76ers

Kawhi Leonard to Sixers? Only if the price is right

Kawhi Leonard to Sixers? Only if the price is right

It’s already been an interesting and anxious offseason for the Sixers, but the fun has only just begun.

They’ve been mentioned as a possible landing spot for the greatest player in the world in LeBron James and disgruntled Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard.

It’s no secret the Sixers want to acquire another star — or two — to complement Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Brett Brown, the team’s head coach and interim GM, wasn’t shy in stating that the Sixers are “star hunting.”

But what’s the cost?

For James, it’s simple: A max contract, which the Sixers should be able to afford fairly easily with few maneuvers. Leonard, on the other hand, could be tricky.

There’s no doubt the Sixers have the assets to make a Leonard trade happen, but what would they be willing to give up? If James is coming here, then you sell, sell, sell. Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz are tough guys to lose, but if you’re getting the opportunity to bring in James and Leonard to play with Embiid and Simmons, you don’t think twice.

The counterpoint to acquiring James and Leonard is a desire to keep the team’s young core in intact. But why? You get those four superstars and then you figure out the rest later. Do you think the Warriors were worried about their "young core" when they let Harrison Barnes walk and signed Kevin Durant? Nope. That’s worked out pretty well for them.

The trickier scenario occurs if you know you’re not getting James. Do you go all in and build around the core of Leonard, Embiid and Simmons? Do you hang onto your assets and cap space, hoping to take another shot at a star next offseason? What about Leonard’s contract situation?

If James doesn’t come here, the Sixers should be careful with Leonard. He’s a star player — a two-time Defensive Player of the Year with an ascending offensive game. He’ll be just 27 when the season starts. The injury is a concern, but with Leonard being treated by Dr. Jonathan Glashow, the Sixers' chief medical officer, there’s no team with better information on Leonard’s quad. This is a player worth trading for.

But again, at what price? A Leonard, Embiid and Simmons-led squad would be among the East’s best teams, but if you’re giving up Saric, Fultz, and first-round pick Zhaire Smith among other things, will you be able to compete with the Celtics in the East? Sure, you’ll have veterans that will want to play here, but the Sixers have to be wary to not relinquish too many assets to the Spurs.

When it comes to Leonard’s contract status, if he’s unwilling to sign an extension here, you don’t make the deal. It’s that simple. There is no point in giving away assets on a one-year rental, even if James comes to Philly next season.

Star-hunting season begins July 1. Should Leonard be in the Sixers’ crosshairs? Yes, but the trigger should only be pulled if the price is right.

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NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: How much does Sixers' loss to Celtics hurt?

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: How much does Sixers' loss to Celtics hurt?

We’re at the All-Star break and we have some fresh Eastern Conference power rankings. Let’s get right into it: 

1. Bucks (43-14) Last week: 1 
Their blowout loss to the Magic without Giannis Antetokounmpo probably enhanced the Greek Freak’s MVP case. They’re still waiting for newcomer Nikola Mirotic to make his debut while he nurses a strained calf. This is the best team in the East and Mirotic only makes them better.

2. Raptors (43-16) Last week: 3 
While Kawhi Leonard sat against the Wizards, Pascal Siakam did his best impression by putting up a career-high 44 points. Siakam, a late first-round pick in 2016, is a quintessential example of Toronto’s depth. While the trade for Leonard was bold and exciting, finding a player like Siakam is an even more impressive front office feat.

3. Celtics (37-21) Last week: 4 
Boston’s win in Philadelphia without All-Star Kyrie Irving was an impressive one. That was coming off back-to-back losses to both L.A. teams. They’re a confounding team that happens to match up very well against the Sixers. 

4. Sixers (37-21) Last week: 2
The Sixers have won exactly one game against the teams above and that win was over a Kawhi-less Toronto team. That makes it difficult to put them ahead of any of them. With that said, the East is wide open. Any of these top four teams is capable of winning the conference. The Sixers are in a great position with their starting five, especially when rotations are shortened come crunch time. The talent is there, they just need to continue to build on their chemistry.

5. Pacers (38-20) Last week: 6
Indiana ripped off six straight before losing to the Bucks. You have to be impressed with the way the Pacers have rallied since Victor Oladipo’s devastating injury. While defense and the overall team play has been a big part of their success, veteran Bojan Bogdanovic and youngster Myles Turner have been huge in Oladipo’s absence.

6. Nets (30-29) Last week: 5
Brooklyn has gone 4-6 since Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a thumb injury that required surgery. They did get Caris LeVert back, but it’s clear he’s still shaking off the cobwebs after coming back from what looked like a devastating injury. Once the Nets are healthy, they won’t be a fun team to play against.

