3 players to help the Sixers ride out the storm of Embiid’s injury

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Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) falls over Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) on an offensive foul by Embiid during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

The Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in a difficult position ahead of the NBA trade deadline. The team has fallen down to fifth in the Eastern Conference as health issues continue for the Sixers.

The biggest concern of all is that there isn’t a timetable yet for Joel Embiid’s return after suffering a meniscus injury. as he’s battled ankle and knee injuries over the past few weeks. Embiid has now missed, including Friday’s game against the Kings, seven of the last nine games the team has played. With Embiid, the Sixers are one of the most talented and deep teams in the league.

Currently, with a record of 30-17, the Sixers are still alive in their playoff chase, but who knows where they will be by the time Embiid returns to the court. They’re a talented team with a good group on the bench, but they also have some clear holes to fill, especially with Embiid out for an undetermined amount of time. Below are a few names that have popped up and how they could help the Sixers.

Dejounte Murray

The Atlanta Hawks are near the bottom of the standings in the Eastern Conference and are rumored to be among the top sellers at the trade deadline. While Murray is averaging a career-best in scoring at 21.5 points per game, his rebounds, assists, and steals are all down from his breakout year in San Antonio.

Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) scores against the Indiana Pacers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

While the Hawks have talent, they haven’t been able to put together any sort of consistent play over the past two seasons. Atlanta will be looking to build around Young and Johnson, which makes Murray expendable.

Murray to the Sixers would add a much-needed level of scoring to the starting five that they’re not getting from DeAnthony Melton, in addition to a very good defender both on the ball and off. Murray would be the key to having Melton work more with the second unit and would give the team some added scoring punch.

He won’t come cheap, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be worthwhile for the Sixers. A mixture of a first, a swap, multiple seconds, and a young player should get the deal done.

Alex Caruso

The Chicago Bulls are similar to the Hawks in that they’ve assembled some talent and are expected to be much better than they currently are. With a 23-26 record, the Bulls are currently 9th in the Eastern Conference. They’re missing guard Lonzo Ball for the season, and now, it’s been announced that Zach Lavine is also out for the season with a foot injury.

The problem in Chicago is that they seem to believe they’re right on the edge of competing and may be looking for way too much in return for players that they over-value.

Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso can’t get to a loose ball in time during the overtime of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

Caruso, while not a major scoring threat, can give a team like the Sixers a consistent 10-12 points per game, with the occasional outbreak. His true value to a team like the Sixers would be the elite level of defense that he brings. The Sixers would have a legitimate stopper on their team as they would be able to go against teams like the Celtics and Bucks with confidence in their ability to control games and now allow multiple players to have scoring outbreaks.

Caruso’s defense and ability, combined with a relatively cheap contract, are what the Bulls will hold high value in, and the earliest reports had some form of players, along with multiple high draft picks, being needed to move him. While the price may come down a bit, the Sixers have some young players and draft capital available to make this type of move.

Dorian Finney-Smith

Dorian Finney-Smith is intriguing because of the value he can bring to a team on both ends of the floor. He’s a very good defender who’s only scoring 9.4 points per game in a reserve role with the Nets this season. What he’s doing well is shooting three-pointers, currently at 38.3% per game, and would be a good addition to the Sixers’ reserve unit.

Miami Heat forward Cole Swider, right, dives for a loose ball in front of Brooklyn Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Finney-Smith does have a contract that extends until a player option before the 2025-26 season at roughly $15 million per season, which wouldn’t tie the Sixers’ hands for free agency following this season while still providing them some depth, shooting, defense, and veteran leadership.

The problem with looking at Finney-Smith is that the Sixers won’t want to give up a lot, especially to a conference rival, but the Nets aren’t doing anything this season, and if their goal is to build around Mikal Bridges, then moving Finney-Smith for some assets wouldn’t be the worst move they could make.

For the Sixers, if they’re able to keep players like Tobias Harris, Nico Batum, and Kelly Oubre Jr. when acquiring someone like Finney-Smith, then it would truly bolster their team and hopes for an extended playoff run. The team has some pieces like KJ Martin, Jaden Springer, and Furkan Korkmaz that still provide some youth, talents, and inexpensive contracts that a team may be willing to take on with additional draft picks.

Keeping the Sixers starters together while adding a quality depth piece would certainly help the Sixers as they look to get past teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, especially come playoff time. With Finney-Smith shooting as well as he’s been this season, he may be the Sixers’ best option for this season’s deadline.