We’re here in trade season and there’s still not much going on. Is it going to remain quiet? Is some rival Bambi GM safe to graze? Or are Daryl Morey and Elton Brand lying, hiding in wait, poised to strike like a couple of lions camouflaged in the high and dry grasses of treacherous trade plains? Few expected them to land James Harden at this time one year ago.
As a President-GM duo, it looks like they’ve tended to wait until the very last possible moment before pouncing:
With the exception of the little Zhaire Smith-Tony Bradley trade, each of Daryl’s trades here has been at a deadline:— Francis Parker (@franciszomes) January 30, 2023
Horford/Danny: draft day
JRich/Seth: draft day
George Hill: trade deadline
Simmons/Harden: trade deadline
Danny/Melton: draft day
So, February 9 it is! https://t.co/zQ0zjtrFw1
If that pattern remains, we’re looking at eight more days before we learn the final outcome. Will players change teams or not?! We can’t take the suspense!
The problem now is Morey doesn’t have much to work with anymore. Most of the assets have gone towards parting with Al Horford and bringing in Harden; necessary evils that sought to rectify sins of this team’s tragic Colangelo-turned-Collaborative Front Office past.
Perhaps making matters even more challenging, Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer, back in late December, noted the 76ers could look to duck under the luxury tax. Doing so would mean cutting $1.17M dollars in player salary. Fischer suggested maybe trading Furkan Korkmaz ($5M) for a rotation player who makes roughly $4M. He also noted Jaden Springer as a possible trade candidate for the same cost-saving reasons.
Our Bryan Toporek provided a beautiful and clear breakdown of the complex calculus.
So it’s very possible that Morey and Brand know slipping under the tax now will help them spend much more down the road. But Morey always says that this season is the most important of all. So it’s a conundrum.
So what’s the latest scuttlebutt?
“Sacramento is said to be monitoring the availability of Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle as the Kings, unexpectedly holding the West’s No. 3 seed after a league-record 16 consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, ponder the pursuit of a more defensive-minded option on the perimeter.”
Our Harrison Grimm analyzed that situation on Tuesday. On Wednesday Keith Pompey doubled down on the Kings’ interest and mentioned the Golden State Warriors as well:
“Multiple NBA sources said the Golden State Warriors have had internal discussions about Thybulle and that they do like him as a defensive stopper....And even if they do attempt to trade him, the market might not bring back enough in his place. At the moment, multiple league sources said Thybulle’s lack of consistent production has lowered his trade value. The sources said, at this time, they wouldn’t give up a first-round pick for him.”
Do the Warriors calling give Philly any pause in trading Thybulle? After all, this is the team who just won a championship with Gary Payton Jr. (a career 33.6 percent three-point shooter) playing more minutes than Jordan freakin’ Poole vs. the Celtics in three of the five games GPj appeared in. How many coaches besides Steve Kerr would have made that decision? Payton Jr. helped change that series, despite shooting a Thybullesque 2 of 7 from distance (28.6 percent) during his 18.4 mpg, routinely finding himself left alone as his defender helped on more lethal Warriors. They won all three games he logged more minutes than Poole. Kerr knew that to beat a team like Boston, you need some wing defense. (Quibbling about the differences between Payton and Matisse as shooters aside, you get the gist.)
And back on Tuesday, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice dropped a whole bunch more intel:
“The broadest summary of Philadelphia’s deadline goals: the Sixers are looking for two-way players to add to their playoff rotation....
Two examples that jump out as reference points are Matisse Thybulle and Georges Niang. Each of those players brings something very different to the table, impactful defense in Thybulle’s case and elite shooting in Niang’s case, and each comes with problems that could knock them out of the rotation in the playoffs. Can Thybulle make enough shots to stay on the floor? Can Niang defend anyone when it counts? There appear to be bigger concerns about Thybulle if we were trying to split hairs.”
So Thybulle’s name keeps popping up. Neubeck continued:
“The other big roster need, one I was slightly surprised to hear the Sixers are prioritizing, is at the backup five position.... sources say they would be interested in acquiring a safer/more traditional backup to Embiid for certain matchups in the playoffs.”
Death, taxes, and the Sixers having a backup center problem.
In the report, Neubeck names Andre Drummond (a player we looked at as an option when Fischer’s podcast first dropped) and Minnesota Timberwolves’ Naz Reid as possibilities to come in, with names like Korkmaz, guard Jaden Springer, and relative newcomer swingman Danuel House Jr. as names most likely to be shipped out.
