The Sixers’ roster could use a few repairs.
How should the front office go about fixing a team that finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and was swept in the first round of the playoffs? At the beginning of the offseason, let’s review the roster and analyze how viable each player might be to include in a trade. Raul Neto, Kyle O’Quinn, Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks are on expiring contracts and therefore can’t be part of conventional trades.
Low cost, outside of the regular rotation
Norvel Pelle, Marial Shayok
Pelle was either third or fourth in the center rotation this past season, while Shayok was the Sixers’ only two-way player after the trade deadline. The 25-year-old Shayok averaged 23.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a rookie in the G League. He’ll likely need to hit three-pointers at a high rate, be a threat to score and facilitate off the dribble and show that he’s passable defensively to forge an NBA career. We’ll see if he eventually gets a real NBA opportunity with the Sixers.
Veterans who should be available
Mike Scott, Josh Richardson
Scott has one year left on his contract and was on the fringes of the Sixers’ playoff rotation, seeing just 20 minutes overall during the Celtics series.
In his first season with the Sixers, Richardson was limited by injuries. He also thought there wasn’t enough internal accountability under Brett Brown and never managed to produce consistent and efficient offense. Perhaps he can have a better second year in Philadelphia with a new coach, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him moved for a player who can offer more in terms of shot creation and/or outside shooting. Richardson is under contract for next season and has a player option in 2021-22.
The young guys
Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, Zhaire Smith
These four players are all 23 years old or under. The youngest of the group at 21, Smith didn’t travel with the Sixers to Disney World because of a bone bruise in his left knee. He showed some encouraging signs in the G League, especially with his three-point shooting, but he’ll have to be healthy and impressive to his new head coach to crack the rotation next season — if he’s still a Sixer.
The Sixers can keep Korkmaz at a minimum salary for 2020-21. A feel-good story during the regular season, he shot 0 for 7 against Boston in the playoffs and his defense was a predictable problem.
Milton’s contract may already be one of the most team-friendly deals in the NBA. He’s under team control through 2023 and his yearly salary isn’t set to ever exceed $2 million over the next three seasons. Though Milton still has apparent room to improve and possesses specific skills the Sixers need — three-point shooting and pick-and-roll competency — it wouldn’t necessarily be outrageous to include him in the right trade.
Thybulle probably falls under that same broad category. For as brilliant as he can be defensively, his offensive repertoire as a rookie with four years of college experience was almost exclusively league-average three-point shooting and the occasional explosive dunk. That’s not to say the team should part with him easily, but it could narrow the Sixers’ options if they were to make Thybulle completely unavailable.
The big contracts
Tobias Harris, Al Horford
Five years, $180 million. Four years, $97 million guaranteed. Those numbers are likely familiar at this point.
With Horford in particular, one assumes general manager Elton Brand and whatever retooled front office he’s working with will explore various possibilities. The ideal solution is finding a deal that relieves the Sixers of Horford’s burdensome contract and fetches the team a helpful player or two, but that presumably won’t be easy to pull off.
Need a Godfather offer
Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons
Brand’s tone was pretty firm when he was asked whether Simmons and Embiid are untouchable.
“I’m not looking to trade Ben or Joel,” he said on Aug. 25. “I’m looking to complement them better. They’re 24 and 26 years old, respectively. You try to make that fit as long as you can. They want to be here, they want to be with our organization, and I see them here for a long, long time.”
Back when Brown was the interim GM in 2018, he called the offer to trade Mikal Bridges for Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick a “Godfather of a deal”— one the Sixers couldn’t refuse. Putting his assessment of the Bridges/Smith deal aside, that "Godather" concept might be an appropriate framework now with Simmons and Embiid.
There are few scenarios in which it would be sensible to give up on their partnership. Simmons and Embiid were excellent together up until this season, when the supporting case was ill-fitting. The Sixers had a plus-15.5 rating with them on the floor in 2017-18, plus-7.6 in 2018-19. If Brand stays true to his word, they're both sticking in Philadelphia for a while.