March 10, 2021
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Sixers sit first in the Eastern Conference, boast an MVP candidate at center, and they appear to have dodged two COVID-sized bullets for the time being. Life is good, which means it's time for a mailbag while we wait for the games to begin again.
As always, feel free to send me your questions through your platform of choice, be it email, tweets, or carrier pigeons.
If you can only make one move before deadline, would you go perimeter combo guard, wing or stretch 4— Aggressive Ben (@DawwwwC) March 9, 2021
If we're assuming all things are equal, a perimeter combo guard is an easy choice for me. That sort of player could juice up their starting lineup, spread out their talent among bench groups, create more open looks for their role players, and ease the burden on guys who are already productive but need a bit of extra help (e.g. Shake Milton). A high-level guard could be transformative for this lineup/team in a way no other type of player would be, short of swinging a monster trade for a dominant two-way wing. Without trading one of their best players, that sort of deal just ain't happening.
A stretch four, even in a best-case scenario, is a shot in the arm for your bench with the impact likely limited to the regular season. A playable wing would be great, but most guys who are going to be available are available for a reason, and their limitations as spacers or defenders will leave them boxed into a smaller role in Philly, some notable exceptions aside. The guard market's high end is good, and even the more bargain-centric options should give them a lift.
We had a related question from another reader:
You can only pick one: Who most improves the Sixers - George Hill, PJ Tucker or Otto Porter?— All-Star Snub Chris Bernucca (@ChrisBernucca) March 9, 2021
The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor recently reported that some expect Porter Jr. could be a buyout guy. That would tilt this conversation in his direction slightly — you're getting a player who makes you deeper without needing to take anything away that has made you good in the first place, which is the ideal scenario. But let's just throw that part out for a second.
While I think there's a good case for Tucker here, Hill would be my pick. He checks so many boxes as a player that it would be hard for a trade not to work unless you overpaid by an insane amount. He's a great catch-and-shoot guy, a solid playmaker, a solid defender, and a player you can drop into almost any team and any lineup without messing things up. The only concern is that he's coming off of a hand injury, and while I don't expect he'll forget how to shoot before he gets on the floor, it's something to monitor for sure.
On the Tucker front, you'd have to weigh whether his dip in form is the product of a bad situation or exposing him for what he actually is without James Harden around to do the heavy offensive lifting in Houston. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid should create plenty of open threes for him, but ultimately he's not a guy likely to fit into a closing lineup. Tucker would give them small-ball options and some toughness off of the bench, but he's a pure frontcourt guy at this stage, and they shouldn't be moving Tobias Harris around to shoehorn him in.
What would Toronto want in return for Lowry?— Matt Bristow (@bristman55) March 9, 2021
So to me, the offers start with at least a first-round pick and a young player, most likely Tyrese Maxey. Why Maxey over, say, Matisse Thybulle? Thybulle would need a dramatic transformation to be anything more than a defensive specialist long-term, and while he could be a great one of those — Embiid said recently he thinks Thybulle could win DPOY one day — he's the sort of player who is more valuable to a team that already has pieces in place, not one in search of players to jumpstart their next era of basketball. If the Raptors decide to move on from Lowry, it stands to reason they're not in need of immediately impactful role players, especially when you consider how well they've produced those over the years.
Maxey offers something different, a young creator with some ballhandling juice and the makings of an in-between game, and he feels like a good bet to blossom in the Toronto development program (or any number of programs that have minutes to offer him and time to wait on his development). Add on the required salary components to get to a deal, and that feels like the most straightforward path to a Lowry trade for Philly.
Really, the biggest hurdle is whether Lowry wants out in the first place/whether the Raptors want to just hang onto one of the icons in their franchise's short history, especially as they've turned things around after a brutal start to the season. Lowry actually went out of his way to fire shots at recent rumors on his Instagram story on Tuesday, so he might just be staying put. Stay tuned.
The Sixers never seem to be in the running for buyouts. Is that due to the Sixers not targeting those folks or the Sixers are not attractive to the league? pic.twitter.com/entpZdiGfu— Paul W (@pbwedz) March 9, 2021
There have definitely been instances where the Sixers are going after different players than other contenders, so I don't think it's doom-and-gloom on the level of, "They'll never sign an impact buyout guy!" But players tend to go where they think they have the cleanest shot at a ring, and the Sixers have proven little to suggest they're on the no-doubt contender list yet. Embiid having an MVP-caliber season doesn't mean aging vets are going to view him as a guy to latch onto in order to chase a title.
Individual accolades are nice, and Embiid and Simmons have a bunch between them, but they'll find it easier to lure ring chasers if they prove capable of carrying a team to the promised land. And with all due respect to Philadelphia, a city I love and have lived around my whole life, it's pretty tough to compete with two high-level L.A. teams and a player-driven juggernaut in Brooklyn, even if the Sixers did have the best sales pitch for winning.
Related to this question...
What's the chance that we don't get anyone come trade deadline and jus roll w the current roster?— SVP2004 (@SVP20041) March 9, 2021
What are the odds of seeing Oladipo included in a PJ Tucker trade? What do you think a realistic price for is for Oladipo at this point with his contract?— John Coleman (@JohnC0leman) March 9, 2021
Oladipo is a much bigger risk and I'm not sure it's one Morey would be willing to take. He's not someone you could just plop onto the roster and expect to settle into a no-doubt role right away. Multi-talented though he may be, he's an iffy-to-average shooter who needs the ball a decent amount to thrive, putting him in different territory than, for example, Lowry. Oladipo is a decent, but unspectacular playmaker, so you need to get a lot of value from his on-ball scoring, and I don't think this ecosystem really supports that version of Oladipo. It's going to be a challenge to integrate any big piece in the middle of this particular season — the Sixers are going to be short on practice time from now through the end of the year — but Oladipo feels especially tricky for this team to absorb.
As far as price goes, I think the logic is theoretically the same as in a Lowry trade but with the difference being that the Sixers would (likely) be paying a sort of "Houston tax" that we discussed some when they were in talks for Harden. Houston owner Tilman Fertitta would not exactly be excited at the prospect of actively helping Morey's new team get better, so I would expect a demand of an extra pick or two if they're dealing with the Rockets right now.
Buyout options we may have interest in?— Jay (@redwolveswsh) March 9, 2021
Bjelica is probably the most logical candidate right now, if only because he's one of the guys that seems like a near certainty to be bought out. Some of the other names on the hit list feel less certain to get buyouts from their teams either because they have value/roles on their current teams or obvious trade value to capitalize on.
What can Dwight Howard do for this team that Bball Paul cannot?— CAHanna (@ColinAlexHanna) March 9, 2021
Why isn’t Embiid in the conversation for Most Improved Player?— 〽️io ☻! (@HeyltsMio) March 9, 2021
If Philly Voice forced you to do an escape room with four Sixers players which ones would you choose?— B(uck)Ball Mulligan (@frite_truite_) March 9, 2021
Here's my group:
Good case to have Simmons in the group, who I could at least talk to about video games if things went south.
Favorite red dead 2 character?— Jason Dale (@MyNamesJDale) March 9, 2021
Arthur Morgan is the boring answer but I think he's the right answer. I was skeptical of making him the emotional center of Red Dead 2, and I won't spoil why and how he wins you over as a sympathetic figure over time, but I give my highest recommendation of that game as long as you are willing to fight through the early slog.
Do you think there’s literally any chance we get Lavine or should I stop sending everyone in my life trade machine screenshots before they disown me?— fiona apple neck tattoo (@ChillStableGuy) March 9, 2021
There may not be a better time than this for the Bulls to capitalize on LaVine's value, so never say never. But on Philly's end, I would categorize it as a tough deal to make at this juncture. While I think LaVine is a terrific scorer, you might be overpaying on the strength of a best-ever run as a shooter that we have no idea if he can recreate long term. Shooting over 43 percent from three with his combination of high volume and shot selection is not exactly a lock. He's not only valuable because of his outside shooting, of course, with his dynamism off the dribble presenting major value for this team specifically, but it is a point of separation from past seasons.
The Bulls will be looking for a monster package to let him go, and I don't know if he's the guy the Sixers would feel comfortable moving basically all of their future assets for even if the Bulls decided it was go time.
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