Who Are the Stars the Philadelphia 76ers Are Hunting?

NBA: APR 08 Hornets at Bulls
CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 08: Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) brings the ball up court during a NBA game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Chicago Bulls on April 8, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

After another disappointing postseason, the Philadelphia 76ers are rumored to be star hunting yet again. While a compelling argument could be made that building the bench may be a better way to approach the offseason, Daryl Morey and the team seem to have their heart set on the stars. With many big names allegedly available this offseason, who are the stars the Philadelphia 76ers are hunting?

Damian Lillard

There was a time when it seemed that Damian Lillard would be on the Philadelphia 76ers’ radar until the team added a superstar. Well, the team has added James Harden, and yet Lillard remains a potential target for Philadelphia, albeit not an overly realistic one.

Lillard has said and done all the right things at every turn to suggest he wants to remain in Portland. The organization has also acted in the same manner, with the most recent example being the official promotion of Joe Cronin to the role of General Manager. When Cronin was announced to the role, it was stated that he would continue to build around Lillard.

With all that being said, Lillard is, of course, one trade request from being available; it’s just a matter of how likely one thinks that may be. Perhaps Daryl Morey has reason to continue his pursuit of Lillard; he obviously knows more than the public on this matter. Regardless, it would be legitimately shocking if the 76ers are actually able to land the Portland star.

Donovan Mitchell

Unlike Lillard, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell is a player many expect to be involved in trade discussions this offseason. For the sixth straight season — fifth with Donovan Mitchell — the Utah Jazz have failed to make the Western Conference Finals. As those in Philadelphia know, something like that can wear on a front office and potentially lead to a roster shakeup. In the case of Donovan Mitchell, the Utah Jazz may not have a choice.

It’s been rumored for some time now that Mitchell may be looking for a change of scenery. A larger market has been the recurring theme when speaking of a Mitchell trade, and while Philadelphia isn’t New York or Miami, it still certainly qualifies. Donovan Mitchell is already a perennial All-Star at the young age of 25 years and brings the intensity that Joel Embiid is looking for in a running mate.

The complication with Mitchell is that the Jazz would require extreme compensation before they would consider moving him. Tyrese Maxey is the starting point in any and all discussions, and Daryl Morey would be wise to think long and hard before parting with the 76ers’ young stud, even if it is for a player of Mitchell’s caliber.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Turning now to a player who has gone from a surprise target to a fan favorite in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The 76ers and Gilgeous-Alexander — otherwise known as SGA — were briefly connected last season in the midst of the Ben Simmons trade rumors. Even with Simmons gone, the possibility of acquiring SGA remains for Philadelphia, but as is the case with Donovan Mitchell, the Thunder won’t part with their young star for cheap.

Two advantages SGA has over Mitchell would be that he is two years younger than the Utah star, and he is also a more complete player — though not necessarily a better player. Still, this — along with the fact that OKC doesn’t have to move their young star — would likely mean that SGA could be even more costly than Mitchell, which could easily put him out of the Sixers’ reach.

Zach LaVine

Yet another star the Philadelphia 76ers have previously been linked to, Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, may very well be available this offseason as well. While Lillard, Mitchell, and SGA would all prove costly in a trade, Zach LaVine, as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. This means that if the Sixers could clear enough salary room, they have the potential to sign him without having to compensate LaVine’s current team, the Chicago Bulls.

LaVine is coming off of his fourth consecutive season averaging over 23 points per game. While he would practically ensure the 76ers utilize a three-guard starting lineup, the offensive power of a Harden-Maxey-Lavine-Embiid lineup could prove too tempting to ignore. While there may be some concerns over touches, both Maxey and LaVine ranked among the top ten in the league catch-and-shoot three-point percentage (minimum two attempts per game), shooting 45.1% and 46.0%, respectively. That type of shooting around Joel Embiid and James Harden would be problematic for the rest of the league.

Bradley Beal

Almost certainly, the number one target for the 76ers this offseason will be Bradley Beal. The Sixers have been linked to Bradley Beal for some time. Before the team acquired James Harden, Beal’s name was often mentioned as a target in a Ben Simmons deal. Even after the Harden acquisition, rumors continued that Sixers star Joel Embiid preferred to land Beal over Harden.

While that obviously didn’t work out at the time, there’s still hope for the future of a Joel Embiid/Bradley Beal tandem. Even after the trade deadline, there have been rumors dating alleging that Beal may desire to join up with Joel Embiid this summer. As with LaVine, the potential issue here is that Beal would also create a three-guard starting lineup, but there’s precedent for success over the past two seasons with such a lineup. The two most notable are the 2019-20 OKC Thunder and the 2020-21 Charlotte Hornets.

The Wizards’ star currently has a player option for $36.4 million; he may be willing to decline that option for the opportunity to pair with Joel Embiid. The problem too that could present itself is the $246 million supermax deal that Washington is able to offer Beal. The difference between Washington’s super-max offer and the 76ers’ potential max offer (max four years) is roughly $60 million.

When it comes down to it, Bradley Beal must make a decision on what matters most to him — earning an extra $100 million or a chance to win. Daryl Morey and the 76ers will certainly make a pitch to him for the latter, but the decision is purely Beal’s to make.

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