NBA Trade Rumors, Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Trade Deadline Portfolio 2019: Philadelphia 76ers

After trading for Jimmy Butler, expect the 76ers to be aggressive upgrading small holes on the bench to prep for an NBA Finals run.

The 76ers have been perhaps the NBA’s most entertaining teams the past two seasons, navigating scandal and injuries as well as the blossoming of their superstar young players into a championship-caliber core. This season, Philadelphia was open about their ultimate goal — an NBA championship — and certainly dumped just about every egg available to them into that basket by trading for Jimmy Butler. Now, on if the team can stay healthy, it looks a piece or two away from competing for the championship they spent the late summer dreaming about.

The assets Philly unloaded in the Butler deal were uncharacteristic of the package buyers usually ship out in superstar trades but they were indeed two of the Sixers’ best assets. Dario Saric and Robert Covington combined decent-sized salaries with plug-and-play skills that helped Minnesota stay afloat and simultaneously cut into the Sixers’ depth.

In addition, Markelle Fultz’s ongoing battles with his own mind and body stole from the Sixers a player they believed could buoy their starting lineup at the beginning of the season. Now, Fultz isn’t even playing, which has pushed the undersized T.J. McConnell and rookie Landry Shamet into large roles. That’s not a duo Philly will feel great about behind their starters in the playoffs.

While they’re on the phone with rival teams this month, Philly ought also to think about the center spot. The team acquired Mike Muscala to back up the injury-prone Joel Embiid this summer and the inefficient Muscala had to fill more minutes at power forward than expected after the Sixers dealt Saric. As starter Wilson Chandler struggles through his own return from injury, Philly can add a reserve big man to its list of needs.

First-round picks Zhaire Smith and Justin Patton, both of whom have struggled with injury since they entered the league, are close to joining the Sixers. That not only helps the team’s depth but gives them ever so slightly more value on the trade market — now just unproven rather than unproven and also injured. Smith especially brought top-10 hype into draft night last June and could hold weight in trade discussions should the Sixers make him available in a trade to acquire a good player on a multiyear deal.

Fultz also remains a key piece for the Sixers as the deadline nears. His prolific potential and $8 million (and rising) salary make him a very movable piece. However, his stock has to be considered severely damaged at this point with the time he has missed and the countless viral miscues since he first took the court.

Philly also has all its own first-round picks going forward as well as a few spare second-rounders to use as cherries atop bigger trades.

Without a no-brainer candidate available this February that would instantly turn the Sixers into the favorite in the Eastern Conference, they will likely focus their attention on smaller stopgap players who can patch holes in the bench and deepen their rotation. With the possibility to keep their stars (including JJ Redick) and still create cap space this summer, it’s unlikely Philadelphia will want players on expensive contracts stretching past this year, further limiting their options.

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Two guards to watch — Shabazz Napier and Yogi Ferrell, both undersized guards squashed beneath the depth of their teams. And at center, someone like Dewayne Dedmon or Kyle O’Quinn feels imminently gettable, though the Sixers could also opt to ride Embiid big time in the playoffs and see what they have in Patton and Aussie rookie Jonah Bolden, who has played well lately.

It may not be fireworks for the Sixers the first week of February, but if they play things right, they could enter the stretch run in an even better position to compete this season without sacrificing future flexibility.

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