Corey Brewer

Brett Brown on trade deadline plans, Corey Brewer and more

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Brett Brown on trade deadline plans, Corey Brewer and more

With precious little time before the trade deadline Thursday, Brett Brown provided one of the most informative pregame pressers of the season.

Less than two hours before opening tip against the Raptors, the Sixers’ head coach had plenty to say about his involvement in trade discussions, the Corey Brewer situation and his team as a whole.

Here are a few highlights from the session.

Working with Elton Brand before the deadline

Before Elton Brand took over as the team’s GM, the Sixers had a sort of front office collective with Brown acting the interim president of basketball operations.

It appears Brown’s input — though scaled down from the offseason so he can actually coach — is still valued and very much heard.

“I don’t remember many days where I don’t speak to Elton once or twice,” Brown said. “There’s not many scenarios that I believe are going to surprise us. My voice, my words my recommendation are always welcomed by Elton. It’s a partnership.”

“I think [Brand] has the whole package. I really think that he has a chance to be great.”

With the deadline on Thursday, Brand and the Sixers’ brass traveled with the team during its West Coast swing. Brown said they were “bunkered down” and preparing for any scenario that could occur.

While they’re doing their due diligence, there is no guarantee the team makes a move.

“Right now there are things going on as far as communication go with a lot of teams,” Brown said. “Anything that shakes out, I don’t know. I would not be telling the truth if you say something is incredibly imminent. Unless I don’t know something. And by and large Elton does his job and when things come up that I do need to know, he advises me. As it sits, there is no conversation that we’ve had about anything imminent.”

What the team is targeting

We’ve written a lot on this site about positions the Sixers should target — whether it be perimeter players or big men. Even Brown has mentioned in the past his desire to add a perimeter defender. 

On Tuesday, Brown’s mindset sort of changed. He’s not looking at a particular position, but rather a player with certain traits.

“When you fast forward out you say, ‘What wins in the playoffs?’ It’s [toughness], it’s can you switch and it’s can you make a three. That’s how I see it. That’s modern day NBA basketball. So do we need this? Do we need that? I don’t know. I mean I do know, but I think the species, the flavor, it’s always ‘best player available.’ I don’t know what the trades are going to produce. To think you could just go into the supermarket and choose what you want doesn’t happen. That doesn’t happen so you deal with it. But when you talk about qualities, that’s what most comes to my mind.”

The Corey Brewer situation

Corey Brewer became a cult hero for Sixers fans during his two 10-day contracts. The man that went from playing superheroes with his kids to guarding James Harden is now available for any team to pick up.

The reason is flexibility. With the trade deadline so close, Brand and company wanted to keep their options open. It’s possible that no other team signs Brewer for the same reason.

Though Brown didn’t give the veteran wing a ton of run in his last two games, he still hoped that Brewer would find his way back to the Sixers.

“To not have him … you wish you did. But because of the period of time with trade deadlines coming up to lock down spots or money or whatever is not smart on the front office’s part. It doesn’t dismiss the fact that we may see him soon. He may be back in our locker room not too far away. But at this particular moment I understand why that decision was made and more importantly so does he.”

“I’d love to see him again. He’s just something that is easy and trusted and respected. He can handle not playing. You can put him in a game and say go stick some wing offensive player. He was fantastic.”

Injury update

Well, here’s another non-update update on Markelle Fultz: Brown said he’s hoping to be “surprised” and that Fultz will be able to contribute in the playoffs. Since Fultz hasn’t even resumed basketball activities yet, it does seem ambitious to think he could contribute come April.

There was disappointing news for two-way player Shake Milton. The rookie broke one of his fingers on Tuesday in the Blue Coats’ loss earlier in the day and will be “out for awhile.” The time couldn’t be worse for Milton, who has shown promise and earned minutes while veteran Wilson Chandler is out.

Brown was asked about Justin Patton, who saw his first action of the season during the game in Delaware. You got the sense that Brown has low expectations for Patton for this season since it’s already more than halfway over, but was complimentary of the young big man’s skill set.

On if the team stands pat at the deadline

Brown has been through “the process.” If he has to go into the playoffs with rookies like Landry Shamet and Jonah Bolden —  he heaped praised on both young guys —  he’ll be ready.

“I think we all understand that we’re here to try to make a deep run in the playoffs. To do that, you all understand, you need depth. By and large, depth in May sure helps when it’s experienced depth. If that doesn’t play out with trades that could happen and we are left with the team that we have, you know what I’ll say and I mean it: ‘Off we go.’ I’ll coach what we have and we’re going to try to make it work.”

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Elton Brand practicing patience, staying flexible ahead of NBA trade deadline

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Elton Brand practicing patience, staying flexible ahead of NBA trade deadline

The NBA trade deadline is coming in hot. 

Kristaps Porzingis was traded. Anthony Davis wants to be traded. The Grizzlies are open to trading their long-time core.

Then there are the Sixers, who we’ve barely heard a peep from since they made the boldest move of the NBA season in acquiring Jimmy Butler back on Nov. 12. That could be disappointing to fans, but in reality, it looks like the Sixers are playing it right.

The dust is settling from the Porzingis trade and a player like Wesley Matthews could be bought out and would be an excellent option for the Sixers (see story). If Davis is moved, that could affect multiple teams, depending on where the All-NBA big man is shipped. Same with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

Patience and flexibility are not sexy terms, but they make sense for the Sixers. There’s been nothing linking them to the Davis sweepstakes — which makes total sense — and there hasn’t been any link to Conley or Jrue Holiday or any other big name with a big contract. 

