This Trade Deadline Was Never Going to Save the Sixers
Yeah, the Sixers' deadline kinda sucked, but so did the entire NBA's. And who knows if we're worth saving anyway.
Andrew Unterberger writes for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez, as part of the 'If Not, Pick Will Convey As Two Second-Rounders' section of the site. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AUGetoffmygold and can also read him at Billboard.
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The best thing that there is to say about the Sixers’ trade deadline is that it doesn't really matter.
The feeling I got this afternoon as the clock ran out on GM Daryl Morey's day of dealing is the same feeling I think we all got at the end of draft night in 2015 when the Sixers drafted Jahlil Okafor. The move on its own made little sense; the Sixers had nabbed high-ceiling centers in each of the prior two drafts and Okafor's superficially productive game and underwhelming pro profile made him seem the antithesis of a Hinkie Guy. Oh but just you wait, we all told everyone (including ourselves), there's another move coming. It'll all make sense in time. Nope: Big Jah stayed through draft night and two full seasons after that, until we dumped him and Nik Stauskas along with additional outgoing picks for a guy who was never gonna play Meaningful Minute for us. There was no grand design -- or if there was, Hinkie never got to see it to fruition, since he was forced out of office before the end of Okafor's rookie season.
Yes, that's what today felt like, as Morey made a couple perplexing moves that felt like they were going to add up to a more coherent masterplan -- had to, right? -- but instead left us refreshing Twitter through 3:05 Eastern looking for the Woj Bomb that never came. It's a rotten, sinking feeling we're left with, one that leaves you questioning why you trusted anything would be different, why you cared about things being different in the first place. It makes you less interested in finding a bright side to look at than in just tuning this team (and the rest of the basketball world) out for the foreseeable future.
But Jahlil Okafor? Wasting a top three pick, the reward of an entire season's losing, on a player who would only ever add negative value to your franchise? That mattered. This trade deadline, where nothing really happened anywhere and no one we lost or gained is likely to prove game-changing? Not really. It was probably never going to -- especially when Joel Embiid's injury situation means we don’t have nearly enough an idea of how close we are to the top to know what kind of deal we'd even need to get over it.
Look at the top names that Woj and Shams were breaking news about at the deadline's buzzer today: Dejounte Murray, Bruce Brown, Andre Drummond. Nice players, hardly stars, arguably difference-makers of some degree. The news about those guys? That they weren't getting traded. These were some of the biggest names expected to be available at the deadline -- we debated all three as prospective Sixers -- and not only did we not get them, neither did anyone else. Marcus Smart, Klay Thompson, Collin Sexton, Bogdan Bogdonavic? Not even worth a tweet. Alex Caruso, the ghost of Zach LaVine my guy DeMar DeRozan, anyone on the Chicago Bulls? As if. Don't even bother asking about Mikal Bridges or Lauri Markkanen, may as well be asking if you can get Luka Doncic for Springer and a couple pick swaps.
This is all to say: Even if Darryl Morey did have a larger plan in mind for this trade deadline -- even if he had several -- it might just not have made a difference. Nobody changed hands this deadline that's likely to swing a title, maybe not even to swing a single series. Maybe you would've felt better with the Sixers landing the Pistons' package of Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks like the Knicks ended up doing, but I'm not gonna lose sleep about the missed opportunity to add the two most productive 30-somethings from one of the worst teams in NBA history to our core. Kelly Olynyk? Sure, he'd have been nice, though first-round-pick nice is a real matter of debate for a backup big. Gordon Hayward? I dunno man maybe. Let's see him play 20 games in a row. Let's see him play two games in a row. No one, no actual game-changer, was coming to save the Sixers this deadline. Nobody came to save anyone.
Fact is, the guy we did get is arguably as valuable as anyone who swapped teams at this deadline. Buddy Hield is certainly a flawed player -- DO detailed his defensive deficiencies in his excellent Buddy breakdown earlier today -- and whether he'll be able to hold up in the postseason remains to be seen, in large part because he's never made it there before (always a great sign for a player in his 30s). But he does the thing we need the most right now, in giving Maxey a dangerous ghost-screen release valve for when he gets trapped 32 feet from the basket, and one of the things we'll need the most if/when Embiid comes back, in giving us another knockdown shooter to spot up around him and to even play some J.J.-ish two-man game with him, especially when Tyrese sits. And at those things, he's great -- like, top five in the league great over the past half-decade great. He'll hurt the team a little, but he'll help the team a little more.