The former Liberty Baller also mentioned there are a “small handful” of teams interested in Thybulle (pending RFA), and that Shake Milton is an “under-the-radar” name to keep an eye on.
And to the multimillion dollar question, will they prioritize ducking the luxury tax? It doesn’t sound like it was phrased as a mandate from ownership, per se, based on how Neubeck describes it:
“As has been reported elsewhere, if the Sixers can get under the luxury tax threshold prior to the deadline, there’s certainly interest in doing that, though it would not come as a priority over upgrading the roster. “Cheaper and better” would be the ideal outcome for any team in a cap league, not just the Sixers.”
Reading between the lines, this sounds to me like a team who is going to move heaven and earth to improve the bench while also saving that all important $1,172,998. But in the off-chance something sensational and pricier lands on their lap, they’ll suck it up and pay.
So, hypothetically, if they could get a player like Phoenix Suns veteran forward Jae Crowder, who earns $10.1M but isn’t in the Suns’ rotation, and if doing so would mean paying the tax would they do it? Some fans would certainly like it if they did.
Alternatively, what if they could get Utah’s Jarred Vanderbilt ($4.3M) instead, while retaining Georges Niang (someone who might have to be dealt in any Crowder deal) all while ducking the tax? Would they prefer the latter? Certainly seems plausible. But what if the name wasn’t Vanderbilt but was Khem Birch ($6.6M)? How important does the tax thing become then, and so on and so forth.
There will be some difficult questions for the team to answer, and chances are we fans will never learn the vast majority of roads not traveled. It rarely behooves a team to share things they could have done but ultimately didn’t do... until the results are long in and appear favorable.
Neubeck went even deeper on his most recent “Clap Your Hands” pod. In that he really emphasizes the team’s desire for what they hoped Danuel House Jr. could have but simply has not been; that is a guy who comes off the bench and helps the team on both ends of the floor.
We just mentioned Crowder in our hypothetical. It’s worth noting that Neubeck adds on “Clap Your Hands” he doesn’t expect the 76ers to land Crowder. Our own Paul Hudrick reported back in September that the team was not in on Crowder.
A few other noteworthy points he made include:
- he doesn’t think the team fully trusts Thybulle’s jump shot and thus would like to upgrade on the perimeter, but adds he doesn’t think they’re necessarily trying to move him in part because they suspect he’ll be affordable as a free agent this summer and possess his salary matching rights.
- Neubeck doesn’t think the team is confident Georges Niang is going to hold up defensively vs. elite teams in the playoffs
- he thinks they want to upgrade backup center with a capable rim protector whether that’s via trade or buyout market
- when asked by co-host Eliot Shorr-Parks if the team has “soured on Maxey,” Neubeck says he does not think so, but believes Joel Embiid and James Harden are the only truly untouchable players on the roster and since Maxey has at least a nominal demotion to the bench, “vultures may circle.” He thinks they’d at least consider big trades but because OG Anunoby appears to be the top name on the market, we’re exceedingly more likely to see a smaller deal where the newcomer doesn’t even have a guaranteed spot in the rotation.
[Side bar: I don’t expect the Sixers to be shopping James Harden at all. But the idea that he’s “untouchable” to me doesn’t add up. I mean, all he’d even have to do is whisper the word Houston, Miami or L.A. and he’d rightly put the fear of god into this front office. Losing him for nothing would be crushing for a team without cap space, and take them right out of contention again moving forwards. They should be at least as open to trading him as they are Maxey, even if this is all completely hypothetical].
I will not spoil anymore but definitely read the reports and listen to the podcast above because it sheds lots of light on the notes in the report. Sometimes you have to hear the way something is stated for yourself to assign the proper weight it deserves.
For example, here were Francis Parker’s takeaways:
Kyle drops a bunch of interesting tidbits here, including that the Sixers want to upgrade the House & Niang spots, Harden & Jo are the only untouchables, they’d do a big deal if the right one came along, and Springer, House, and Kork are the most likely players to be moved.— Francis Parker (@franciszomes) January 31, 2023
But mine or yours may be a bit different. Whatever the case, I was most surprised to hear names like Niang and Shake’s come up. I was a little less surprised to hear the team is having talks about but still very much open to retaining Matisse because he’ll likely be affordable as a free agent. I was not at all surprised to hear they’re disappointed in Danuel House and the backup big spot and eyeing reinforcements there.
There was nothing about this in any of the reports but hearing these individual names, I couldn’t help but wonder who is the best player the team could get if they bundled Shake, Niang, Matisse, Korkmaz and that Hornets pick all into one deal?