76ers Trade Targets to Avoid at 2021 NBA Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2021

76ers Trade Targets to Avoid at 2021 NBA Deadline

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia 76ers are sitting atop the Eastern Conference with no shortage of reasons to feel good about themselves—good enough to perhaps sit out the NBA's trade season.

    A fully healthy Joel Embiid is proving to be a full-fledged MVP candidate. Tobias Harris is shining as a ruthlessly efficient second scorer. Ben Simmons is dazzling as one of the game's only true five-position defenders. The beefed up supporting cast is doing its job with spacing and defending. New skipper Doc Rivers is already doing award-winning work.

    The Sixers can and should celebrate all of this early success, but they shouldn't use it as a reason to neglect the trade market. They might need more help than their lofty conference ranking would suggest. They have feasted on one of the easiest schedules to date, and their plus-4.2 net rating (fifth overall) reads as more good than great.

    Assuming Philly goes searching for upgrades—a relatively safe bet with president of basketball operations Daryl Morey now pulling the strings—it shouldn't include the following three players in its search.

Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    It seems like the Sixers should field an elite offense.

    Between Embiid's...well, everything, Harris' red-hot shooting and Simmons' combination of vision and explosiveness, there are some razor-sharp weapons in Philly's arsenal. And yet, the squad sits just 13th in offensive efficiency, a ranking due in part to a shot-creating shortage.

    That's how a player like Lonzo Ball could wind up on the radar. The second overall pick in 2017, he's a pass-first guard who's always looking to find shots for his teammates. He also might be obtainable with The Athletic's Shams Charania reporting the New Orleans Pelicans have "shown an openness" to discuss deals involving Ball.

    So, why should the Sixers stay away? Because he presents a lot of the same logistical issues as Simmons, only without the elite defense or above-the-rim explosiveness. Ball is a reluctant attacker and erratic shooter (career 50.2 percent on free throws), and his playmaking threat drops considerably when he's forced to operate in the half-court.

    If Philly adds a playmaker, it should be someone who covers up for Simmons' shortcomings. Ball might simply exacerbate them.

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Lauri Markkanen should theoretically intrigue the Sixers.

    The sweet-shooting 7-footer could both provide another scoring option alongside Joel Embiid and increase the lineup options behind him by moving between the 4 and 5 spots. Markkanen can both light the lamp from distance and punish smaller defenders in the post, a combination that has so far yielded a career-high 19.1 points per game on 51.4/39.6/84.4 shooting.

    But that production, paired with the fact Markkanen is only 23 years old, means he won't be cheap. The Sixers would need to take a big bite out of their asset collection to get him, even though they'd be going out on a limb of uncertainties while doing so.

    His future is unsettled by his upcoming restricted free agency. His past and present are mired in injury issues, most recently a shoulder sprain. His resume is devoid of playoff experience, so Philly wouldn't have a clue how he would react to the bright lights or the more detailed defensive game plans. That's too many unknowns for what's supposed to be an impact addition for a championship contender.

Kelly Oubre Jr., Golden State Warriors

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    If the Sixers add someone of substance between now and the deadline, that player needs to be a no-brainer part of their postseason closing lineup. At his best, Kelly Oubre Jr. could qualify as such, being a versatile defender who can make open shots and finish with explosion around the basket.

    But Oubre looks nowhere near his best, which is why the Golden State Warriors have already discussed at least one Oubre deal only a few months after acquiring him, per The Athletic's Shams Charania. Philadelphia should see Golden State's willingness to talk trades not as a buying opportunity but rather an ominous red flag.

    The Warriors are looking to win now—Klay Thompson's injury doesn't change the fact this is Stephen Curry's age-32 season—so if they think their chances improve by getting rid of Oubre, that should speak volumes to the Sixers.

    Not to mention, matching any eight-figure salary could be tricky. It would require either disrupting the core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, letting go of an offseason addition (Danny Green or Seth Curry) or parting with a slew of depth pieces. Oubre, who's never had a worse true shooting percentage, isn't worth that kind of sacrifice.


    All stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.