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January 31, 2018

NBA Trade Rumors: Sixers in the hunt for Memphis guard Tyreke Evans

The Sixers moving to the next stage of their rebuild has quieted things on the trade rumor front compared to years past, as they're no longer a destination to absorb salary or take a flier on young, once-promising talent. These days, they're shopping for guys who can help them reach more immediate goals.

That starts with a playoff berth this season, and it appears Bryan Colangelo might have a name in mind. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Sixers have inquired about Memphis guard Tyreke Evans, one of the lone bright spots on a battered Grizzlies team this season.

On paper, the move makes a ton of sense. Evans, a local product from Chester, has been a revelation this season and has done admirably filling in for an injured Mike Conley. The production is fairly gaudy (19 PTS, five rebounds and five assists per game) but it is the shooting that has turned heads; Evans is shooting a career-best 39.2 percent from three this season on 5.4 attempts per game, by far the most of his nine-year career.

With Markelle Fultz a total mystery and no other internal options to turn to, Evans represents the exact sort of scoring punch and secondary ballhandling they need to prop up the second unit. The sticking point, as with any potential trade, is the potential cost of the deal, and that's where I think it begins to fall apart for Philadelphia.

Evans will be one of the most sought-after pieces available at the trade deadline because his skill set is always needed when the playoffs come around. You can't have enough guys on your team who can create and score. But that will inflate the market on Evans, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

As a general principle, it's bad practice to give up first-round picks of any kind for guys on expiring contracts, unless there are plans to make them part of your core moving forward. Evans, a 28-year-old guard who might just be having a career year in a contract season on a bad team, is not that sort of guy. It makes even less sense when you consider where the Sixers are right now, sliding up and down in the bottom half of the East playoff picture and not really ready to do damage in a playoff run.

Not being a contender is totally fine for where they're at in their rebuild, but the road to NBA hell is paved with teams who cough up first-round picks because they feel pressed to make a move to win right away. The New Orleans Pelicans had two of the best and most unique players in the NBA this season between Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins — the latter of whom they somehow stole for almost nothing — but New Orleans has desperately flailed around for years in an effort to surround Davis with more talent. The result was burning down first-round pick after first-round pick in efforts to trade for help or dump bad contracts they signed with free agents, and they ended up with the same problems on the wing they had at the beginning of the process.

The only real argument to be made for moving a first in an Evans deal would be if you dumped Jerryd Bayless' contract in the process, and even that's a stretch from my view. Frankly, it would be great to shed the $8.5 million he's owed for next season, and the Sixers will probably have to find a way to dump him in the summer either way. 

But Colangelo would have to be damn sure the Sixers are getting a big free agent in the offseason to make that move, and no one is that clairvoyant unless tampering is involved. You would be sacrificing another one of your chips for (at best) a four-month bench upgrade, and paying a premium to dump a contract because you hope dominoes might fall later. It's dreaming more than it is sound planning.

With where the Sixers sit right now, they could end up having two picks in the mid-late lottery between their selection and the Lakers pick, or a mid-lotto pick and a mid-first if they make the playoffs. That would provide them with part of a package to acquire a disgruntled star, two shots on a contributor in the draft, an enticing offer for teams looking to trade down in the draft, and any number of other options. That is a strong position to be in, and preserving that flexibility should be priority No. 1 as they look to make major upgrades this summer.

Evans is having a very good season on a bad team, and would certainly help the Sixers this season. He is just not worth a whole lot to a non-contending team, and as a general rule, paying a premium for a role player's career-best year is not good business in the NBA.

UPDATE: For those of you concerned about cost, a team source spoke with Philly Voice about the possibility of acquiring Evans at the trade deadline. As it stands currently, the Sixers are unlikely to pay a premium for temporary help this season. The organization's focus remains on the long-term goals of competing for titles and chasing star players, and failing that, they will look for cheaper upgrades in the meantime.

Translation: if it's going to cost a first rounder, the Sixers will probably sit this one out.