Sixers backup center options: At this point, why not?

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 03: Denver Nuggets center DeMarcus Cousins (4) before the Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers game on April 03, 2022, at Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia 76ers are just about two-thirds of the way through their season as we approach the NBA All-Star game and, more importantly, the NBA trade deadline. By Thursday at 3:00 pm EST, we should have a good idea of where the Sixers will be, as far as the roster goes, for the remainder of the season.

After the Kyrie Irving trade demand from the Nets and subsequent deal to the Mavericks, the Sixers’ own Furkan Korkmaz has requested his own trade out of Philadelphia. Obviously, the 10.2 minutes and 3.8 points he’s averaging per game have given him the idea that he’d be better served playing for another team.

Kept in Philly for his shooting prowess, Korkmaz is currently averaging 34.3% from beyond the three-point line, which is lower than the 36% league average. Those types of numbers will have the team salivating at the chance to get him on their team. Regardless of the sarcasm, it’s safe to say that Daryl Morey and Elton Brand will do their best to find a new home for him.

Will Korkmaz be enough to get what the Sixers truly need, a reserve center? No. But his reasonable contract and the hopes that a new team will allow him to be more involved and improve his shooting is still something that teams will look at.

The problem for the Sixers is that Korkmaz, obviously, can’t play center. The current backups are Montrezl Harrell and Paul Reed.

Harrell was brought in, I’m sure, at the behest of head coach Doc Rivers who has an affinity for Harrell as he did last year for DeAndre Jordan. We all saw how that worked out. Well, Harrell has worked out about the same. He’s just not cutting it, and the Sixers need more from the 10-12 minutes per game the backup center will be and is getting.

The problem is that they are overlooking Paul Reed, whose defense and athleticism are well-documented, almost as much as the fact that he tends to commit quick and unnecessary fouls at a fast pace. His energy and enthusiasm are always good; it seems that the team hasn’t been able to harness that, for whatever reason. Though they certainly haven’t given the idea a fair shake.

So, if the Sixers can’t pull of a trade to get someone currently on an NBA roster, then where do they turn? Obviously, what they’re working with right now, isn’t working and will even be exploited once the playoffs come around.

Who then?

Here are two names for the Sixers to consider, and before you shutdown your computer or spit your drink out, hear me out.

Dwight Howard or DeMarcus Cousins.

Both players are currently unsigned and ready to play. Cousins, over the previous summer, has stated that he was willing to do whatever it takes to get back into the league.

Currently, “Boogie” is 32 years old and could provide what the Sixers need in terms of defense, some slight scoring, and a little physicality to the second unit. His mere presence alone would prevent teams like the Raptors (see Embiid’s injury in the playoffs last season) from taking liberties with the star players on the Sixers roster.

Cousins played 41 games last season, splitting time between Milwaukee and Denver. in those games, he played 15 minutes per and put up 9 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 46% from the floor. More importantly, he shot 75% from the free-throw line. Knowing how much Joel Embiid gets to the line when he’s on the bench, opposing teams would be looking to take advantage of someone that’s not as skilled at the line. Cousins is a career 74% from the charity stripe and would also make teams a little more hesitant to take liberties with him.

While he wants to play again, getting valuable minutes on a contending team, like the Sixers, would seem to be at the top of the list. He’s no longer a starter, except in maybe spots when Embiid needs a night off, but Cousins would provide a cheap and viable alternative with true experience and quality in the limited minutes that he would be seeing. There’s a lot to be said for experience and veteran leadership come playoff time.

Now, Dwight Howard. Well, we all saw Dwight here in Philadelphia two years ago at age 35. Now, at 37, you may think that a return for Howard is out of the question or that he’d not be ready. He’s kept in shape playing for the Taoyuan Leopards in the T1 League in Taiwan. He made news recently commenting that he wasn’t “allowed” to shoot while playing with the Lakers and that he still shoots 1000 jumpers a day, working on his game.

One thing with Howard is that you know he’ll be in shape. At 37 years old, he’s probably in better shape than a number of players currently in the league. When he was in Philly, he averaged 17.3 minutes per game, but in those limited minutes, he averaged 7.0 points and 8.4 rebounds. If he’s getting roughly 12-15 minutes per game, especially down the stretch and into the playoffs, there’s no reason that Howard couldn’t contribute that and maybe more.

If you add just those numbers to Embiid’s, you’re talking about getting roughly 41 points and 19 rebounds per game from the center position. Howard’s athleticism and strength would allow for Embiid to be rested more prior to and during the playoffs. He has stated that he enjoyed his time in Philadelphia and is still looking to play in the league, he’s aware of his limitations as he’s one of the few true superstars that was willing to accept a bench role later in their career, and he’s also looking for a chance to win another title.

They may not be the best two names out there as options for the Sixers, but they wouldn’t cost much.

They wouldn’t cost anything in terms of players at the trade deadline. They’re also veterans with experience, knowledge, and the ability to still contribute to a team looking for a title for a team looking for its first NBA Championship in 40 years. At this point, after years of near misses and dealing with “The Process,” the question has to be, why not?