76ers' Hypothetical Blockbuster Trades to Shake Up NBA Offseason

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 19, 2022

76ers' Hypothetical Blockbuster Trades to Shake Up NBA Offseason

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    As long as they have perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid manning the middle, the Philadelphia 76ers will remain in the NBA's championship hunt.

    Having said that, their last foray beyond the conference semifinals was steered by Allen Iverson. At some point sooner than later, they need to make good on their championship potential.

    Swapping out 25-year-old Ben Simmons for 32-year-old James Harden at the trade deadline only upped the urgency. If the Sixers give Harden a long-term, high-dollar deal this offseason, their championship-or-bust squeeze will further tighten.

    In other words, despite the shadow of the bearded blockbuster still hanging over Philadelphia, it might be time to make a(nother) major move. If the Sixers aim for an impact trade this summer, the following three options—presented as base ideas, not fully fleshed out, dollar-for-dollar deals—could be worth consideration.

Swapping Frontcourt Players with Atlanta

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    Blockbuster Idea: Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle to the Atlanta Hawks for John Collins

    Tobias Harris is owed $37.6 million next season and $39.3 million for the following campaign, per Spotrac. That's (at best) a debatable amount for a player of his talent level, but it's an indefensible sum of money for someone in his role.

    With Embiid leading the charge, Tyrese Maxey rapidly climbing the ranks and Harden arriving at midseason, Harris dropped to fourth on the offensive pecking order. NBA budgets might be super-sized, but even they can't accommodate that kind of coin for a fourth option.

    Here, Philly would transform Harris' bloated salary into John Collins' more manageable $23.5 million at the not insignificant (but not egregious) cost of Matisse Thybulle's pesky perimeter defense. More would have to be added to the exchange to pass the salary-matching requirements, but this would be the trade's foundation.

    While a Collins-vs.-Harris debate might come down to the eye of the beholder, the fact Philly could get similar production from the 4 spot at a fraction of the cost might be too good to pass up.

Adding Intensity, Firepower in Timberwolves Trade

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    Blockbuster Idea: Tobias Harris to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Malik Beasley and Patrick Beverley

    Normally, it would be inadvisable for a contender to engineer a trade that ships the most talented player out. But the economics of Harris' salary situation arguably makes this an exception.

    Besides, Philly might reasonably conclude the scoring punch of the Embiid-Harden-Maxey triumvirate is powerful enough to withstand the loss of Harris' shot-creation.

    At the least, the Sixers would lengthen their rotation in this trade, as both Malik Beasley and Patrick Beverley have on-court contributions they can make.

    For Beasley, it's a quantity-plus-quality outside shot that has yielded 2.5 long-balls per night and a 38.9 percent splash rate since the start of 2018-19. For Beverley, it's his perpetually burning competitive fire, an impressive amount of defensive versatility for a 6'1", 180-pounder and a three-point shot that has found its mark 37.8 percent of the time over the course of his career.

The Beal Deal

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    Blockbuster Idea: Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey to the Washington Wizards for Bradley Beal

    The mere mention of a Maxey trade is sure to elicit a groan from the Philly faithful, and that makes sense. His speedy ascension into a prominent role potentially paves the way for a special kind of a career, so sending him packing at age 21 certainly carries a degree of risk.

    But if the 76ers want to go star searching—ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has "big, giant plans to acquire another star"—they have to give up a good asset to get one. Maxey is arguably the best they have.

    Windhorst went on to note that Harris and Maxey "have value in a possible trade," then mentioned Philly would "need a player, potentially near the end of his contract, to come and say, 'I would like to go and play in Philadelphia.'"

    Could Beal be that player? He is down to just a $36.4 million player option left on his contract with the Washington Wizards, who have yet to show any indication they can construct a contender around him. The Sixers had interest in him before he underwent season-ending wrist surgery, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, and Harden's presence wouldn't necessarily preclude another Beal pursuit.

    People might take potshots at the defensive viability of a Harden-Beal tandem, but there isn't an NBA coach who would want to draw up a defensive game plan against a team with those two and Embiid on the same roster.