Eight Simple Moves To Fix The Sixers In One Offseason
This is all very simple.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He has been legally banned from covering the team in person, and when that ban was set to be lifted, Covid-19 struck. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
A few weeks back, Ricky staff writer Mike O’Connor mapped out what his ideal offseason looked like. He started with firing the entire front office and then identified some possible trades that can coalesce into the Sixers returning to contention.
Today I will try to do the same.
It goes without saying that the front office needs to be wiped out -- you’ve heard that from me more than enough. So I’m going to go straight into offseason moves. But here is my one rule: to prevent my imagination getting the best of me, I will not submit any moves that seem even remotely unrealistic, or even difficult, to pull off. That means no Chris Paul trade, no Buddy Hield trade and no Tobias Harris trade.
Here we go.
Move #1: Trade Al Horford, Mike Scott, Zhaire Smith and #21 overall pick to Charlotte Hornets for Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller and #32 overall pick
The first order of business has to be moving Horford, and this framework has the best blend of realism and benefit to me. While Batum is basically dead money and Zeller isn’t worth his price tag, neither is on the books after the 2020-2021 season. Zeller would be a high-end backup center and possibly someone who could play a bit of power forward with Joel Embiid if need be (hopefully it doesn’t get to that point, though). It allows Harris to move to the four full-time, where his skillset will be much better utilized. And despite trading the beloved OKC pick, the Sixers would still have picks #32, 34 and 36.
Move #2: Trade Josh Richardson, Norvel Pelle (salary filler) and #34 overall pick to Oklahoma City for Dennis Schroder
After a wonderful surprise of a season, Oklahoma City seems poised to shake things up, if not blow them up entirely. Schroder is coming off a career year thanks to the emergence of his efficient three-point shooting combined with his reduction of poor decision-making. After originally seeing him as a salary dump years ago, OKC very well may jump at the chance to get positive value for him while his value is high. They can get a player in Richardson who very much fits their mold and has a good chance of being able to stick next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the long-term.
Move #3: Trade 58th pick, unprotected 2023 second-round pick to Toronto Raptors for Matt Thomas
Thanks to their trade exception from the James Ennis III deal, the Sixers can absorb any player who makes up to $1.8 million in a trade. Here, I am putting that to use by trading a pick that likely wouldn’t be used and a second deep into the future for Thomas, an elite shooter who should be able to serve as a backup for the Sixers in the regular season, even if he may not be viable in the playoffs.
Move #4: Trade Nicolas Batum and Matisse Thybulle to San Antonio Spurs for Rudy Gay, Patty Mills and Chimezie Metu (salary filler)
Last time I suggested using Thybulle to shed bad money, and to do so for Rudy Gay and Patty Mills, I got cyberbullied. But hear me out: Gay and Mills are both legitimate rotation contributors, likely both better than Thybulle barring extreme regression. Batum may be entirely washed. The Sixers shouldn’t trade Thybulle for the sake of doing it. But he is a 23 year-old rookie who can’t shoot or dribble. That is someone you part ways with to bolster the rotation to such a substantial extent.
Move #5: Trade #32 and 49 overall picks to New York Knicks for #27 overall pick
As I have written about before, it is significantly more advantageous for a team in the luxury tax like the Sixers will be to have a late first-rounder rather than an early-second rounder because of the logistics of the rookie scale. So, here is me turning #32 into #27.
Move #6: Draft two of: Desmond Bane, Isaiah Joe, Xavier Tillman, Tyrell Terry, Grant Riller, Malachi Flynn and Killian Tillie
It’s impossible to say which of these guys will be available when #27 and 36 come around, but it seems safe to say that at the very least two of them will be (to be clear, they are listed in order of how much I would like them on the Sixers). Terry, Riller and Flynn are all dynamic guard playmakers who would be atop this list if not for the Schroder addition. Bane looks like he can be a star role player given his myriad of abilities, chief among them shooting (and movement shooting), as well as his ability to create advantages playing off of said shooting ability. For more on Bane, I’d recommend this excellently-researched piece by draft expert Jackson Frank, who is a must-follow this offseason. Joe is a similarly adept shooter with unlimited range, and Tillman is an elite backup center in the making with his defensive ability, tremendous awareness on both ends and the passing ability that the awareness lends itself to. If all of these guys are gone at #36, Tillie makes sense as a gifted player who is falling further than he should because of medical red flags.
Move #6: Sign Austin Rivers to one-year deal with second year player option
With our Rockets seemingly falling apart at the seams, Rivers could very well find a new home this summer, and the Sixers should have plenty of interest. Rivers is a rare player who actually fits the title of a combo-guard, someone who can initiate in spurts but also be ready to fire away off the catch. And, despite character concerns, he deserves props for trying his ass off on defense for the last couple of years and truly buying into his role in Houston. Rivers would take up half of the taxpayer’s mid-level exception, slated to be worth around $6 million.
Move #7: Sign Maurice Harkless to one-year deal with second year player option
The return! Harkless is nothing special, he is a perfectly average shooter and a competent defender. But he has a great frame, which is something this Sixers team would be lacking outside of Ben Simmons. He would join Furkan Korkmaz and Gay in the backup wing rotation. Harkless would take the other half of the taxpayer’s MLE.
Move #8: Sign Mario Hezonja to one-year deal
We would be reduced to just a minimum contract at this point to fill the last roster spot. I wasn’t sure whether to target another ball-handler or a wing with size, but ended up doing both. Hezonja isn’t particularly good on offense or defense if we are being honest with each other, but regardless, he has enough theoretical skills to make a minimum signing worth doing.
That is it for my moves. Now take a look at what this team looks like:
Starters: Dennis Schroder, Shake Milton, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid
Bench: Patty Mills, Desmond Bane, Austin Rivers, Matt Thomas, Rudy Gay, Furkan Korkmaz, Maurice Harkless, Mario Hezonja, Cody Zeller, Xavier Tillman
This team is still flawed of course, but wouldn’t you have a much easier time convincing yourself it could make a playoff run than you would with the current roster? They could go as much as 12 deep right off the bat, with the starters plus Mills, Bane, Gay, Korkmaz, Harkless and Zeller -- that’s without including an established role player in Rivers and a promising rookie in Tillman. Whoever the new coach is would easily be able to mix and match with the bench, and even the fifth starting spot as well, because of not just how many potential contributors are here but how different they all are.
So, that’s how I would do it. I hereby challenge the Sixers to find a better way.