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June 23, 2024

Three high-priced role players who the Sixers could trade for this offseason

If the Sixers choose to accumulate as much depth as possible, they could add a role player or two via trade. Which players might make sense?

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Jordan Clarkson 6.22.24 Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Could Utah Jazz scoring aficionado Jordan Clarkson be a trade target for the Sixers this summer?

The Sixers appear unlikely to sign a star-caliber player in free agency this summer now that their interest in Paul George has reportedly "significantly waned," and while it could mean they simply trade for one instead, it also could signal a pivot to accruing as much depth as possible in the form of a collection of strong, two-way role players to surround the team's All-Star duo of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

On Saturday, I broke down three potential free agents who the Sixers could sign and have head coach Nick Nurse plug into significant rotation roles next season.

Adding a rotation player via free agency is always easier than doing so via trade, because you do not have to get another team to agree on any sort of compensation in the form of players and/or draft picks. But, if the Sixers do enter free agency devoid of a third star yet owning a massive amount of cap space, it could be beneficial for them to look to the trade market.

The Sixers' front office is heading into this pivotal offseason focused on optionality, and the team would have more maneuverability after making a trade with their cap space than they would after signing a player. Players who sign free-agent contracts cannot be traded until Dec. 15, and the ones who do often desire some sort of assurance that they will not be moved in the near future. However, if the Sixers were to absorb a player into their space via trade, that player could be rerouted -- on their own or in addition to other players -- instantly.

This is a factor of the equation that is very much on the front office's radar.

This means if the Sixers do remain focused on eventually landing another star, but cannot do it in the next few weeks, they could look to focus on trading for players who could quickly be rerouted should the right player become available down the line.

So, as they evaluate the trade market, the Sixers must consider which targets strike the proper balance of being able to help them on the floor, appeal to other teams, and make future trades easier to pull off. Who fits the bill?

Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz

When thinking about adding pieces who fit alongside Embiid and Maxey, a player whose specialty is scoring does not necessarily seem like the first guy to go after. But you can never have enough perimeter shot creation, particularly when factoring in that Embiid is always likely to miss a significant chunk of games over the course of a season. During Embiid's two-month absence during the regular season in 2023-24, Maxey was tasked with being the team's sole creator of offense on many occasions, and his efficiency suffered because of it.

Clarkson is certainly not John Stockton, but he is also capable of making certain reads as a passer and setting up his teammates; his presence could allow Nurse to utilize Maxey as an off-ball weapon more often -- a potentially appealing avenue to diversify the star guard's offensive usage. Clarkson has set career-highs in assists per game in each of the last two seasons.

Clarkson has two years remaining under contract worth a total of about $28.3 million. That is more than reasonable for one of the league's best bench scorers who is more than capable of playing starting-caliber minutes on a good team. This may not be the most conventional option, but between Clarkson's value to the Sixers and his potential worth if the team looked to flip him later on, it could make more sense than one might imagine.

Luke Kennard, Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have a team option on Kennard for the 2024-25 season valued at just over $14.7 million, with a June 29 deadline on their decision. I expect Memphis to pick up the option, but I also strongly believe that they will move him. The Grizzlies have always been averse to paying the luxury tax, and with Desmond Bane's five-year, $197 million contract extension kicking in next season, they will have to make some sort of cost-cutting move or two in order to get under the tax line.

As of now, cap expert Yossi Gozlan's has the Grizzlies exceeding the luxury tax threshold, but trading Kennard and taking back little to no salary would likely give them more than enough breathing room to finish out their offseason without becoming a tax team.

Kennard is nothing to worry about for opposing teams as a defender, but the guy can absolutely shoot the lights out. He might be today's single most underrated three-point shooter: his track record reads like one of the most prolific long-range marksmen in NBA history. 

Kennard is a career 43.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc, and over the last four years, he has made 45.9 percent of his triples -- a comical number. He has taken five three-point attempts per game during that span despite predominantly being a bench player; his 10.7 three-point attempts per 100 possessions during the same period represent unquestionably elite volume.

Kennard is not a point guard, but he is able to function as a secondary ball-handler. He can initiate offense from time to time, potentially relieving Maxey of some pressure when the two share the floor, and he has the requisite shooting versatility to form a lethal two-man game with Embiid.

The only drawback with Kennard is his health. In seven NBA seasons, he has averaged just 56.4 games played on a yearly basis. It is less of an issue for a player the Sixers would likely see as a prominent reserve rather than a starter, but it is an issue nonetheless.

Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta Hawks

Bogdanovic is not quite as accurate from three-point range as Kennard, but he is awfully efficient from deep and has similarly significant volume. To top it off, Bogdanovic has considerably more on-ball scoring ability than Kennard. Sixers fans know all too well what Bogdanovic is capable of. Atlanta's microwave scorer is coming off a career-high 16.9 points per game in 2023-24.

The Hawks are considering various drastic options as they look to shake up their roster, and Bogdanovic could very well be dealt -- especially if Atlanta selects French wing Zaccharie Risacher with the No. 1 pick in next week's NBA Draft. 

Bogdanovic is the kind of player who can get red hot in an instant, completely changing the complexion of a game with his shooting and scoring. Over the last five seasons, he has averaged 7.4 three-point attempts per game and connected on 38.7 percent of those tries.

Bogdanovic, who will turn 32 years old in August, has two guaranteed years left on his current contract. He will make $17.2 million in 2024-25, just over $16 million in 2025-26, and then has a team option worth $16 million for the 2026-27 season. A longtime rumored trade candidate for the Sixers, this summer could be the time that speculation turns into something real.

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