The Sixers are now closing in on the halfway point of the season and they should be looking to solidify their roster for postseason success. Sitting atop the Eastern Conference and still undefeated with their starting lineup, the Sixers should feel very good about how the roster has shaped out so far. However, the team still has a need for a power forward who can space the floor and shoulder minutes with the second unit.
Why this is a Need?
Given the days off that are rightfully given to Joel Embiid, having a reliable bench big man that can step in and play major minutes is extremely important. The addition of Dwight Howard has made a major impact on the teams’ mindset and his on-court talent has also been regarded as a bench spark.
However, when Dwight has been asked to step into the starting lineup things have not been as smooth. Largely due to both of their tendencies to attempt over 85% of their shot attempts from less than 8 feet, the duo of Ben Simmons and Dwight Howard has not been effective.
The spacing problems that were so evident last season have manifested once again. This has even led Doc Rivers to give Tony Bradley most of the time with the first team due to him being a better fit. This first occurred in the second half of the January 25th matchup against the Pistons and seems to have become a trend since.
Return of Mike Scott?
The only other option to play big man minutes would be Mike Scott. The 6’8 enforcer missed his 12th straight game in the previous Kings matchup and has battled knee injuries all year. Scott suffered a setback last week at practice after ramping up his workload in preparation for a return. The 32-year-old has played just 8 games this year and there is no clear timetable when he will be ready to return.
Even at his best, Scott should not be a lock for playoff minutes. His scoring numbers have failed to reach the 7.8 points per game on 41.2% from beyond the arc he produced in his first 27 game stint in Philly. Finding a more offensively talented big-man may be worth sacrificing Scott’s toughness in order to raise the ceiling of the team.
If Scott is returning to full strength it should purely be looked at as a bonus. There is no harm in adding depth and even better if Scott can outplay his expectations and remain in the postseason rotation. However, it is entirely possible that Scott cannot return to a level that will be ready for a serious playoff run and this is a reality that must be prepared for.
Scott is also on an extremely tradeable contract and while he still is valuable to have on the team it should not be a surprise if his name is thrown into those discussions.
Sixers are in Win-Now Mode:
Sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference and firmly in “win-now” mode also changes the mindset for the Sixers’ front office. This means the focus should be on finding the final pieces to the championship roster to fit around the core that has already been put in place. This means the focus should be on finding the right guys and the team must be willing to sacrifice long-term potential for short-term veterans who can make an instant impact.
One of the biggest ways this comes into play is by the usage of draft picks. Given the late position that the Sixers’ draft pick will likely convey into, draft picks may be best used as assets to attain a veteran as it is unlikely there will be an available player that can help the team in the same way available in the draft. This does not mean to mortgage the future, but adding a power forward who can shoot the ball is worth giving up some draft capital.
Names for the Sixers to watch
It is entirely possible Markkanen turns out to be a half-season rental and that is completely okay. Standing 7’0 tall at just 23-years-old, Lauri Markkanen still bolsters a ton of potential. He will become a restricted free agent after his rookie deal expires at the end of the season. The product of Finland is currently averaging 19.1 points per game and also is a career 39.6% 3-point shooter.
The Bulls seem to be ready to move on from Markkanen this offseason as he prepares for his first professional payday. The two sides failed to reach an extension as they were simply too far away in price prior to the deadline. With Lauri likely to leave this offseason and the Bulls looking ahead to the lottery rather than the playoffs, shipping him off maybe something the team looks into. It also means his price will probably be down a large deal from what the demand for his level of talent should be.
Potential Trade: Mike Scott, Isaiah Joe, 2023 2nd round pick
This may not be a popular move as many have high hopes for Isaiah Joe, but would be an extremely beneficial trade. It hurts to give up the 21-year-old rookie but Markkanen is the type of talent that it is worth it as he may be a final piece in the championship push.
PJ Tucker would be a perfect fit on just about any NBA team due to his modernized play style and emphasis on corner 3’s. He is a likely trade target and someone that many teams will have an interest in.
Many believe this is a perfect match for the Sixers, but it may not be as simple to pull off. The bridges certainly seem to be burnt between Daryl Morey and, current Rockets GM, Rafael Stone.
This is due to Morey’s decision to step down from his position of Rockets GM this past offseason where he thankfully transitioned into a role with the Sixers front office. In the James Harden negotiations, it became clear that the Rockets were hesitant to negotiate with Morey and while we never will know how much of a role this truly played, the end result was Stone accepting the Nets offer and Ben Simmons remaining a 76er.
Regardless, it does not seem likely the Rockets will want to give Morey and the Sixers a cheap deal for Tucker either. While I am still interested in adding him for a low price, Tucker should not be looked at as a significant upgrade over Mike Scott.
PJ’s career averages of 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds are solid but while he was early to hop on the trend of floor-spacing big men, the league has caught up to him in that regard. Attempting over 2 three-pointers per game was a uniques skillset when he began in the league, but has no become commonplace and borderline necessary.
If Morey is able to sweet-talk the Rockets into a deal, look for something along the lines of Terrance Ferguson, Vincent Porier, Protected 1st round pick.
I’d be lying if I said the recent video of Ersan shooting in the snow didn’t warm my heart and move him up on my list of options for the Sixers. Ilyasova averages a career 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 36.5% from 3-point range which ranks better than PJ Tucker.
Ersan also averaged a career-high 13.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in the 76 games he played in Philly. The 33-year old has made it clear he wants to make an NBA comeback as he currently is out of the league and only playing on the Turkish National Team. This means the team would not have to give up any player in a trade to attain the 6’10 sniper just simply open up a roster spot for him to be able to take.
The addition of Nemanja Bjelica is another chance at a buy-low candidate as he is having a poor year by his standards. His minutes have been cut down to 15.1 per game and the 6’11 stretch big is only knocking down 3’s at a 23.8% clip this year.
Bjelica has seen his minutes cut into this year and is on the final year of an expiring contract. He seems like he should not demand a high price tag as the Kings would be picking up trade options for a player that is likely to leave at the end of the season anyway.
If the Sixers could negotiate a deal by using the Al Horford trade exception packaged with two second-round picks, it would be a worthwhile deal. In his 6 year career, the Serbian is averaging 8 points per game on 39% from deep. He has shot over 40% from beyond the arc in 3 of his 6 seasons in the league and giving up these assets in the hopes he returns to form may serve to be a worthwhile risk to take.
Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire