Examining the prospective trade season for the Sixers felt unexciting until the team hired Daryl Morey. The Sixers’ front office schematics have been unsuccessful and murky. Now they have a clear, proven leader to steer the ship. Morey doesn’t have a treasure trove of assets, but the Sixers have become exponentially more interesting. The tag team of Morey and Elton Brand will look to maximize numbers while balancing it with the networking of a former star player. It’s abundantly clear there’s a new energy surrounding the franchise, with the trade market garnering palpable buzz. Here are a few things the newly aligned front office should explore.
Trade Mike Scott– Writing this one hurts. Since his arrival, Mike Scott has been a fan favorite. His 2018-19 shooting and junkyard dog attitude solidified his standing in Philadelphia. After signing a two-year MLE deal, he’s become an afterthought. Scott failed to consistently impact the team. He’s in an awkward spot as an undersized stretch-four. He doesn’t offer much of anything when he’s not hitting threes. Scott is at his best when he’s hitting standstill and above-the-break threes. Players that stand six-foot-seven and do that are guards, not power forwards. If there was more versatility on either side of the ball I’d be totally fine with keeping him around, but the Sixers should try to replace him with a wing who offers more variety.
Dangle Josh Richardson- Richardson was the Jimmy Butler consolation prize, and he felt like it too. With all due respect to J-Rich, it felt like he never elevated himself to his billing. 13.7 points per game is nothing to overlook, but he was an odd fit. On a team desperate for shooting and ballhandling, Richardson massages those needs but doesn’t quite fix them, His shooting stroke and decision making are both sufficient, but they’re slow. Both of which make for a clunky fit with iffy-shooting star players.
Make no mistake, Josh Richardson is a very good player. He’s a plus-defender, can do a little of everything on offense, and is a fierce competitor. There is one more guaranteed year remaining on his contract with a player option for 2021. Holding on to Richardson too long leaves the Sixers at risk of losing him for nothing. An above-average player combined with a near-expiring deal is the formula for a prime trade candidate. If a trade presents itself, the Sixers should not hesitate to ship him out for a better fit (Patty Mills or a Joe Harris sign and trade, anyone?). If not, keeping Richardson on the roster is harmless. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, Josh Richardson is a good basketball player who will benefit the Sixers, one way or another.
Turn Garbage into Gold- Daryl Morey has a knack for jumpstarting careers. He saw the potential in Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry before they were popular. Before he became a professional pest, he plucked Patrick Beverley out of Russia. PJ Tucker became a 3-and-D star thanks to Moreyball. Morey traded for Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, and The Beard evolved into an all-time scorer. If there’s untapped potential to be mined, Morey will investigate. I suspect he’ll try to buy low on an upside play as he’s done before.
Luke Kennard is a name Sixers fans have had on their wish-list. The crafty southpaw hasn’t found a foothold in Detroit, and both sides could benefit from a change of scenery. It’s hard to see Kennard living up to his lottery status as a Piston. The sample size is small but, in 28 games this season he shot 39-percent from three and dished out 4.1 assists. Kennard has a skillset that could flourish in Philadelphia. He’s a smooth operator on offense that can pull up, and orchestrate a pick-and-roll. Doc Rivers has emphasized ball screens on offense and playing at a faster pace. Surrounding Kennard with roll men and players that can attack off the catch could unlock his offensive output.
Frank Ntilikina is still only 22-years-old. Josh Jackson will be a free agent at 24-years-old. Malik Monk has been floated in trade rumors. Those players don’t necessarily need to be Sixers, but those are the type of misfit toys Morey will look to revamp, much like Ben McLemore in Houston.
Assess the Zhaire Smith Market- The Mikal Bridges draft night trade has not gone as planned. The Sixers used the 2020 Miami to trade for Tobias Harris and Zhaire Smith has appeared in 13 games. Smith’s NBA career has been marred by a life-threatening allergic reaction and several injuries. The former Red Raider has yet to flash his touted potential. We know Smith is uber-athletic with a dreamy defensive profile. The rest of his game, on the other hand, is undetermined. The Sixers have reinvigorated the franchise with the hiring of Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers. There may not be time to find Zhaire Smith minutes on a team with contending aspirations.
Putting a price tag on a player who has barely played is tricky. Smith is still only 21-years-old and teams will line up to try and unlock him, but getting return value could be difficult. The most likely scenario is he gets thrown in as sweetener in a Horford or Richardson deal. His value could hinge on his offensive selling point. Smith is worthy of defensive reps, but how will he help an NBA team on the other side of the ball remains to be seen.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Smith on next season’s roster. The team and himself both deserve to try to make it work in Philly. A new coaching staff and philosophical identity could accelerate Smith into a rotational role, by finding ways to highlight his athleticism on the floor. If adding Zhaire Smith into a trade makes the Sixers better, so be it, but there is no downside to holding onto him.
Trade Al Horford- The most obvious obstacle of the Sixers offseason is finding a way to unload Al Horford. Saying feels like beating the hell out of a dead horse, but the Sixers cannot improve with Horford on the roster. There’s no use in throwing out stats or numbers to solidify the idea. If you have eyeballs and have watched the Sixers, you know there’s no room for improvement.
I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t think trading Horford will be that difficult. The real dilemma may be the type of trade to include him in. Do you take a bath with return value just to get him off the books? Or do you lump assets in with Horford to try to find redeemable value? It’s hard to see any contending teams being an Al Horford away from a ring, but an aging max-contract player doesn’t make much sense for a middling .500 team either. Find a team with cap space or a glaring hole at center (Houston?) and start twisting arms. The Sixers cannot make a bad Horford trade unless they take on an equally bad contract. Getting him off the team is a win. Horford is still a good basketball player, but it’s best for himself and the team if a separation happens sooner than later.