Sixers stand pat, but still impacted by trade deadline moves

Sixers stand pat, but still impacted by trade deadline moves

It was a quiet trade deadline for the Sixers, but plenty of deals were made that could impact them this season and beyond.

The Sixers (26-25) did not make a move before the 3 p.m. cutoff on Thursday. The team feels good about the current roster and is approaching a favorable schedule after the All-Star Break. They will face sub.-500 opponents in over half of their remaining regular season games.

That being said, the Sixers still will explore possible targets on the buyout market that could help with a postseason push. The playoff eligibility waiver deadline is March 1.

This trade deadline was different for the Sixers compared to last season in that they were looking to enhance the roster versus unloading it. A year ago the focus was resolving the logjam at the center position with Nerlens Noel (traded to the Mavericks) and Jahlil Okafor (traded in December to the Nets).

The Sixers were eyeing a boost for the bench. No player is averaging more than 7.1 points in a reserve role. Brown noted the need specifically for long-range contributors. The Sixers are tied for 17th with the Knicks for three-point shooting (36.0 percent).

“I feel like what I am always trying to challenge myself with is, how do you help your bench?” Brett Brown said Tuesday. “How do you help us score more? I think the interest of shooting, probably, some more threes interests me. It’d be great if we could make some of those as well. But I feel like perimeter shooting, me helping my bench score, those types of things come to my mind.”

Two names that circulated around were veterans Tyreke Evans and Marco Belinelli. Both would have been a fit to amp up the Sixers’ offense, but neither were traded. The Grizzlies were asking for first round picks or more, according to multiple reports. Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype reported the Grizzlies inquired about Dario Saric during talks.

The Cavaliers made the biggest splash at the deadline. They traded, well, seems like just about everyone besides LeBron James. They first sent sent Cav-for-less-than-a-season Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and their own 2018 protected first round pick to the Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

The Cavs weren’t done there. They sent Dwyane Wade to Miami for a reunion with the Heat. The Cavs also made a three-team trade with the Jazz and Kings, acquiring Rodney Hood and George Hill while sending Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose to the Jazz and Iman Shumpert with a 2020 second-round pick to the Kings.

So what does all this mean for the Sixers? The Cavaliers looked to improve their roster, which has been hitting rocky skids, and could be a potential first-round playoff opponent. The long-time implications are more significant: what does this mean for LeBron James? Will he see a bright enough future to stay in Cleveland, or could he be lured to another team, including the Lakers with available cap space, and open up the opportunity for teams like the Sixers to move up in the East?

The most immediate effect could be what the addition of Wade does for the Heat. The Sixers currently are one game behind them in the playoff standings and face the Heat two more times this season.

The Sixers kept their roster intact at the trade deadline, with perhaps their most sought-after piece already on the team. Whether or not they added a player on Thursday, the most anticipated addition to the court remains Markelle Fultz. 

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

USA Today Images

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.