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June 11, 2024

Three players the Sixers could trade for at the 2024 NBA Draft

As the Sixers search for any possible avenue to upgrade their roster this summer, trade talks surrounding this month's draft will escalate in the coming days.

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Caruso Kispert 6.10.24 David Banks/USA TODAY Sports

Alex Caruso of the Chicago Bulls and Corey Kispert of the Washington Wizards are two potential trade targets for the Sixers this offseason.

Recently, I looked through every draft day trade executed over the last five years to evaluate the Sixers' chances of dealing the No. 16 pick in this month's NBA Draft, what types of trades they could make and what caliber of return they should expect. You can read that here.

This draft specifically is difficult to forecast. It is going to be tough to trade for a ready-made rotation contributor. This does not mean it will be impossible for Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey to flip the team's first-round pick for someone who can bolster his roster immediately. It just means he may have to get a bit creative. A few options stand out:

Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls

Caruso has been one of the league's most prized trade candidates a couple years running, and yet the Chicago Bulls have continued to keep him around in the name of remaining competitive. With Caruso only having one year left on his deal -- he will make $9,890,000 in 2024-25 -- it may be now or never for the Bulls if they want to get a significant return for the veteran guard.

Caruso's signature skill is his defense: he has become one of the single best guard defenders in the entire world, and despite being listed at 6-foot-5 and 186 pounds, he has routinely been tasked with defending wings for a few years now. He has everything you could ask for in a perimeter defender, including a strong basketball acumen and a relentless motor.

Caruso made a massive leap as an offensive player last year, particularly because he went from approximately average as a three-point shooter to crushing his career-highs in three-point percentage and three-point attempts per game -- in 2023-24, Caruso shot 40.8 percent from beyond the arc on 4.7 attempts per game. In the prior four seasons -- his first four campaigns as a consistent rotation player -- he made 36 percent of his three-point tries while only attempting a pair of triples per game.

With De'Anthony Melton set to become an unrestricted free agent, and his potential departure being a very real possibility, adding Caruso would not just be a replacement for Melton, but an upgrade -- and that should not be taken lightly. Caruso's track record as an above-average three-point shooter is not as lengthy as Melton's, but his defensive abilities are superior.

To make salaries match in a trade for Caruso, the Sixers would likely need to send Paul Reed to the Bulls. If Chicago's front office finally comes to the realization that it needs to rebuild, it could do a whole lot worse than trading an expiring Caruso for Reed -- a productive backup center with outstanding athletic tools who turns 25 this week -- and the No. 16 pick. No. 11 is currently the only pick in this year's draft owned by the Bulls -- the Sixers already own Chicago's second-round pick, slotted at No. 41, after acquiring it from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Jaden Springer. 

With the Bulls also being at risk of losing their first-round pick next year -- it will convey to the San Antonio Spurs if it does not land in the top 10 as a result of the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade in 2021 -- adding an additional first-round pick this year could do wonders for Chicago.

Corey Kispert, Washington Wizards

Productive players still on their rookie contracts are seldom traded if not in a package for a star-caliber player. But if the Sixers call, Kispert could theoretically become an exception to that rule.

Kispert, 25, followed up a strong sophomore campaign with a terrific season in 2023-24, one of the lone bright spots for a putrid Wizards team. The No. 15 pick in 2021, Kispert is known for his excellent three-point shooting: in his NBA career, he has made 38.8 percent of his three-point tries on 5.1 attempts per game. He can knock down spot-up threes and is able to shoot while on the move.

Why would the Wizards even consider moving him? There are a few factors that make it seem feasible.

First of all, Washington is run by a new front office -- led by President Michael Winger -- which was not in place when Kispert was drafted. The prior regime may have wanted to attach themselves to what would be considered an organizational success (at least relatively speaking), but this one could have an easier time cutting ties.

Second of all, Kispert is eligible to sign an extension starting at the beginning of this offseason, up until the first day of the 2024-25 regular season. If he does not ink a deal during that period, he will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2025. By the time the draft arrives, Washington's front office will likely know what kind of numbers Kispert is seeking in a deal. If his price is too rich, they could consider capitalizing on his current-day value.

On top of that, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, the Wizards are actively seeking an additional first-round pick -- perhaps a sign that they are higher on this year's crop of prospects than most. 

Scotto writes: 

"The Washington Wizards hold the No. 2 and 26 picks in the first round and will look to acquire another first-round pick in the draft, league sources told HoopsHype." [HoopsHype]

Kispert's shooting ability would give the Sixers' offense a dimension that it often did not have last season -- particularly after the disappointing results following the Buddy Hield trade.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Minnesota Timberwolves

Alexander-Walker starred in his role for the Timberwolves this year, becoming a key part of their suffocating defense. The Canadian guard smiling as he pressured a fellow countryman -- Denver Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray -- was one of the greatest sights of this year's NBA Playoffs:

A tall guard with defensive chops, workable jump-shooting mechanics and modest ball-handling abilities, Alexander-Walker has always been an intriguing prospect, but he failed to catch on with the New Orleans Pelicans -- who drafted him at No. 17 in 2019 -- and the Utah Jazz. But he found a home in Minnesota, and became one of the league's most valuable role players in 2023-24 thanks to his all-world defense and above-average three-point shooting (39.1 three-point percentage on 4.1 attempts per game).

Alexander-Walker -- who is entering his age-26 season in 2024-25 -- will make just $4,312,500 next year.

The Timberwolves are a defensive juggernaut and a genuine championship contender. Why would they even consider trading one of their key reserves? In short, it is exceedingly unlikely that Alexander-Walker could remain in Minnesota beyond 2024-25. Because of Alexander-Walker's relatively minuscule salary and the fact that the Timberwolves will only have Early Bird rights on him next summer, they will only be able to offer him 175 percent of that $4.3 million figure -- just over $7.5 million.

It would take a massive drop-off in production for Alexander-Walker for an offer starting at that number to be remotely competitive. With Rudy Gobert, Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels all under contract at expensive prices, it would be hard for Minnesota to fit Alexander-Walker into their long-term plans -- especially given their chaotic, undetermined ownership situation.

If the Timberwolves see a player on the board at No. 16 who could help fill Alexander-Walker's shoes in their rotation, it might be wise for them to trade him for the right to draft a player who would be under team control at a cost-effective price for up to four years.

While Alexander-Walker is not as much of a proven commodity as Caruso, he would be a more-than-viable Melton replacement. The more I ponder this trade conceptually, the more I believe it could make sense for all parties involved.

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