In Review: The Sixers' 2023 Trade Deadline
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Sixers did… almost nothing? With a roster that has a few glaring holes, none of them have definitively been filled.
The Sixers traded fourth-year wing Matisse Thybulle to the Portland Trail Blazers in a three-team deal also involving the Charlotte Hornets. The Sixers returned Charlotte’s second-round pick in the upcoming draft as well. In return, they received 25-year old wing Jalen McDaniels from Charlotte, as well as two future second-rounders: the New York Knicks’ second in 2024 and Portland’s in 2029.
The move, as you’ve likely heard by now, brought the Sixers from just over the NBA’s luxury tax threshold to about $1 million below it. They remain with 14 players on NBA contracts, meaning they maintain an open roster.
Jalen McDaniels, the player
McDaniels, in his fourth NBA season but second as a consistent rotation player, comes to Philadelphia with respectable averages of 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, logging 26.7 minutes per game in 56 games (21 starts).
He is similar to Thybulle in that they check (and don’t check) similar boxes. McDaniels is long, athletic and known primarily for his defense. And while he certainly does not have the defensive skill of Thybulle, whose abilities on that end are nearly unmatched, he is far more capable of being a viable offensive player, which Thybulle was never able to do during his Sixers tenure.
McDaniels’ double-digit scoring average did come on slightly below-average efficiency, which is expected on a struggling team like the Hornets. He will be able to pick his spots much more effectively on a Sixers team that will not ask him to do much offensively.
An example of McDaniels’ inconsistent offense being better than Thybulle’s nonexistent offense: Thybulle’s season-high points total this season is 15 points. McDaniels has scored at least 16 points in 10 different games this year.
McDaniels will not blow the doors off the Wells Fargo Center. In a vacuum, he might be a worse player than Thybulle. But the Sixers happily traded Thybulle’s defensive prowess for McDaniels’ offensive competence. With Thybulle bring a few months away from hitting restricted free agency and seeing his role decline, it’s a reasonable decision to make.
McDaniels, under contract for about $1.8M this season, will be an unrestricted free agent following this season. However, the Sixers inherited full bird rights on him, meaning it will be quite easy for them to bring him back if they choose to do so.
We all know what the Sixers lost in Thybulle: an A+ defender who failed to even become a C- offensive player. It’s unfortunate that Thybulle’s Sixers tenure had such an anticlimactic few years, especially after how much promise he showed earlier, especially as a rookie.
Thybulle’s pending restricted free agency would probably have meant the end of his Sixers tenure to begin with, so it made sense for the Sixers to move him while he had any value. Thybulle’s best games were marvelous, but his worst games were equally appalling.
On top of Thybulle, the Sixers dealt Charlotte’s 2023 second-round pick, which is nearly a lock to be one of the first five picks of the second round. It seems hard to believe they needed to give up that pick to facilitate this deal, but that’s where we stand now. Instead of having an early second-round pick to help offset their lack of a first-rounder, or using it to acquire an established role player, it was used to turn Thybulle into a player who is just a marginal upgrade.
The luxury tax
As the deadline neared, there was more and more discussion about the Sixers ducking the luxury tax -- which they did when going from Thybulle’s $4.3 million salary to McDaniels’ $1.8M deal.
The common sentiment is that this was Josh Harris and the rest of ownership aiming to reduce their payroll rather than build the best team possible. And that is basically true. But it is a bit more complex than that. If you’ll indulge in some brief collective bargaining agreement discussion with me:
This is a long-term financial decision as much as it is a short-term one. There is another version of the tax, known as the “repeater tax,” in which teams must sacrifice considerably more money when they are above that threshold. Teams are placed into the repeater tax if they have paid the normal luxury tax in three of the last four seasons. And so, as convenient as it may be for Harris and co. to save money right now, this is likely far more motivated by staying out of the repeater tax in the next handful of years if that becomes possible.
The Sixers still have an open roster spot, but they still don’t have a trustworthy backup center. And so, as a buyout market with unprecedented depth and talent forms over the next few days, the Sixers will almost certainly pursue bigs who become available.
Some of the best players who seem primed for a buyout -- Patrick Beverley, Will Barton, Reggie Jackson and others -- are more likely to sign with other teams who can offer more playing time than the Sixers can with their already-crowded guard rotation. But there is one perimeter player I’d like to highlight, and that is Danny Green. After being dealt to the Houston Rockets, who are going to buy him out, Green is eligible to sign with any team other than the Memphis Grizzlies. If there is mutual interest -- and I’m sure there will be to at least some extent -- a reunion could be in the works.
The most obvious names so far among bigs who are confirmed to be receiving buyouts are Serge Ibaka and former Sixer Dewayne Dedmon. Frankly, neither has shown that they are reliable players in the year 2023, but they at least are potential stretch fives in theory. I would be a bit surprised if Oklahoma City buys him out, but there’s a world in which our old friend The Homie Dario Saric becomes available. One more potential buyout big worth watching for: another old friend of our’s, Nerlens Noel. Noel’s on an expiring contract, playing for a floundering Detroit Pistons team that needs to give center minutes to their young prospects: Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart, and the newly-acquired James Wiseman. Noel will almost certainly request a buyout to have a chance to latch onto a playoff team, and the Pistons have no reason not to oblige. The Sixers have been rumored to be interested in bringing Noel back a few times over the last couple of years. Who’s to say it can’t happen now?