The Sixers have proven to have extraordinary patience with injuries. They’ve recently stood by as Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz missed chunks or even full seasons.
That’s fine if you’re a top-tier lottery pick expected to be a building block for the franchise. But those same assurances aren’t often afforded to role players.
Hence why reserves Justin Anderson (Atlanta Hawks) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (Oklahoma City Thunder) were shipped away as part of an agreement on a three-team trade Thursday.
Sure, the deal delivered the Sixers a stretch big they were looking for in Mike Muscala and cleared up some of the roster logjam.
But the best ability is availability and Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot simply weren’t available enough last season to justify giving them another shot.
Anderson, who was acquired by the Sixers at the 2017 trade deadline in the Nerlens Noel deal, was hit particularly hard by the injury bug last season. The 24-year-old was limited to 38 regular-season games in 2017-18 because of shin and ankle injuries. Anderson later ended up undergoing surgery for tibial stress syndrome in his left leg last month.
When he was on the court, Anderson wasn’t consistent enough to warrant nightly playing time. His averages were down virtually across the board as the wing was limited to just 13.7 minutes a night, and his 33.0 three-point percentage, while improved, remained below league average.
“Does he fit how we want to play? Can he play fast? Can he make a shot? Does he have a toughness?” Brown asked rhetorically about Anderson when the Sixers first acquired him. “Defense, pace and space. From time to time he shows, yes he can, in all three of those categories.”
But those times were few and far between.
The same thing goes for Luwawu-Cabarrot. The French-born guard looked destined for big things within the organization when he finished his 2016-17 rookie season by averaging 18.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists over the final month.
That level of production proved to be just one of several glimpses for Luwawu-Cabarrot as patellar tendinitis continually held him back. The knee pain popped up again for him during summer league last year and lingered into training camp, which put him behind the eight ball.
Luwawu-Cabarrot ended up playing in only 52 games as he drifted further and further out of the rotation to the point in which he was inactive on most nights toward the end of the season. He finished with an average of 6.1 points in 15.5 minutes a night on 37.5 percent shooting from the field and 33.5 from three-point range.
“We shut me down like maybe two months ago, and I feel really good right now,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said during his exit interview.
The right now factor is key. There weren’t enough times when the 23-year-old felt good enough to display the burst that made the Sixers use the No. 24 pick on him in 2016.
With both Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot dealing with separate injuries, the up-and-coming Sixers knew they needed to address their bench. That’s why the team aggressively targeted Marco Belinelli on the buyout market and the veteran guard was able to instantly slide into a sixth-man role for the squad.
The Sixers weren’t about to wait for the duo to get things together then and Thursday’s trade shows they’re not about to wait now.
Not for players of this caliber, anyway.