With the trade deadline fast approaching, the Philadelphia 76ers are finally winning games. With that said, there is still a lot of work left to be done — so who should be on the trade market?
It’s trade season. With the Philadelphia 76ers being such hefty losers in recent years under Sam Hinkie, the trade block hasn’t been a topic discussed all that much. There was the inherent desire for Process-driven asset accumulation surrounding the organization, but trades that were focussed towards legitimate team improvement were rarely ever discussed.
This season, however, brings about a rather fresh feeling of change. Joel Embiid is already one of the league’s best big men, while Ben Simmons is preparing to take on the mantle of the team’s secondary cornerstone alongside Embiid. They’re finally heading in the right direction as a team, and boast an 19-34 record to boot.
And while this upcoming draft still holds some very real gravity in the Philadelphia 76ers’ future, the team itself isn’t hinged around positioning. They’re no longer make a conscious effort to get worse, functioning in a manner that is directly opposite. Philadelphia is trying to win games now, which means building a real roster — with real, functional parts.
So, with such a notion being established, trades are important aspect of the Sixers’ future. With a chance to build a rotation around a set core, Bryan Colangelo and company can look for pieces that fit the mold of Brett Brown’s system — something the Hinkie never did, or could, do in an era without a tangible focal point in the rotation.
What should the Philadelphia 76ers look for in a trade?
In terms of what the Sixers should be looking for on the open market, it’s relatively simple. They need to be looking for pieces that fit. Not necessarily gunning for an outright stud — yet — but they must be looking at players who mesh with the archetype of an Embiid-Simmons compliment.
That likely means shooters, as well as more perimeter defenders — something a good team can never run too thick in. Embiid is the anchor of the team on both ends in the interior, while Simmons figures to be among the more versatile contributors in the league on both sides of the ball.
They have both their primary ball handler, as well as their go-to scorer, figured out. They’re finally at the stage were complimentary facets are among the most important aspects of their roster, and thus that’s how the should approach the deadline.
How do the Philadelphia 76ers determine who to trade?
When looking at the who the Sixers could — within reason — deal elsewhere, the list isn’t all that short. Outside of their most youthful building blocks, this is still a fairly mediocre roster talent-wise. They don’t have much talent in the form of long-term point guards, while their wings are most certainly useful but not necessarily built for sustained utility in the starting lineup.
If the proper value emerges, whether a veteran on a solid contract or another young piece with upside, the Sixers should be willing to part with a large portion of their roster. That’s the frank nature of building a team in the manner in which the Sixers were constructed. There is going to be leftover scraps that aren’t worth keeping around. It’s a roster that will be experiencing wide-spread change in the upcoming seasons — and now could be the tipping point.
NOTE: Jahlil Okafor is not included in this post due to recent trade rumors and the seemingly universal belief that he’s included on such a list.
A deal including Rodriguez seems like a no-brainer at this point. The 30-year-old Spaniard is on an expiring deal with little reason for retention in the offseason, making almost any value received via trade a worthwhile endeavor.
I was a rather enthusiastic proponent of El Chacho earlier in the season. He’s a quick-witted, flashy playmaker with some impressive vision, and brought some much-needed veteran savvy to the early-season rotation. But that enthusiasm has devolved in substantial fashion in recent weeks. T.J. McConnell‘s ascension to near-necessity in the starting rotation has rendered Sergio entirely to bench play, and the veteran’s shaky shooting of late has been more of a hindrance than a benefit on the offensive side of the ball.
Sergio is posting career highs in minutes, points, and assists per game this season, but it still feels somewhat underwhelming at this point. Some of his 8.3 points and 5.4 assists stat line is inflated from early season starts, while his 3-point shooting — 34.9 percent — is on par with his past few of seasons in the NBA — a stint from 2006-10 that inevitably saw him depart for a prolonged stint away from American basketball.
Rodriguez couples his lackluster offense with far-more-serious defensive concerns. He’s easily beat at the point of attack and lacks the athleticism to stay with the league’s more explosive guards. While McConnell isn’t an overtly great athlete at the point by any stretch, his insane hustle covers a lot of that ground. The same can’t be said for Rodriguez.
