Trade Deadline Brings Uncertainty for Sixers
The 76ers have been active participants in each of the two trade deadline’s under general manager Sam Hinkie‘s stewardship.
Two years ago, in Hinkie’s first year with the team, the Sixers sent away Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Lavoy Allen at the deadline, all of whom were set to become free agents later that year.
Last year the Sixers traded away Michael Carter-Williams in a deal where they received the Los Angeles Lakers draft pick in return. That pick, which did not convey in 2015 because it fell in the first five picks of the draft, is now top-3 protected in the 2016 draft.
Will the Sixers continue their trend of being active participants at the trade deadline? If so, who, or what, is most likely to be moved?
Most likely to be traded: cap space
The most likely “asset” to be moved by the Sixers is their salary cap space.
The Sixers have roughly $9.6 million in cap space, per BasketballInsiders, the second most in the league.
While the value of cap space isn’t quite what it used to be because of the increasing salary cap, the Sixers’ ability to decrease another team’s luxury tax bill, or act as a facilitator in a multi-team trade, still presents a strong opportunity for the Sixers to make a move at the deadline.
The presence of two other teams — Portland and Utah — who also have significant cap space lessens the Sixers’ negotiating leverage, which could decrease they return they get for renting out the cap space, but it’s still the most likely asset to be moved today, in my opinion.
Probability of happening: 30 percent
(Note: probabilities are mere off-the-cuff guesses. Take them with a grain of salt).
Most likely to be traded in a blockbuster deal: Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel
If the Sixers are to make a major move, one of their two prized big men are almost guaranteed to be involved.
If that does happen, would they decide to keep Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor? It’s a question that could be determined by which one has more interest among other teams around the league, and my gut says the Sixers could get more for Okafor than Noel.
The Sixers are reportedly gauging the league-wide interest in Okafor, although this could very well just be doing their due diligence. The Sixers would not be doing their job if they weren’t, and it doesn’t necessarily mean there have been substantive talks about either player.
The fact that Noel or Okafor are likely to be involved if the Sixers make a major move doesn’t mean I think they’re likely to be traded, however.
As I spoke about a little while ago, trading for a current star has its challenges, most notably giving up the kind of assets required to net such a player who is likely nearing free agency. With the increase in the salary cap which begins this offseason, such players are likely to exercise any and all options to get out of their current contracts as soon as possible, regardless of whether they’re on a title contender or the Sixers.
I still think the most likely scenario is that the Sixers retain both of their prized big men and use the rest of the season to evaluate them, both in their individual talent and ultimate upside, and in their ability to grow as a pairing.
Probability of happening: 5 percent
Potentially used As a sweetener? Robert Covington and the Lakers pick
If the Sixers were to pursue a major acquisition — and, as I said above, I don’t think that’s likely — the team really has two options to sweeten their offer: Robert Covington and the Lakers’ 2016 draft pick, which is top-3 protected.
Covington is having a little bit of a down year, at least in terms of consistency, as he’s shooting just 37.8 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from three-point range, although he’s picked that up since Ish Smith came into the fold, as he’s shot 36.9 percent on 5.9 three-point attempts per game since December 24th.
Still, Covington is a known three-point shooter in a league where three-point shooting is as valued as ever, has improved substantially on the defensive side of the court, and has an incredibly cheap contract (two years remaining at just over $1 million per year) that makes fitting him into a larger deal easy to accomplish.
Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com recently ranked Covington 47th on his list of players with the most trade value.
The Sixers could also use any of the numerous upcoming draft picks as a potential sweetener to a blockbuster deal, but trading one like the Lakers, which is top-3 protected in both the 2016 and 2017 draft, has the potential to add a high-value asset to a trade without giving up a potential #1 overall selection.
With the struggles the Sixers would have in fielding a competitive team around such a superstar in the short amount of time before they would become a free agent, trading a pick that has the potential to become the #1 pick in the draft would be too risky of proposition for virtually any play who could realistically become available.
Probability of happening: same 5 percent
Veteran pieces other teams could use? Carl Landry or Kendall Marshall
Adrian Wojnarowski is already reporting that the Milwaukee Bucks have kicked the tires on bringing Kendall Marshall back to help stabilize their point guard position.
The value for both Marshall and Carl Landry is held back because of their lack of playing time of late. Landry and Marshall have appeared in just three games each since January 18th. Marshall has lost playing time to Ish Smith and T.J. McConnell, and Landry struggling to play consistently because of the depth created by young big men Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Richaun Holmes.
Any return of substance is unlikely because of that, especially with Landry, who is guaranteed $6.5 million next year. Still, Hinkie and the Sixers have shown a willingness to get assets for players who aren’t a part of their long-term plan, so a trade is possible, even if the return is likely to be minimal.
Probability of happening: 10 percent
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.