Sixers a 'frontrunner' to land perimeter scorer

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Sixers a 'frontrunner' to land perimeter scorer

The Sixers are evidently still keen on adding a scorer off the bench.

They're one of three teams considered to be "frontrunners" for Memphis Grizzlies guard and Chester native Tyreke Evans, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

It was reported last week that the Grizzlies were seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Evans. For 2018, the Sixers hold their own first-round pick and another first-rounder via the Los Angeles Lakers. That's the pick included in the Markelle Fultz trade that goes to the Boston Celtics in 2018 if it falls between Nos. 2-5. 

Speaking of Fultz, it's fair to wonder if the Sixers are worried that the No. 1 overall pick may not be able to contribute this season. Evans could provide what the team was hoping Fultz would when they traded up to acquire the University of Washington star. Evans is nursing an injury of his own (left arm), but the Grizzlies are apparently holding him out for the purpose of trading him. 

Evans, 28, is having arguably the best — and certainly most efficient — season of his NBA career. He's averaging 19.5 points per game, the highest mark since he averaged 20.1 points on his way to winning Rookie of the Year back in 2009-10. He's shooting 46 percent from the field and has vastly improved his outside shot. He's shooting a career-high 39 percent on a career-high 5.4 attempts from behind the arc this season. His ability to create his own shot off the dribble is what will appeal most to the Sixers.

Evans signed a one-year, $3.29 million deal with Memphis this past offseason, making him a pending free agent. With the Grizzlies buried in the standings, they'll be looking to acquire an asset before Evans walks. What can the Sixers offer? 

Their own first-round pick is a possibility. That pick will likely fall somewhere in the late teens or early-20s depending on how strong of a second-half push the Sixers make. If the Grizzlies insist on a first-rounder, the Sixers could counter by making Memphis eat the last year and a half of Jerryd Bayless' three-year, $27 million deal. But for that to work, the Sixers would have to eat another Grizzlies contract back to make the money work. Someone like Ben McLemore, who signed a two-year, $10.6 million contract, should do it.

There is also the possibility that Memphis could be interested in one of the Sixers' current young bench players like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot or Richaun Holmes. A first-round pick in 2016, Luwawu-Cabarrot has flashed at times for the Sixers, but with Fultz eventually coming back and Justin Anderson emerging, minutes may be hard to come by for TLC. Meanwhile, Holmes has shown plenty of promise since being drafted in the second round out of Bowling Green but has struggled to find a role in Brett Brown's rotation behind Joel Embiid and veteran Amir Johnson.

With the NBA trade deadline approaching Thursday, it's clear that the Sixers want to add a player like Evans. What's not clear is what they'd be willing to give up for a half-season rental.

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

The Sixers have been rising steadily in the standings and players around the league are taking notice. 

The young squad improved to 31-25 with a victory over the Bulls Thursday. They have won six straight and have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. That totals up to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Wizards for the fourth spot and two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. 

"I like them," Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler said at the All-Star break. "They've got a lot of great young talent. We do as well. But I think the way that they're going and how they play so hard and play so together, that's how you win basketball games. They're going to be really, really good for a long time."

The Sixers turned heads with a statement win over the Rockets in only their seventh game of the season. From there, they have defeated playoff teams, including a rare sweep of the Spurs, while struggling against sub.-500 opponents. 

They have 26 games remaining to make a postseason push. Of their upcoming opponents, only 10 games are against current top-eight teams in their conferences. Brett Brown has emphasized they can't take any team lightly. This is the time for the Sixers to maximize their schedule and show they learned from previous letdowns.

"They look good," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Obviously as a young team, it takes time to learn how to win. ... The mature, really high-level teams, they find a way to get it done. I think for them, that's what their record shows. You play against them and it's hard to play against them. 

"They're really talented, they play hard, they play for a great coach. It's just those nights where you might not have it, having that understanding and that experience that'll lead you to more wins. I think once they get to that point, that's when maybe nine or 10 games that they've let slip, maybe they win those games."

The Sixers wrapped up the majority of their Western Conference schedule prior to the All-Star break. They have only the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Mavericks left to play. Those in the conference still are keeping an eye on the Sixers' progress, even if they may not face off again for months. 

"Everyone definitely sees the talent there," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Any time you've got Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid to build around, they've got a very bright future. I think everyone had very high expectations, but it's hard to have high expectations with a team that's got a lot of first-, second-year guys that have never been in the playoffs. 

"But you can tell that they're going to be in the playoffs for, shoot, the next decade or so, probably be upper echelon pretty soon."

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

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Leave the NBA playoffs alone

You can't kill NBA commissioner Adam Silver for trying.

Last week, Silver announced to the media during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles that he's considering a change to the playoffs, where rather than the top eight seeds in each conference competing to determine a conference champ, playoff teams will be seeded 1 through 16.

More recently, ESPN reported that the league is kicking around a "play-in tournament" to determine the final two seeds in each conference.

Let's take these ideas one at a time:

Re-seeding the postseason may sound fun, and even kind of fair, but it completely dissolves conference rivalries that the league has celebrated for decades. Looking for the Warriors and Rockets in the Western Conference Finals? Sorry. Under the new format, there would be no more West Finals. Right now, those are the two best teams in the NBA. So you might see them in the Finals in that format — if they both get that far.

I could understand this argument in years when the disparity in balance of power is egregious. That's not the case this season. If the NBA season ended today, one team would reap the benefits of a 1-16 playoff format: the 9-seed in the West, the Clippers, who are a half-game better than Eastern Conference 8-seed Miami.

(Psst, right now the 5-12 matchup in a 1-16 format would be Sixers-Cavaliers. But let's stay on topic.)

As for the play-in tournament, this completely contradicts the re-seeding idea. The NBA wants the best teams in the playoffs, right? Is a Pistons-Hornets play-in game must-see TV? Or what's left of the Clippers vs. the Jazz?

And how long do you want the postseason to be? Last season, the playoffs lasted nearly nine weeks. It was only that "brief" because the Finals didn't go the full seven games. Adding another round could extend the NBA season into July (unless it corresponds with a shortening of the schedule). We have seen what happens in Olympic years when players don't get enough offseason rest and it ain't pretty.

I'm guessing this is a backhanded way for Silver to keep more teams from tanking for better draft picks. "Hey, you may be 11th in the conference, but you're one 3-game win streak away from a shot at the postseason!!"

I'm all for change, but in the case of the NBA playoffs, commish, I think we're good for now.