It makes — almost — no sense to not consider trading Rodriguez. He lacks future utility and, quite frankly, isn’t performing at a level worth keeping in lieu of the Chasson Randle commitment. There’s reason to push him on the trade block, to, at the very least, see what’s out there.
What to look for in return:
With Sergio, it’s not that much. The most likely scenario given how minimal his value is would be a second round pick, or potentially two at best, from a contending team in need of a backup point guard, a la Cleveland Cavaliers. That would also entail taking on another expiring contract to balance out the financial aspects of the trade.
The trade market for a player like Rodriguez in a vacuum is admittedly small. He’d likely gain more traction as a throw-in to a larger deal than in a straight-up swap. Regardless of how a deal may transpire, though, there’s reason to pursue it. Not to be overly harsh, but he could very well be the most expendable piece on the roster as it currently stands.
T.J., my man. It has been one heck of a season for the undrafted point guard out of Arizona. After fighting for a roster spot in the Summer League and scrapping his way onto the team as Rodriguez’s backup to start the season, I was thoroughly convinced that McConnell was an unnecessary asset.
He’s not a good enough athlete to be a consistently good player in today’s league. He’s not skilled enough to play real minutes for a good basketball team. Hustle can only carry a player so far. Those are all points I made this offseason. I was championing the #StartSergio cause, and in the process disregarding McConnell as nothing more than an afterthought in a rebuilding rotation.
It’s safe to say, at this point, that I’ve been proven wrong. The Philadelphia 76ers are chugging along in impressive fashion with T.J. becoming a permanent installation into the starting group, where his pestering energy and sharp decision making has elevated him as the glue guy that brought about the revitalization of an entire rotation alongside Joel Embiid.
He hit a game winner versus the Knicks, is an unyielding capsule of thoroughly enjoyable grit, and most of all — someone who has earned his spot in the rotation. We’ve seen McConnell progress from somebody on the roster bubble to the Sixers’ most consistent producer in the backcourt.
What to look for in return:
This is where it gets difficult. You have to separate heart from mind, and realize the inevitably simple fact that McConnell — as entertaining as he is — isn’t a long term solution as a starter. It’s impossible not to cheer for McConnell. The undeniable passion that he plays with on the defensive end is an emotional kickstart that the team clearly enjoys, and something that is genuinely beneficial on any NBA roster.
But the truth here is that McConnell won’t be the starting point guard for a championship-level squad. And while that doesn’t mean the Philadelphia 76ers should ship him away for nothing — which I would strongly advocate against — this is the highest that McConnell’s value has been in his first two years, and I highly doubt it’ll ever find a much higher peak.
There are numerous playoff teams, or teams fighting for a spot, that would love to add a sparkplug with McConnell’s shtick to their rotations. He’s incredibly adept in what he does on the floor, and a very real, very capable NBA player. I’m finally, without question, ready to admit that.
But getting significant value out of McConnell, from a long term perspective, could be a massive victory. While I wouldn’t suspect anybody giving up a first rounder for T.J.’s services, his presence in the locker room and in the second unit could persuade some teams to sacrifice a quality role player or two to attain his services.
McConnell doesn’t fit all that well with Simmons given his lack of scoring, and his game remains heavily limited in numerous fashions. Moving forward with a revamped point guard pairing outside of McConnell and Rodriguez is an appealing idea still in some aspects — and could be worthwhile.
What could a deal look like?
76ers get SG Jordan McRae, PG Kay Felder, Future 2nd Round Pick
Cavaliers get PG T.J. McConnell
Given how unique McConnell’s situation is, it’s tough to gauge his value. This could be too much, or it could be slightly underselling his talents — albeit, from the Cleveland Cavalier’s initial offer this season, it might be pushing the boundaries.
With that said, though, McConnell’s effectiveness is his given niche is something the Cavs need — and something they might be willing to pass up a bit more for. LeBron James‘ public outcry for another playmaker would be answered, while the Cavaliers add some more defensive grit to a squad that struggles to maintain an identity on that side of the ball on occasion.
Cleveland has been in a lull as of late, and McConnell is a bench spark who can help resolve that, while affording James some more rest.
The Philadelphia 76ers, on the other hand, grab a few decent assets to work with moving forward. SG Jordan McRae is an iffy bet to work in any rotation as a full-time addition, but at the very least provides a scoring boost that they can develop further down in the rotation.
