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June 24, 2024

5 Sixers thoughts: Zach LaVine is not the Sixers' missing piece, NBA Draft days away and more

Why the Sixers should avoid Zach LaVine at all costs, some thoughts as the NBA Draft nears and more.

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LaVine 6.23.24 Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers are reportedly not keen on trading for Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls -- rightfully so.

The 2024 NBA Draft begins in just two days, and free agency opens only a few days later. As rumors continue to swirl and major decisions loom, here are five thoughts on where the Sixers stand entering one of the most crucial weeks on the NBA calendar.

Zach LaVine is not the answer

The Bulls traded Alex Caruso to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Josh Giddey last week, signaling that a youth movement is underway in Chicago. The move has only accelerated rumors that the team will finally part ways with two-time All-Star guard Zach LaVine this summer. Given the Sixers' apparent desire to add another big name to their All-Star duo of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, many have speculated that LaVine could land in Philadelphia.

I wrote last week that I had a hard time imagining the team being interested in LaVine due to his exorbitant contract and ball-dominant style of play. On Saturday afternoon, NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the Sixers "[continue] to have little interest in LaVine."

LaVine is slated to earn $43 million in 2024-25 and $46 million in 2025-26, with a player option worth nearly $49 million for the 2026-27 season. There is no doubt that LaVine is a gifted player who can score in bunches, but for someone whose fit alongside Maxey in particular is questionable, that would be a massive financial risk.

A decision at No. 16 looms

With just 48 hours and change until the Atlanta Hawks are on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick, the Sixers are likely finishing up their extensive process of preparing for all possibilities: determining which prospects are worth trading up for if they fall out of their projected ranges, which teams could try to leapfrog them for certain prospects, which veterans are available on the trade market and what the Sixers are willing to give up to make their dreams a reality.

While the team moving No. 16 remains an extremely plausible outcome -- either trading the pick on its own for a ready-made rotation piece or as part of a package for a full-fledged star -- it takes two (or three) to tango, and the Sixers' lack of medium-sized contracts will make facilitating a deal difficult. It will not be easy to find a player worth trading a valuable first-round pick for who is available to be moved and fits what the Sixers are building from on-court and financial perspectives.

The Sixers could very well stick and pick on Wednesday, and if so, it will be fascinating to see what goals they have: are they looking for the player most prepared to contribute in 2024-25, the player with the best chance of turning into a star, or somewhere in between?

Doing their homework

The Sixers have not publicized which prospects participate in the team's pre-draft workout processes in recent seasons, but a handful of names have trickled out. These are a few prospects who have reportedly worked out for the team:

• USG guard Isaiah Collier (Kyle Neubeck, PHLY)

• UConn guard Tristen Newton (Keith Pompey, Philadelphia Inquirer)

• Baylor center Yves Missi (Keith Pompey, Philadelphia Inquirer)

• Adelaide 36ers (Australian NBL) wing Trentyn Flowers (Keith Pompey, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The team has surely seen and met with many more prospects its in person -- whether it be at the team's Camden facility, the prospects' pro days or the NBA Draft Combine -- but these are the only ones that have been confirmed by reporters to date.

An upcoming deadline

This may be more of a formality at this point, but the Sixers have a decision to make by Saturday -- just two days after the second round concludes. Jeff Dowtin Jr., who the team signed to a two-way contract in February and converted to a standard NBA deal in April in order to make him eligible for the postseason, has a team option for 2024-25 worth just under $2.2 million.

The Sixers will almost certainly pick up the option, and not just because it is at a figure near the veteran's minimum: even if the team keeps Dowtin heading into next season, his contract will not be guaranteed until Jan. 10, 2025. There is no reason for the Sixers to not hang onto Dowtin for now -- either they can use his salary to help facilitate a trade, keep him in hopes of developing him into a viable rotation piece, or cut bait with little opportunity cost.

What will the Sixers do at No. 41?

The Sixers own the No. 41 pick thanks to the trade that sent former first-round pick Jaden Springer to the Boston Celtics, and they could go in any number of directions with that choice. 

The Sixers have barely any players under contract for next season; they could easily use their second-round pick to try to add a player who can nab a back-end roster spot and enter their player development system. They also could use the pick to move up a few spots from No. 16 if the right prospect was available, they could select an international draft-and-stash prospect, or they could kick the can down the road: the Sixers currently do not own a second-round pick in either of the next two drafts following this one, and if they do not see a prospect they view as good fit available when they are on the clock with the 11th pick of round two, they could very likely add a second-rounder in one or both of those drafts.

The Sixers would have also owned the No. 49 pick on Thursday, but they forfeited that pick -- as well as their second-rounder in the 2023 NBA Draft -- as a result of an NBA investigation into the team's alleged tampering with P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr., two players the team signed as free agents in the 2022 offseason.

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