That’s because Elton Brand made his splash move. The first-year GM made the organization’s biggest trade since Moses Malone. There’s no doubt Butler has made this team better and more playoff-ready against the East’s elite. It’s also clear that Butler and company need a little more help (see story).

But don’t be surprised when it’s someone like the Pistons' Reggie Bullock or the Hawks' Dewayne Dedmon as opposed to Holiday or Davis. You may be disappointed to read that, but you shouldn’t be. The Sixers have star power. It’s depth that will get them on par with the Bucks, Raptors and Celtics.

It’s understandable, then, to wonder why then they haven’t retained Corey Brewer. While Brewer became a cult hero for his efforts against James Harden, the Sixers have not re-signed him after his second 10-day deal expired. They’re essentially valuing an empty roster spot ahead of the deadline over retaining Brewer. There’s a chance no team signs Brewer ahead of the deadline, preferring the same flexibility. If he's out there after the deadline, the Sixers could look to bring him back.

Surely Brand placed calls on the bigger fish. That’s more than likely just due diligence, but things can change quickly, as they did with Butler. Even if the Sixers wanted to make another big splash, they likely don’t have the assets (see story) — unless there’s a team that really loved Markelle Fultz pre-draft that’s in dire straits for a young guard. 

Making money match in the NBA is extremely difficult. The Sixers’ “best” contract to move would be Wilson Chandler’s expiring deal for a little under $13 million. The issue there is that any deal involving Chandler is a lateral one. 

There’s been criticism of Chandler because his overall offensive game this season hasn’t been in line with his career output, but the 31-year-old combo forward has been a solid piece to the team’s starting five. His length, instincts, versatility and physicality have been a welcome addition defensively. And though he’s struggled with injuries and inconsistency on the other end of the floor, he’s still shooting 39 percent from three.

Other than Chandler, the Sixers have Fultz at a little over $8 million, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll get moved — mostly because it’s hard to place a real value on him. The team just has four big contracts and a lot of small ones.

So instead of guaranteeing Brewer a roster spot for the rest of the season or trading a 20-year-old guard at his lowest value or trading away part of the team’s starting five, the Sixers are remaining patient and flexible.

And it’s the right move.

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Sixers need to upgrade bench as trade deadline nears, but that doesn't mean Corey Brewer should go

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Sixers need to upgrade bench as trade deadline nears, but that doesn't mean Corey Brewer should go

The Sixers could use some help.

The bench has been a glaring weakness since the Jimmy Butler trade, and Thursday night’s win over the two-time defending champion Warriors didn’t magically erase that long-standing concern.

With the trade deadline approaching, general manager Elton Brand is “doing aggressive work behind the scenes” to try to upgrade the team’s depth (see story).

Without Wilson Chandler (out for two to three weeks with a right quad strain) and JJ Redick (rest), the Sixers’ bench of Corey Brewer, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, T.J. McConnell and Jonah Bolden was outscored by the Kings’ bench Saturday night, 32-17. The Sixers dropped the final game of their West Coast road trip, 115-108 (see observations).

But the Sixers do already have a veteran bench player with playoff experience, an athletic wing with a reputation for being a pest to opposing stars. 

We’re talking, of course, about Brewer. 

The 32-year-old’s second 10-day contract is coming to an end, which means the Sixers will need to decide whether to release him or sign him for the rest of the season. The team would be smart to keep Brewer while also pursuing outside help.

In Saturday night’s loss, Brewer played only five first-half minutes. Even Korkmaz, on the outer bubble of the rotation the last three weeks, got time in the second half over Brewer.

Perhaps head coach Brett Brown thought, because the Sixers were struggling from three-point range (7 for 33 on the night), that Korkmaz could provide a spark. Maybe Brown feels he knows what he has in Brewer and wanted to give Korkmaz another chance to earn minutes.

Either way, it was an odd decision — Milton, who was a team-best plus-10 in his 20 minutes, would also have been a better option. Korkmaz didn’t have much of a positive impact in his three minutes, missing a fast-break layup that was as low on the degree of difficulty scale as you could imagine in an NBA game.

Brewer’s level of play has dipped since his dogged defensive performances against James Harden and DeMar DeRozan and his 20-point night in Denver. Since then, he’s shot 4 for 13, 0 for 5 from three-point range. He had three really good games that caused a lot of fans to think he was the solution to the Sixers’ bench woes followed by three subpar games. The reality of what Brewer brings to the table is somewhere in the middle. 

He has a poor track record as a three-point shooter — he’s 28.3 percent from long distance for his career. And his “Drunken Dribbler” nickname did not come out of thin air. But Brewer can give the Sixers productive minutes in the second half of the season and in the playoffs, if the team gives him the chance.

He’s still consistently one of the fastest players on any court he steps on, still a capable perimeter defender, still an always-smiling presence that his teammates like having around. If the Sixers release Brewer, you’d expect another contending team would pick him up.

It would be understandable if Brand releases Brewer and hopes to acquire a better player that can fill Brewer’s role, either via trade or buyout. Wesley Matthews could be an attractive name for the Sixers, as my teammate Paul Hudrick detailed. Still, keeping Brewer wouldn’t force the Sixers to be inert at the deadline or severely limit their options.

Brewer isn’t the all-conquering hero he might have appeared to be last week, but he’s a good athlete who can play defense. The Sixers need more players who fit that description.

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