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February 07, 2019

Sixers trade for Rockets forward James Ennis; cut newly-acquired Malachi Richardson

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020719-JamesEnnis-USAToday Troy Taormina/USA Today

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni talks with forward James Ennis III (8) during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Toyota Center.

The Sixers have agreed to trade for Rockets forward James Ennis in exchange for swap rights to a second-round pick in 2021, a source confirmed to PhillyVoice on Thursday afternoon.

The Athletic's Shams Charania was the first to report the trade. A team source confirmed that Malachi Richardson, acquired on Wednesday in a trade with the Toronto Raptors, is the player that will be cut in order to clear the path for a legal trade with the Rockets. Grand opening, grand closing.

On to the trade itself. It's not a move that is going to blow anyone out of the water, but this is the perfect sort of acquisition to follow up the Tobias Harris trade, providing the Sixers with a depth piece on a team that needs them.

Ennis has a good theoretical skill set that sounds better in theory than it actually is in practice. He's a slightly above-average shooter for his career (36.2 percent from three over five seasons, 37.3 in Houston this season) that can be trusted to knock down standstill shots. That's all he'll really be asked to do in Philadelphia, I would presume, and the fact that the Sixers picked him up for the right to swap 2021 second-round picks makes this a no-brainer for them.

Playing alongside James Harden in Houston, Ennis was asked to do very little other than knock down catch-and-shoot attempts. Nearly 50 percent of his shots this season have been catch-and-shoot threes, and he has knocked down 36.2 percent of them, an okay but not overwhelmingly great number. That's slightly better than what Mike Muscala accomplished in Philadelphia (he was at 34.9 percent on catch-and-shoot threes this year).

The five-year veteran also has a big enough frame and enough competitive fire on defense that the Sixers can put him on the floor in a playoff series and expect him to help them get stops. He is sort of like a bench version of Wilson Chandler in this respect — he can be a solid link in a strong defensive chain, but you don't want him to have to do too much heavy lifting.

You can look at it like this: Ennis represents pieces of the skill sets of two bench players who had roles in Philadelphia. It will not be hard for him to find minutes on a team desperate for help beyond their core four, and though he's not anything special as a player, it's a low-cost, low-risk move, and he has an extraordinarily cheap player option ($1.8 million) for next season.

(I presume Ennis will decline that option and explore a path toward a new deal, in any case.)

As much as the Harris trade made sense on the high-end, the Sixers needed to start building some depth the moment that trade was made. Getting Ennis for cheap gives you another option off the bench, and ensures they don't have to lean too heavily on Mike Scott, acquired in the trade with the Clippers. If the Sixers want to put a lineup on the floor without any defensive minuses, they can do that now, which will help against teams with deep benches like Boston and Toronto.

Philadelphia's title hopes will not hinge on Ennis' performance, but at this price, Elton Brand did well for himself. The rookie GM may not be done yet.


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