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March 21, 2017

Sixers Mailbag: Who could be some offseason trade targets?

The Sixers have been playing some good basketball as of late, but I’m fortunate to always get pretty good questions for my mailbag. Let’s not waste any time and jump right into it…

Shameless plug time! I wrote a piece about the hypocrisy of the non-reaction to the Lakers’ blatant tank job that got some traction last week and then chatted about it with Derek Bodner on Sixers Beat. Los Angeles has now lost 13 of 14 games, by the way. Nothing to see there, though.

I love this one mostly because there is absolutely no way to project without guessing, and pretty much for that reason, Derek and I talked about it on last week’s podcast. The 2017 NBA Draft (and specifically, the draft lottery) is going to have a major impact on the Sixers’ starting lineup next season, so I’ll say that they get the second or third pick and also that the Lakers pick won’t convey this year. That would leave us with…

Lonzo Ball, Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

But what if the Sixers ended up getting something like the 4th and 7th picks? What if Brett Brown then decided to go super young and supersized, pairing up the draft’s elite shooter with four guys ranging from 6’8” to 7’2” (one of which functionally plays point guard)?

Malik Monk, Robert Covington, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

Just like the path they took to get here, I would love if the Sixers went super unconventional out on the floor.

This is just a guess but I don’t believe that Dario Saric will start, even after his excellent closing kick to the season. Pencil him and Richaun Holmes in as your and cheap backup frontcourt, run the offense through him for a few minutes here and there, carve out some time for him and Embiid, and hopefully that all works out. But Covington and Simmons are my starting 3 and 4.

I wrote about this subject in the last mailbag: Short answer for the tl;dr crowd is that they should pick up that option and try to sign him to an extension next season.

The Sixers could go a bunch of different ways here, but it’s important to point out that this offseason could be when there’s shift in philosophy: The front office could reasonably decide to start acquiring players in trades and free agency that can make a major impact right now. In the case of Sergio Rodriguez and Henderson, I feel like they generally fit in more as “stabilizing vet” type of players.

We could see #Process2Progress, essentially.

Bryan Colangelo and Co. don’t have to force any moves, but I do think the calculus might change this year. Last summer, they realized the team wasn’t ready to compete and by and large acted accordingly.

Regardless of whether or not the Lakers pick conveys this season, you could argue that with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes, and Lottery Pick X in the fold, the Sixers aren’t going to be hanging around the top of the lottery with their own pick. Even if just some of those guys are healthy, they could make that “quantum leap” Rick Carlisle was talking about last week. What does that mean exactly? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly another improvement on the 30 or so wins they project to finish with this year.

Still, my guess would be that if the Sixers do make any such moves this summer, it will be in free agency (Jrue Holiday, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Patty Mills, etc.) rather than a trade. Unless they are getting a star-level player in return, I’m not sure which top young players or draft picks that would be worth giving up in a trade when the team’s core is going to be young and cheap for a few more years.

Someone who I wouldn’t mind taking a flier mostly because the price might be low is Mario Hezonja, who has had a disastrous year in Orlando. He might just be on his way out of the league, but the 22-year-old is still on a rookie deal, has the right skill set (shooting!), and who wouldn’t want to pair him up with his buddy Saric? The Sixers could be Croatia’s team!

Another name that I have my eye on in the trade marker, especially if Boston is able to land someone like Gordon Hayward on a max contract, is Avery Bradley. He fits the “3 and D” mold that the Sixers front office seems to be targeting around Ben Simmons, and if you remember, he was in Sixers trade rumors at the deadline:

Then again, Bradley will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018, which sort of brings me back to my main point: Why give up an asset in a trade when all he’ll cost is cap space the next year? It will be interesting to see how the Sixers attack free agency and the trade market, and yeah, the draft might have a massive impact on both.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann