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January 31, 2023

What to expect from Sixers at 2023 trade deadline

Will the Sixers move Matisse Thybulle or Shake Milton at the deadline?

Sixers NBA
Sixers-Pistons-Matisse-Thybulle_012821_Kate_Frese77.jpg Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

Matisse Thybulle is reportedly heading to Portland.

We're just over a week away from the NBA trade deadline, and the Sixers have pushed themselves into a small group of contenders with inspired play since the start of December. Where does that leave them in the trade market, and what moves are priorities between now and February 9?

The broadest summary of Philadelphia's deadline goals: the Sixers are looking for two-way players to add to their playoff rotation. 

There are a few specific spots in the rotation they're looking at for potential upgrades, or maybe the word "sidegrade" is more accurate for this year. As of now, it does not appear a big move is in the works, so it's more likely they bring in a player who is simply different than their current guys, rather than outright better.

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. Even as it has been acknowledged that he's putting work in to improve as a shooter — and Thybulle had a nice couple of games over the weekend — he has only been a sporadic rotation player throughout the season. The level of organizational trust isn't high. That said, it's probably more realistic to find a worse-shooting, better-defending competitor for Niang minutes than a better-shooting comparable for Thybulle.

The other big roster need, one I was slightly surprised to hear the Sixers are prioritizing, is at the backup five position. It has been a sore spot for the franchise in the Embiid era, and remains one again this season.

Philadelphia already has three nominal bigs on the roster, including star center Embiid, but sources say they would be interested in acquiring a safer/more traditional backup to Embiid for certain matchups in the playoffs. 

With Montrezl Harrell's defensive issues and Paul Reed not yet earning the trust of the coaching staff, sources say the Sixers would be open to bringing in another big even if they don't move one of Embiid's current backups. It's the easy place for your mind to drift, but former Sixers big Andre Drummond is an example, if a high-end example, of the sort of player we could be talking about, a big-bodied player and strong rebounder in the more traditional school of bigs. 

(Naz Reid is a hot player in the rumor mill around the league, though I think he skews more toward the Harrell style of bigs and wouldn't expect him to be in the mix for Philly.)

Snagging another five could end up waiting until the buyout market settles, though it may be tougher to sell an impactful buyout guy on playing backup to a star. The profile of a player happy with that role skews older, and while you might get a ring-chasing vet, the belief is that a younger player with future contracts to earn would look for a bigger opportunity elsewhere. 

In terms of potential outgoings, the most likely names to be sent out are Furkan Korkmaz, Danuel House Jr., and Jaden Springer, sources say, with the first two out of the rotation and the third never having cracked it.

Springer has not made an impact on the team in his first two years, though the Sixers drafted one of the youngest players in the class with the long-term (and frankly, trade value preservation) in mind. House is an interesting one in the sense that I think he's (in theory) the style of player they're hunting, but he has disappointed up to this point and is likely to be in deals for pure salary-matching reasons.

If the Sixers pursue a "higher-end" deal, Thybulle is their likely path to getting there. The Sacramento Kings are said to have an interest in Thybulle, and as we reported at PhillyVoice earlier this season, there is at least a small handful of teams interested in Thybulle leaguewide. 

(An under-the-radar name to keep an eye on: Shake Milton, an unrestricted free agent after this season. Milton has had a big bounce-back year, pairs well with basically any of their guards, and is on a dirt-cheap contract. But those are all reasons he would have some value at the deadline, combined with their desire to beef up defensive options off of the bench and the fact that Maxey has taken over the sixth-man role. It'd be hard to make a trade of significance with just Milton, but he's an interesting sweetener for teams in need of bench help.)

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. 

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