7. Hornets (27-30) Last week: 7
Poor Kemba Walker. It’s unfathomable that Charlotte did nothing to help him out at the deadline. There were rumors that a deal for Marc Gasol was close, but the veteran big ultimately wound up in Toronto. It’s a shame because Gasol would’ve been a much bigger upgrade for the Hornets.

8. Heat (26-30) Last week: 8 
Like the Sixers, Miami just completed a brutal, but not quite as long, stretch of games against the Thunder, Pacers, Blazers, Kings, Warriors and Nuggets. Unlike the Sixers, the Heat didn’t fare well, losing five of the six. They’ll need Dwyane Wade to keep drinking from the fountain of youth to hold onto the eighth seed.

9. Pistons (26-30) Last week: 10
It was a weird deadline for Detroit, who sold away Reggie Bullock and then signed Wayne Ellington after his buyout from the Suns. They’re going to go as far as Blake Griffin can lead them, but he needs more help.

10. Magic (27-32) Last week: 11 
Orlando is still fighting for that eight seed as they held onto Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross through the deadline. The only intrigue is to see when Markelle Fultz makes his debut. 

11. Wizards (24-34) Last week: 9
Jabari Parker put up a goose egg on the score sheet sandwiched by two 20-point performances. While the trade of Otto Porter Jr. will help some of their cap issues, Bradley Beal will still bear a heavy burden without John Wall for the foreseeable future.

12. Hawks (19-39) Last week: 12 
Atlanta helped the Knicks snap their 18-game losing streak in a game that set basketball back 10 years. The Hawks have put themselves in a tough spot where they’re not nearly good enough to compete for a playoff spot but are falling down the lottery.

13. Bulls (14-44) Last week: 13 
You know, a starting five of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Porter Jr., Zach LaVine and maybe Ja Morant — if they can land the No. 2 pick — isn’t terrible to build around. Porter Jr. put up a career-high 37 points against Memphis and has looked really good in his four games with Chicago.

14. Cavs (12-46) Last week: 14
How is Channing Frye still in Cleveland? I know he re-signed there, but you’d think there would be a contender that he could help.

15. Knicks (11-47) Last week: 15 
They messed up by beating the Hawks, but their road to Zion Williamson is paved in gold.

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Markelle Fultz — and his mom — need to move on from Sixers, focus on Magic

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AP Images

Markelle Fultz — and his mom — need to move on from Sixers, focus on Magic

Just when we all thought the Markelle Fultz-Sixers saga was over, another weird quote comes out.

Fultz was traded to the Magic ahead of last week’s trade deadline, but that hasn’t stopped Fultz and others from throwing veiled criticism at the Sixers.

This time it was Fultz’s mother, Ebony, who had an interesting comment about where her son came from and how much better his new situation is, per The Athletic’s Josh Robbins.

“I get a great vibe,” Ebony Fultz said. “It’s very refreshing to hear the positivity, the support that they have for (the players) and the fact that they’re constantly saying, ‘We want to do this the right way.’”

Wait … what?

Did Ebony meet Brett Brown? He may be the most positive and patient person in the world. This is a guy that won 10 games just a few years ago and was still effusive in his praise of his players. He managed to get a roster that was assembled to lose to play hard every night.

Brown also gave Fultz a starting spot at the beginning of the season — a spot that was unearned, with all due respect. Brown took JJ Redick out of the NBA’s No. 1 starting unit, one that helped the team win 52 games last season, to attempt to boost the confidence of the second-year guard.

The Sixers organization gave Fultz every opportunity to succeed. There was never a negative word that came out of their camp throughout Fultz’s injury issues and struggles. In fact, quite the opposite. 

Brown said this in November after the team was blindsided by news that Fultz would be seeking outside medical opinions per his agent’s advice:

“This news about his shoulder, it did catch me off guard,” Brown said. “But if it’s that real that he needs to go seek further consultation, then we support him. In my eyes, it’s not complicated. That’s what it is, and we’ll support him.”

Does Fultz’s mom think the organization wanted her son to fail? The player they drafted No. 1 overall after giving rival Boston a first-round pick to move up two spots from No. 3? How are you going to rip the patience of an organization that has developed a reputation for holding out first-round picks for entire seasons because of injury?

Even the Philadelphia fan base — which in case you didn’t know has a reputation of its own — was shockingly supportive of Fultz. He got a standing ovation from the fan base when he made his first NBA three. There were oohs and aahs from the crowd any time he’d shoot the ball outside of 10 feet.

GM Elton Brand may have ran out of patience once he made a pair of blockbuster deals for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. The Sixers’ window to win is open, but who knows for how long. Considering there was no real timetable for Fultz’s return — and still isn’t, by the way — Brand did what he had to do.

Fultz and his mother got what they wanted with a fresh start in Orlando, where Fultz will face minimal pressure.

Now it’s time for them to move on and stop taking weak parting shots at the Sixers.

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