Was he worth three second-rounders, Marcus Morris Sr. and Furkan Korkmaz? Probably. I think if that had been the lone move Daryl Morey had made today, a lot of fans would've still been underwhelmed but probably not so angry, while the rest of us would've looked at the lack of activity around the league and gone, well, fair enough. It felt like a win-now move fairly lacking in long-term consequences; even if you don't think it made the Sixers appreciably better, it's doubtful you believed it made them altogether worse, in either the short- or long-term.
But of course, Daryl kept it pushing. He traded Danuel House Jr. and a second-rounder for a fake Pistons pick and tax relief. He sent Patrick Beverley to Milwaukee for Cameron Payne and their real-I-think second-rounder. And just a couple minutes before pencils-down time, he dealt Jaden Springer to Boston for a worse team's second-rounder. Considering how the Hospital Sixers hardly have players to spare at the moment -- House, Beverley and Springer would all have probably played 25-30 minutes in tomorrow night's game against Atlanta -- and considering that Beverley and Springer both seemingly had real value to the roster (albeit for opposite reasons), trading them for middling draft assets that didn't even equal what we'd sent out for Hield felt wildly unnecessary and needlessly antagonistic.
I don't have a good defense for those deals. They feel like unforced errors, and I'm extremely annoyed by both of them. But if I'm being honest, the thing I'm irritated most about is that it's going to make the Sixers even less watchable than they've already been for the next week or two -- when, in fact, the Sixers were almost certainly going to be unwatchable anyway. Will we miss Jaden Springer in the playoffs, and did we expect him to be around longer than that anyway? Unlikely. Are we sure that Patrick Beverley was going to get consistent minutes in the postseason, especially if the Sixers get Kyle Lowry on the buyout market as expected? Unclear. The Sixers may not have particularly helped their championship odds this trade deadline, but nothing they did particularly hurt them in the long-term, either. The biggest consequence of Morey's dealings was that he just made a bummer of a team even less fun and likeable for the immediate future. That stinks, but it's not ultimately that meaningful.
And really, this trade deadline was never going to mean that much for the Sixers. There's only one thing that really means that much for the Sixers -- only one thing that's ever really meant that much for the Sixers -- and it's if Joel Embiid can come back healthy and play at close-to-full-strength in time for the postseason. We don't know about that, and we won't know about that. If players even at the Dejounte/DeMar level weren't changing teams without a dramatic overpay, Morey couldn't rightly risk spending that much on a non-star without knowing if it was all going to end up being all for naught this season anyway. You don't go all-in without even knowing how many chips you have left to play with. A Hield-level investment -- a good, useful, low-commitment player available for replaceable assets -- was probably the biggest bet we could reasonably make.
Those other trades... well, it's kicking the can to next offseason, isn't it? Perhaps Daryl was trying to do something more with them this afternoon and came up empty, perhaps he just wanted to not be at a serious pick deficit thought Beverley was expendable and Springer more valuable off the books. But ultimately, it's putting the focus back on Plan A: Summer of Cap Space. To that end, we've already got the Chris Haynes leak about pursuing Paul George as a free agent the summer -- sure, why not. It's probably a pipe dream, but maybe not any moreso than starhunting at this trade deadline ultimately was. Maybe Daryl should've struck earlier and nabbed one of the Toronto guys, who ended up being the two most valuable players to change teams this season (outside of the guy we sent to LA) and instead strengthened conference rivals. But maybe we were never really in the mix for those guys anyway.
I don't know. This trade deadline sucked. I'm doing the best I can with the coping -- pulling it off seamlessly, I'm sure -- but I'm pissed off too. I wanted more -- and by deadline's end, I also wanted less. In reality, though, this is the story of more trade deadlines than we want to acknowledge: More often than not, you end up dealing for George Hill, or Jalen McDaniels, or Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, or Boban Marjanovic and Tobias Harris, and you end up sending out Matisse Thybulle, or Tony Bradley, or Wilson Chandler and Landry Shamet. All you can really do is zoom out on all of it and ask: Did any of it really make a difference? Would any of it really make a difference? Could any of it really have made a difference? And the answer to all of it is: probably not. The trades we made or didn't make at any of those deadlines never meant as much as Embiid being healthy, Simmons being normal or Harden being invested would have. The Sixers will succeed this postseason or they won't, but this trade deadline won't be one of the 10 things we look back on as the biggest reasons why. Get well soon, Joel.