Felder was high on my draft board as a second rounder last season, boasting some intriguing upside that could give him a ceiling higher than McConnell’s down the road. He’s only 5-9, but boasts incredible athletic tools and a work ethic that should translate into eventual production.
The Cavaliers have given him some time with the second unit with reasonable success this season, which leads me to believe he could compete with Chasson Randle for the backup point guard spot, assuming Rodriguez or Stauskas temporarily takes over the starting role. Ideally, Simmons helps take some of that load away upon his return.
The minutia of this deal would likely help sort out any different perspectives between the two sides.
Noel has been an integral part of the rotation as of late — something that wasn’t necessarily expected coming into the season. After he missed a sizable chunk of games to early on, it seemed as if Brett Brown was beginning to settle into a steady dosage of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor at the five spot.
That left Noel on the periphery of the Philadelphia 76ers’ center rotation upon his initial return, as he dropped expletive-laced quotes to reporters and displayed a stark lack of subtleness as he hinted at his displeasure. That brief spell of disdain seems thoroughly relinquished to the past at this point.
Now Okafor is accumulating the vast majority of his minutes on the bench for the Philadelphia 76ers. Meanwhile Noel has rapidly become an idealistic compliment behind Embiid in the second unit. His shot blocking and presence around the basket has given the team a boost of defensive grit behind Embiid that was devoid in weeks prior. And his improved offensive game has fit nicely into some of Brett Brown’s sets.
The notion of filling the defensive void that Okafor consistently left in lieu of Embiid is a clear benefit, and an expected one at that. But Noel’s offensive play has been the more promising aspect of his development this season, providing him with a lofty ceiling on the trade market as the deadline approaches.
He has expanded his offense, at times, to the mid-range game, where he’s hitting on 50 percent of his shots between 15-19 feet, per NBA Stats. Albeit in a small sample size, his ability to pop out to the elbow and pose a legitimate threat has opened up driving lanes Noel didn’t have in years past.
That, combined with his consistent production in the pick-and-roll, gives teams something to bank on both offensively and defensively.
What to look for in return:
I think it’s safe to say that Noel’s value is much higher than Okafor’s at this point. A defensive stud of his caliber is something a lot of playoff teams could benefit from, and the long term utility of such a young acquisition is going to drive up his stock even further among veteran organizations.
That essentially means the Sixers, more so than any other deals, should look for some substantial value here moving forward. While Noel would be a questionable contract to sign long term, he’s worth retaining far more than Okafor is given their fit in the current rotation. If Colangelo is reserved and less forthright in dealing one of the two bigs, it should be Noel.
Ideally, the Sixers could pad their perimeter depth in parting with their logjam in the frontcourt. Obtaining a quality swingman or young guard play should be at the forefront of Colangelo’s efforts, and the potential of adding another first round pick — whether this season or in the near future — should be a close secondary goal.
Philadelphia would likely be best off trading both Noel and Okafor, but Noel’s price on the free market is something that should be thoroughly discussed and negotiated to the utmost degree. He’s a genuinely valuable piece and someone the Sixers should wield as such when jockeying for leverage.
What could a deal look like?
76ers get SG Allen Crabbe, PF Noah Vonleh, 2017 First Round Pick (via CLE)
Trail Blazers get C Nerlens Noel, PG Sergio Rodriguez
This deal has some pretty clear benefits on both ends. The Philadelphia 76ers, first and foremost, rid themselves of — or at least part of — their logjam in the frontcourt, diminishing some potential tension and opening up more minutes for guys like Ben Simmons and Richaun Holmes moving forward.
In terms of the return, Allen Crabbe — albeit on a hefty contract — brings some long term utility that could be highly beneficial in the Philadelphia 76ers’ backcourt. He’s a skilled off-ball shooter and provides some nice athletic tools to build around on the wing. It’s difficult to find a better partnership for wings of Crabbe’s ilk than the aforementioned Simmons, and running him off of screens while allowing him to grow into more of a featured role could bring some notable contributions long term.
They also grab a late first rounder — which is far from lacking value — and a young big in Vonleh who they can cultivate behind the scenes.
