76ers' Top Trade Priorities Entering 2022

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 30, 2021

76ers' Top Trade Priorities Entering 2022

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia 76ers could be frustrating to watch when they had Ben Simmons on the court.

    Turns out, seeing them without Simmons—or whatever players he could bring back in a trade—is no picnic, either.

    The Sixers, who last season led the NBA's Eastern Conference, find themselves sixth in the conference standings and precariously close to a spot in the play-in tournament.

    There's obviously a lot of season left, but the 76ers have struggled enough to think a trade might be needed to snap them out of this funk. Since they have some compelling trade chips—none greater than Simmons since Joel Embiid is obviously off-limits—they could make a ton of noise between now and the Feb. 10 trade deadline.

    As they probe deeper into trade season, the following three areas should have the attention of Philadelphia's decision-makers.

3-Point Gunners

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Embiid is unguardable on the low block.

    Sure, that sounds like an ice-cold take, but it's just statistical fact. His post-ups have netted the Sixers 9.0 points per game, per NBA.com. No other player averages even six post-up points per game, and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic is the only other player topping 4.5.

    It might go without saying, then, that Philadelphia needs to maximize its spacing around the big fella. And that isn't happening, despite the best efforts of Seth Curry, Georges Niang and Danny Green.

    Philly sits a forgettable 15th in three-point percentage and a problematically low 28th in threes per outing. The Sixers need to turn up their perimeter volume by several decibel levels, and they can't just count on Tobias Harris and Furkan Korkmaz perking up as being a big-enough difference.

Distributor

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    There are 43 players around the league averaging at least five assists per outing; the Sixers roster has exactly none of them.

    Tyrese Maxey paces the club with 4.5 helpers per game. Individually, that's an impressive number for a combo guard pressed into primary playmaking duties by Simmons' absence. For a team's top table-setter, though, it's not even pedestrian.

    Since the 76ers operate at the Association's slowest pace, they have to make the most of every offensive possession. It takes a pretty seasoned floor general to consistently make that happen in the half-court setting. Philadelphia has yet to check that box.

    Unless the 76ers can coax Simmons back out on to the hardwood—if it hasn't happened by now, why would it ever?—they need to attack the trade market to cover this void.

Co-Star for Embiid

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    If the 76ers are going to make anything out of this season, then the Simmons saga must be resolved.

    Philadelphia has asked for the world from Embiid, and he has delivered numbers not to dissimilar from those of last season, when he snagged the silver medal in the MVP voting. But he can only do so much as a singular star in a league that has historically been dominated by constellations.

    While Simmons' absence has theoretically moved all the non-Embiid players up a peg, the stat sheet doesn't show it. Tobias Harris is averaging fewer points than last season. Same goes for Shake Milton. Maxey's per-game marks have spiked, but his per-36-minutes averages are almost identical to last season's. Ditto for Curry.

    Look at all the recent champions, and you just won't find any solo stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo had Khris Middleton (plus the perennially underrated Jrue Holiday); LeBron James had Anthony Davis; Kawhi Leonard had Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam; Stephen Curry had Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The list goes on and on.

    Letting the Simmons situation drag into the offseason would effectively torpedo Philadelphia's season. Maybe the front office feels that's worth it if it's the only way to get the maximum return for Simmons, but wasting a prime year from Embiid would be, well, such a waste.

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