76ers Trades to Pursue After Missing out on James Harden
The Philadelphia 76ers made it to the goal line of the James Harden sweepstakes. They were reportedly so close to getting a deal done, they might have asked for a replay to see whether the ball crossed the plane.
The Sixers reportedly "thought they had a deal for Harden done," Keith Pompey reported for the Philadelphia Inquirer. That belief was apparently so strong that the agents of Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle even informed their clients of an expected deal.
Obviously, things didn't go as Philadelphia planned, since Harden is now bombing away with the Brooklyn Nets. But the hot and heavy trade talks signal the Sixers' willingness to make moves around franchise anchor Joel Embiid.
With the Beard off the table, where should Philadelphia put its attention leading up to the trade deadline? The following three ideas seem like smart places to start.
Break the Bank for Bradley Beal
The logical place for all the losers of the Harden sweepstakes to turn is Bradley Beal. In fact, given his age (27), salary ($28.8 million this season) and more flexible style of play, there's an argument to be made that Beal is actually a better trade target than even Harden.
Of course, the Washington Wizards haven't actually made Beal available yet, but their early struggles could push them in that direction. If the scoring leader hits the market, the Sixers would have interest, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor.
Now, the cost would be substantial. Simmons would not only assuredly need to go; he might also have to be accompanied by multiple first-round picks or high-level prospects. There's always inherent risk when spending that large on the trade market.
But the logistical issues of the Simmons-Embiid pairing would be nonexistent in a Beal-Embiid duo. Beal isn't the least bit bashful from three (career 6.0 attempts per outing), and while he's not hesitant to seek out his own shot, he could also create scoring chances for Embiid and add value as an off-ball mover.
Simmons is a tremendous trade chip as a 24-year-old All-Star with five-position versatility on defense, open-court electricity and a nose for playmaking. But if the Sixers think upgrading to Beal gets them closer to championship contention, that's a sacrifice you have to make.
Examine All Non-Simmons Paths to Zach LaVine
Let's assume for a moment a Beal trade isn't happening. It still could (and arguably should), but the Wizards have been consistent in saying he's going nowhere.
If Beal is off the table, then Simmons should be too. Barring the unexpected addition of a new star to the trade market, the reward wouldn't be worth the risk of letting him go.
Philly would still have enough picks and prospects to chase an impact piece. Not a tier-1 star, but maybe the walking bucket and human highlight reel that is Zach LaVine.
He keeps pushing his peak higher (now up to nightly contributions of 27.0 points, 5.3 assists and 3.4 triples), but it's not moving the needle for the Chicago Bulls. That's no fault of his own, but the roster isn't quite ready to compete for more than a one-round playoff cameo. That could force the Bulls to explore his trade market, especially since he's ticketed for unrestricted free agency in 2022 and might cost max money when he gets there.
If Chicago would do a deal that doesn't involve Simmons (or Embiid, obviously), that might be the offensive jolt Philly needs to take a big step forward in the championship race.
Pursue a Veteran Point Guard
The Sixers need more shot-creators.
Outside of Simmons, there isn't a major assists source on the roster. Shake Milton is next up in the category, but he's a scorer at heart. Up next is sharpshooting specialist Seth Curry. Then it's Tobias Harris, another natural bucket-getter. Then it's Embiid, who's such an overwhelming offensive force he only needs to look to pass when teams send too much extra attention his way.
As tempting as it is to say the Sixers should dream big here—Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry, perhaps—the cost of doing so would almost certainly prove prohibitive. Narrow the aim to a competent veteran, though, and you should have a price Philly is willing to pay.
George Hill and Derrick Rose arguably top the wish list, especially since they're veterans biding time on youth-focused teams. Should the Wizards deal Beal and embark on a fire sale, maybe the time would be right for Ish Smith's third tour of duty in the City of Brotherly Love.