The Blazers, on the other hand, add a much-needed rim protector to their frontcourt. Festus Ezeli‘s season-ending knee injury and far-reaching history with health issues clouds his status moving forward, making a young piece of Noel’s caliber a massive benefit.
There’s no questioning the impact that Ilyasova has had on the Philadelphia 76ers this season. His perimeter shooting has been an integral weapon in Brett Brown’s offense, while his veteran presence is a stabilizing force for an otherwise-young Philadelphia rotation.
He’s averaging 15.3 points alongside 6 rebounds per game in a Sixers uniform this season, and doing so while hitting on a career-best 2.1 shots per game from beyond the arc. Outside of Joel Embiid, Ilyasova is oft-utilized as the team’s second offensive option — but that shouldn’t exclude him from trade talks.
As a veteran (29-years-old) on an expiring contract, Ilyasova’s long term role with the Philadelphia 76ers remains relatively small. Dario Saric is the team’s long term solution at the power forward spot, and Ben Simmons figures to take some of those minutes as well due to his defensive skill set. Ersan has been a bona fide stud during random stints this season, but he doesn’t factor all that reasonably into the Sixers’ post-2017 plans.
In addition to his inevitably-devolving role on the court, Ilyasova’s contract this offseason could outweigh the value he brings to the rotation. His stellar play is bound to get him a substantial pay raise in the rising market, and it’s likely not something the Sixers should invest in — especially not for an extended period of time.
He’s, all things considered, a mere stopgap for for a team building towards future success. Getting value for him now would be the smart move.
What to look for in return:
Searching for an Ilyasova trade is almost like the McConnell scenario on steroids. You don’t want to dish him out for a clearly-inadequate return, but holding out for massive value that won’t manifest could hurt the team down the road. It’s about finding the ideal balance between the exploitation of his career-year and overarching reason, and noting veering too far towards either extreme.
Ilyasova’s ability to space the floor at the four spot is something a number of competitive teams could be looking add as their gear up for a playoff push, which means there shouldn’t be much shortage in regards to teams willing to deal. Any young assets would be a nice starting point, while strong perimeter play would be another quality get.
This is, once again, about clearing up the frontcourt and strengthening the rotation in it’s weaker facets — something Bryan Colangelo has been oddly non-intent on doing to this point in the season.
Gerald Henderson falls into the same category as Ilyasova in some ways. While his value may not be brimming at it’s fullest potential, he’s an aging veteran that, at 29, doesn’t project far into the Sixers’ future plans.
On a two-year, $18 million deal, Henderson is still a quality value. He’s an effective offensive spark on a great contract, so there’s no pressing need to discard him. With that said, though, if contenders are willing to part with significant value — ideally of the younger variety — to add Henderson to their reserve core, the Philadelphia 76ers should be active in negotiating such a deal.
We’ve seen Nik Stauskas take a sizable step forward this season, and rookie Frenchman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has proven himself worthy of more consistent minutes on the floor. That, alongside Chasson Randle’s ability to play the two, puts some younger assets behind Henderson in the rotation — all of whom could be more relevant than Henderson moving beyond next season.
Philadelphia shouldn’t be looking to arbitrarily blow things up by any means, but probing the market for deals involving any nonessential assets is always a good idea. Henderson is fully capable of producing at a high level next season, and feasibly a few more years beyond that. But if the Sixers are able to flip him for younger talent, perhaps with more upside down the road, they would be wise to do so.
What to look for in return:
This is as simple as any other trade. The Philadelphia 76ers should be looking to stock up on young talent now, which maximizes their future while allowing them to pursue (better) veterans as Simmons and Embiid hit the court together for a full season come next year (knock on wood).
If they can grab a late first round pick or a handful of second round picks for Henderson, it makes sense. If they’re able to grab a rookie or sophomore-type player whose future remains both relevant and fitting in the Sixers’ scheme, that also makes sense.
Henderson is a fine player for the Philadelphia 76ers and somebody who, in some instances, is a quality starter for a semi-competitive roster. But he’s not someone of the utmost importance in Philadelphia right now, and that makes his contract — and his services — expendable for the right price.
Whether as a thrown-in or the cornerstone of a not-so-blockbuster deal, Henderson should be someone that Bryan Colangelo is floating around the trade market as the deadline edges nearer.