In theory, that’s great news for the Sixers. Armed with the assets they acquired in the James Harden trade, they’re positioned to make a splash ahead of the deadline. However, a scarcity of sellers could throw the NBA’s supply-and-demand system out of whack to the detriment of the Sixers and all other potential buyers.
When asked on Threads this week how he saw this year’s trade deadline playing out, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski replied, “Lots of buyers, few sellers.” He attributed that in part to the play-in tournament, “which has kept more teams trying to reach the postseason instead of dropping down into the lottery,” and he noted the perceived weakness of the 2024 NBA draft class gives teams “even less motivation to trade a postseason berth vs. a few extra ping-pong balls in the lottery.”
Wojnarowski did predict “there will be trades” and “there will be sellers.” However, he added that the “asking price is going to be high from the really bad teams to move off assets,” which will slow the market down.
We’ve seen that over the past few years since the advent of the play-in tournament. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported that the Detroit Pistons—who are currently riding an all-time worst 28-game losing streak—asked for both a first-round pick and a “prized young player” for Bojan Bogdanovic ahead of last year’s trade deadline. According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, they did turn down an offer of two first-round picks from a contender, although it’s unclear what (if any) protections would have been on those picks.
Bogdanovic figures to be back on the trade block this year, and with only $2 million of his $19.0 million salary for the 2024-25 fully guaranteed until late June, he’d be a logical Sixers trade target for multiple reasons. He doesn’t fit the two-way mold that the Sixers are reportedly looking for, but he’s been one of the league’s more efficient three-point shooters over the past half-decade and could add some reliable spacing around Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid.
Unless K.J. Martin or Jaden Springer meet the Pistons’ definition of a “prized young player,” the Sixers aren’t likely to meet their Bogdanovic asking price from last season. There’s no chance that they’d include Maxey in such a framework—even if they were also getting Cade Cunningham and/or Jaden Ivey—and Paul Reed doesn’t make much sense on a Pistons roster that already has too many young bigs. But if the Pistons are willing to settle for one first-round pick and salary filler—hello, Marcus Morris!—the Sixers easily have the pieces to swing such a deal.
The same goes for Alex Caruso, whom the Bulls are reportedly reluctant to even shop in the first place. They told teams ahead of last year’s trade deadline that they could get “upward of two first-rounders,” according to Fischer. However, multiple executives told Scotto this season that “they believe the Bulls can get a first-round pick and a rotational player for Caruso but weren’t sure if they’d get two first-rounders.”
Considering that the Sixers can only trade three first-rounders right now—the 2026 pick from the Clippers, Rockets or Thunder; their own 2028 pick (protected 9-30) or the Clippers’ unprotected 2028 pick, and their own 2029 pick—it’s hard to imagine them spending two of those three unless it’s for a third star. If the Bulls are also open to taking only one first-round pick along with salary filler and/or Springer or Martin, though, they might have some common ground with the Sixers.
The same 10-15 names figure to circulate around the trade rumor mill—max or near-max players such as Zach LaVine, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby and role players like Caruso, both Bogdanovics (Bojan and Bogdan), Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale—but it’s unclear which of those players will actually become available and what their respective teams’ asking price might be. The best-case scenario from the Sixers’ perspective is that multiple teams decide to shift into seller mode, flooding the market with options rather than limiting it to a select few.
There’s no way to know whether the Sixers will find a third star at the trade deadline, or if that’s even their best path moving forward. But if Wojnarowski is right about a dearth of sellers, that won’t favor the Sixers and other potential buyers.