The trade deadline came and went and the Sixers didn’t do much.
They traded Matisse Thybulle to Portland and a 2023 second-round pick to Charlotte. They acquired Hornets’ forward Jalen McDaniels and a pair of second-round picks (Portland’s 2029, the Knicks’ 2024 (via Portland)).
The trade does accomplish a few goals. The team gets a more balanced forward in McDaniels (though his shooting numbers this season aren’t super encouraging). McDaniels is also roughly four inches taller than Thybulle, giving him a better chance of contending with bigger wings. Recouping an extra second-rounder could be helpful in the future ... as we saw with seemingly endless seconds being moved.
And while I certainly understand fans not being thrilled with the team ducking the tax, it can help them in a couple areas. With uncertainty surrounding the next CBA, it could help them avoid the repeater tax. Our Bryan Toporek is much smarter than me and did an excellent job explaining the reasoning behind such a move. That’s not to say I totally agree with it, just to present the “why.”
Another area it could help the team is the buyout market. Yes, a tax-paying team is free to sign bought out players as they please, but those salaries will count against its tax bill. Since minimum contracts are prorated for the rest of the season, the Sixers have enough room to sign a player and still stay below the tax. They could also waive a player to make room if they had two options they liked. Simply put: they can sign a player that helps them win now while maintaining future flexibility.
The market is seemingly more robust than usual. While we all look back affectionately at the acquisitions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, more often than not, buyout players don’t make a large impact. As our Sean Kennedy wisely opined when assessing the lack of move for a backup center:
“Undoubtedly, Daryl Morey and company will be watching the buyout market with heavy interest, but that’s not where teams usually turn to fix a fundamental roster hole. And make no mistake, the Sixers have one.”
With that said, there are options that make sense — including three (maybe four, depending on your perspective) possible reunions.
There are likely three possible buyout candidates when it comes to backup big men. Serge Ibaka is reportedly being waived after being traded to the Pacers. The 33-year-old struggled with the Bucks this season and found himself out of the rotation. Can Ibaka protect the rim and be a decent enough pick-and-pop partner with James Harden to make it work? I’m skeptical. Signing Ibaka has last season’s vibes of signing multiple backup bigs and hoping one pans out. Spoiler alert: neither of them did.
Then there’s two of the aforementioned reunion possibilities: Nerlens Noel and Andre Drummond. Both players have been out of their respective team’s rotations and would likely welcome a change of scenery. Either player would be an immediate upgrade over Harrell. As for who is the better fit, I might lean Noel. He can play in space better which makes him a more viable option in the postseason. When Drummond was in Philly as a Bull last month, you did get a strong sense he would love to be back here.
When it comes to perimeter players, our old friend Danny Green was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the fledgling Houston Rockets, making him a prime buyout candidate. The 35-year-old just returned last week from a serious knee injury he suffered as a Sixer against the Miami Heat in Game 5 of that series. How much does Green have left, especially coming off a torn ACL? That’s unclear. But the veteran being an option off the bench and not being relied on as a starter like he was last season should suit him (and the Sixers) better.
Another perimeter option is Patrick Beverley who went to the Magic in the Mo Bamba deal. Beverley would reunite with Harden, Morey and P.J. Tucker from his Rockets days and Doc Rivers from his time with the Clippers. PatBev can still defend guards at a high level, something the Sixers will miss with Thybulle gone. Having the flexibility to use McDaniels for bigger wings and Beverley for quicker guards would be nice. It is worth noting that the 34-year-old has fallen off a bit as a shooter the last two seasons.
A few other guys could be made available. Will Barton, Justin Holiday and Terrence Ross could all be bought out. When they’re making shots they can be impactful players, but none has done so consistently. Not sure any of them moves the needle for the Sixers. Green and Beverley feel like better options.
If the Sixers end up with one of the backup bigs and one of the perimeter players, it does make the deadline look slightly better. Those players could be upgrades over current options and make the team better.
But this still wouldn’t feel like a team that can contend with the likes of the Celtics or Bucks, who both got better ahead of the deadline.