While you were sleeping, Elton Brand was dealing.
The Sixers GM pulled off his second blockbuster deal in his first five months on the job, acquiring forward Tobias Harris from the Clippers in a multi-player deal (see story). He also made a minor move Wednesday afternoon, acquiring young wing Malachi Richardson from the Raptors (see story). Not bad for a guy that was playing basketball less than three years ago.
With this move, Brand and the Sixers sent a clear message: They’re all in (see story). If all of us can see that, certainly the rest of the league can — including teams looking to sell and potential buyout candidates.
The craziest thing about all of this is that Brand might not be done.
While the Sixers paid a steep price to acquire Harris, the cupboard isn’t barren if they’d like to make another move ahead of Thursday’s deadline. Markelle Fultz’s situation seems awfully murky as a young player trying to find himself on a team that wants to win a championship right now. If they can turn Fultz into real NBA contributors, a trade could make sense for all parties.
The team also has a few young players in Jonah Bolden, Justin Patton and Zhaire Smith that could have value to some teams. One of those players in combination with one of the Sixers’ plethora of second-rounders could surely land them a productive bench piece.
Then there’s the buyout market, which was very kind to the Sixers last season. They acquired Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova after the trade deadline. The duo turned the Sixers’ bench completely around and helped spark a 16-game winning streak to close out the season.
It was a perfect storm and will be tough to replicate, but whoever the Sixers get won’t need to do what Belinelli and Ilyasova did. At this time last year, the team had two star-caliber players. Now they’ve doubled that number. That means just finding complementary pieces is the key.
We’ve talked extensively about Wesley Matthews and how great of a fit he would be. The veteran wing was recently traded from the Mavericks to the Knicks as part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal. Matthews’ cap hit this season is $18 milllion, so it’ll be difficult to move again.
Matthews shoots threes at a good clip, he’s a strong on-the-ball defender and he has a little game off the bounce. The thought of him becoming a Sixer makes even more sense after the Harris trade. He already has a connection with the team, having played with Jimmy Butler at Marquette. At 32 years old, Matthews also has to see that the Sixers can offer him an excellent opportunity to win and that he can have a large role in that.
While the Sixers now have the second-best starting five in the entire league, the two trades that got them there have depleted an already-thin bench.
T.J. McConnell is the only player left that’s been a significant part of the team’s rotation off the bench this season. Bolden, who has become the team’s primary backup five, is also still here.
Center Boban Marjanovic and combo forward Mike Scott, the players acquired alongside Harris, will get chances.
Marjanovic is a tough fit for regular minutes. He’s a great matchup for a traditional low-post big. He has tremendous size (7-foot-3, 290 pounds) to bang down low, but could struggle with the Sixers’ pace. Scott also has intriguing tools as a three-and-D combo forward. He’s long at 6-foot-8 and has shot 40 percent from three over the last two seasons.
But the Sixers likely can’t win the East with McConnell, Bolden, Marjanovic and Scott as their first four off the bench, regardless of how ridiculously elite their starting five is.
But as Brand has shown, he won’t be afraid to pull the trigger on another move.
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