If the Philadelphia 76ers decide to direct their attention to the offseason, they could have a friend in the Dallas Mavericks.
Entering the season, the Sixers seemed intent on making this the first year of a rebuilding plan. That may have changed a little with their early and somewhat surprising competitiveness.
If not, or if the Sixers start to slide, they have the type of younger veteran pieces the Mavericks seemingly covet.
The name mentioned most as potential trade bait entering the season: Sixers swingman Evan Turner. He’s off to a strong start, averaging 23.4 points and displaying a willingness to drive to the basket more frequently.
He also has an expiring contract. In today’s NBA, that’s almost as valuable to general managers as real live talent.
This is where the Mavericks may come in.
All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki isn’t the same player he used to be — but he’s still pretty darn good and the Mavs want to keep him. Nowitzki’s contract is also up at season’s end.
To keep Nowitzki, the Mavs feel they have to make a run toward (and possibly in) the playoffs. They signed guard Monta Ellis to improve their chances, but are said to be open to further improving the team.
Someone like the 25-year old Turner would fit right in, and the Mavs wouldn’t have to give up a ton to get him. Starting small forward Shawn Marion and a draft pick would likely be enough.
The Mavs like Marion, but he’s 35 and also approaching free agency. He was at the center of some exploratory talks this past summer and isn’t likely to be with the organization next season. His name will certainly hit the rumor mill again prior to the February trade deadline.
A Turner-for-Marion swap works financially and might make sense from a basketball standpoint. If not now, perhaps eventually.
It would give the Sixers an expiring deal (which they have now in Turner), but another asset (a draft pick) that could be used to help rebuild the team. And Turner would, simply put, give the Mavs another good young scorer.
So while no such talks are believed to have taken place at the moment, league insiders advised to stay tuned. They may not be far off.
Off the Bench
• Word around the NBA is if the Sixers are, in fact, set on trading Turner, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves would try to put themselves in the mix.
• Sixers small forward Thaddeus Young is also off to a blazing start. He too is likely to draw interest around the trade deadline (if not sooner). At $8.6 million this year and $9.1 million next (with a player option for $9.7 in 2015), Young may be a little tougher to move than Turner, however. But contending teams would be wise to check it out.
• The Indiana Pacers’ 7-0 start is the best in franchise history. Several league executives wonder what this might mean once veteran forward Danny Granger is healthy. With his expiring contract and recent injury history, it seems as if the Pacers would be receptive to moving him.
• If the Pacers do dangle Granger, they’ll likely look for some additional backcourt help. George Hill is a fine point guard, but the Pacers are a little too turnover-prone. Another ball-handler to go with Hill and backup C.J. Watson probably wouldn’t hurt.
• Following a win at the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, Pacers center Roy Hibbert offered some high praise for All-Star teammate Paul George. “Reggie (Miller) is the man in terms of Pacer legacy,” Hibbert told reporters. “But I can see Paul George surpassing him.”
• We’ll have to see about that one. Miller is a future Hall-of-Famer. But he never won a title. If George can be the best player on a Pacers team that does, Hibbert could be right.
• Michael Malone of the Sacramento Kings is already experiencing the frustrations of being a head coach for the first time. The Kings fell to 1-5 following a home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, and Malone sounded off.
• “I told our guys, ‘The media is going to go out there and ask me, ‘Well you played small a lot tonight, you got kicked on the glass,’ and the reality is we got kicked when we were big,” Malone said. “At least in the end we were trying to fight. We gave up a lot of (3-pointers) off offensive rebounds. You don’t need great skill to be a guy that rebounds; being a good rebounder is all about effort, determination, physicality. We lacked all those tonight as a whole.”
• One league executive told FOX Sports Ohio, “If the Kings aren’t any good, mark my words: They’ll trade (center DeMarcus) Cousins.”
• Meanwhile, other teams expected to fare poorly have done just fine at the start. The Sixers are one. The Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers without Kobe Bryant are several more.
• Read: Maybe we should think twice about accusing teams of tanking and respect that guys at this level always play hard. If you’re good enough to make it to the NBA, you’re good enough to want to win, regardless of perceived plans by the front office.