The Philadelphia 76ers are 5-5, fifth in the Eastern Conference with wins over the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets. Needless to state the obvious, but they’re playing way above their preseason expectations.
Normally that’s a good thing, but first year Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie constructed this roster to be inferior on purpose, with the hope that a high draft pick would fall into his lap this summer.
That’s the “bad” news. The good news is that Philadelphia has several talented players, and all of them have tradable contracts.
Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner are the three highest paid players on Philadelphia’s roster. They’re also the only healthy guys (aside from rookie standout Michael Carter-Williams) who possess skills that hold definite value on the NBA’s trade market.
All three are helping Philadelphia win basketball games when Philadelphia is not supposed to win basketball games, and it’s in Hinkie’s best interest to move one, two or all three as soon as he can.
Spencer Hawes is 7'1", can shoot threes and is an extremely good passer for his size. Heading into November 15th's game against the Atlanta Hawks, his shooting split was a mind blowing 52.3/50.0/71.4.
He was attempting 3.8 threes per game, too, which makes that 50.0 percent average all the more impressive. When he’s off the court, Philadelphia averages 88.4 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/Stats. When he plays, that number skyrockets to 105.7. So, the Sixers offense goes from making this season’s Utah Jazz look like the 1997 Chicago Bulls, to being more efficient than the Golden State Warriors.
One possible trade that makes sense for both sides would send Hawes to the Houston Rockets for disgruntled Defensive Player of the Year candidate Omer Asik. Why would Houston do this? For starters, Hawes would compliment Dwight Howard in the front court, thriving as a big who can spread the floor and allow various Rockets—such as James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons—to take advantage of open driving and passing lanes.
If for whatever reason things don't work out, Hawes' contract expires after the season, so Houston would then be free to go in another direction.
The Sixers would receive a 27-year-old monster capable of anchoring their defense for the foreseeable future. Would this make them better this season, endangering their "goal" of having the NBA's worst record? Possibly.
But it also gives the Sixers a stable building block who fills a crucial role. In the end, this trade would accelerate their rebuild, which is ultimately a good thing.
One of the more disappointing No. 2 overall draft picks in recent memory, Evan Turner appears to have finally found his NBA niche. What is it, you ask?
Getting to the basket.
According to SportVU, of all players who’re driving to the basket at least 6.9 times per game, only Tony Parker has a higher field goal percentage than Turner.
He's averaging 10 more points per game (and twice as many free-throw attempts) than last year, turning the ball over less with a considerably higher usage percentage, and shooting 55.1 percent on two-pointers, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
On top of it, he’s still his normal beastly self on the glass. Turner can’t shoot threes, but that’s fine as long as he's comfortable doing something well. Other teams interested in his service risk losing him this summer, when he becomes a restricted free agent.
But if said team is gung-ho about making the playoffs right now, and needs productive talent to do so, acquiring Turner wouldn't be a bad move.
One possible partner would be the Cleveland Cavaliers, who could exchange Alonzo Gee, Sergey Karasev and a 2015 top-five protected first round pick from Memphis.
All three pieces coming back from Cleveland would help Philadelphia in the short and long-term. Gee is awful, and improves the team's likelihood of losing games.
Karasev is a 20-year-old prospect with great size and the potential to become a knockdown shooter from the outside. And a first round pick is a first round pick, exactly what Hinkie covets more than anything else in his search for superstar level talent.
For Cleveland, the hope here is that Turner continues to play well besides Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. That team has a black hole at small forward, and Turner's efficient 23 points per game scoring average would help.
In the right context, Thaddeus Young may be worth a first round pick, making him the most valuable asset Hinkie has to work with. He's the best all-around player on Philadelphia's current roster (even if his numbers don't show it right now), and in a more positive situation could thrive as a matchup nightmare on the wing, playing power forward in small-ball lineups.
One team that could use an infusion of pure overall talent right now is the Memphis Grizzlies. A deal sending Young to Memphis for Tayshaun Prince and a top-three protected first round pick in 2014 wouldn't be shabby for either side.
The Sixers get their first round pick, along with a hard-working veteran who's already entered the final stage of his career. There's nothing attractive about Prince's contract, but it's a year shorter in guaranteed money than Young's.
A similar partner would be the Dallas Mavericks in a deal that would send Shawn Marion and a 2016 first-round pick to Philadelphia. Through the season’s first few games, Young and Marion are putting up comparable numbers, but this move helps both parties out in the long-term.
For Dallas, they acquire a player who’s a full decade younger to pair beside Dirk Nowitzki. Young is also under their control on a manageable contract, and could be brandished as trade bait down the line.
The Sixers shed future salary, (Marion’s deal is expiring), and grab another draft pick they could either use or package in a deal at some point in the future.
The Sixers may very well play terrible basketball the rest of the season with the group they already have. But with Turner and Hawes playing in the final years of their respective contracts, it's likely they're out of Philadelphia at the end of the season regardless.
Hinkie would be wise to squeeze as many assets as he can from two guys who are as good as gone. Young's contract is different, but his ability to efficiently score without drawing high usage makes him attractive to any team out there that's serious about getting better.
Philadelphia won't be shy as the trade deadline approaches, and these three players should be prepared to move on from a situation unworthy of their skill.