The Philadelphia 76ers are off to a strong start in their 2018 season, opening up to a 19-10 record and asserting their place as contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Behind a young duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the 76ers were already extremely talented heading into this year. Last month, the Sixers made a splash and traded Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star wing Jimmy Butler and young center Justin Patton.
Adding Butler to the Sixers has proven to be an excellent move, and one that has taken the team to the next level. Butler’s game and play style has complemented Embiid and Simmons very well thus far.
The 76ers are 10-4 since Butler’s arrival, and he’s given the team the closer they need at the end of games, already drilling two game-winners.
However, the Sixers still do have holes on their roster – holes that will need to be addressed come playoff time.
After last night’s disappointing home loss to the Brooklyn Nets – a game in which Butler sat out with a groin injury – Joel Embiid expressed his displeasure after the game, claiming that “We seem to make every (opposing) guard look like a freakin’ Hall of Famer.”
With holes mainly on their bench, here are three moves the Philadelphia 76ers must consider making come trade deadline time.
3. F Markieff Morris and F Kelly Oubre Jr. – Washington Wizards
Washington receives: G Markelle Fultz, PF Mike Muscala, 2019 second rounder
This is a trade that if it were to go through, helps both sides tremendously. The Philadelphia 76ers need more “three-and-d” guys on their roster, and Morris and Oubre Jr. are those kind of guys.
Off the bench right now, the Sixers play Furkan Korkmaz as the backup small forward to Jimmy Butler. Although Korkmaz has shot the ball nicely for the Sixers this year, he has limitations in both his size and athleticism defensively.
Also, Philadelphia currently doesn’t play a backup power forward either most games, as Mike Muscala rotates in as the backup center and power forward. Morris and Oubre have enough versatility to play either of the forward spots.
Markieff Morris is currently 29 years old and in a contract year, set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He’s averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game on 35 percent shooting from three-point land, and is a second unit scorer and defender that immediately makes the 76ers better.
On the other hand, Kelly Oubre Jr. is just 23 years old and didn’t reach a contract extension with the Washington Wizards at the rookie scale deadline in October, meaning that he is set to become a restricted free agent most likely in 2020.
Oubre is averaging 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal per game for the struggling – internally and externally – Washington Wizards that may look to blow it up and enter into full rebuild mode.
Markelle Fultz would be a project for the Wizards to build around, and he’d have all the time in the world to prove himself in Washington.
2. G Cory Joseph – Indiana Pacers
Philadelphia receives: G Cory Joseph, F/C Kyle O’Quinn
Indiana receives: PF Mike Muscala, 2019 second rounder
Trade rumors have circulated involving Indiana Pacers’ guard Cory Joseph recently due to the solid play of rookie point guard Aaron Holiday. Joseph is in a contract year and is set to become a UFA in 2019.
The Sixers lack shooting from their guard spots. Cory Joseph can shoot the basketball. The eight-year veteran from Texas is shooting the three ball at a 38 percent clip this year, and would fit in nicely with the 76ers second unit.
Joseph is the perfect backup point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers this year, and making a move for him immediately makes the 76ers better.
O’Quinn is an interesting name, and one that the Sixers maybe should have gone after this past summer in free agency. He signed a one year, $4.5 million deal with the Pacers in the offseason and has struggled to find playing time due to the solid play of young big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis in Indiana.
O’Quinn would fit the 76ers needs as a rebounding, athletic backup center that brings energy every night. Ultimately, he would be a nice addition in a deal that centers around the acquisition of Joseph.
1. G Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards
Philadelphia receives: SG Bradley Beal, F Markieff Morris
Washington receives: G Markelle Fultz, G Landry Shamet, 2019 76ers first rounder, 2021 Miami Heat unprotected first rounder
A blockbuster trade like this would truly change the landscape of the NBA. If the 76ers were able to land another All-Star in Beal, they would have a “core four” of Simmons, Embiid, Butler, and Bradley Beal.
Now, this lineup would be crazy to watch, but would come at the cost of the Sixers’ depth and bench, an area where they already lack.
Adding Beal to the mold would certainly be interesting and something to keep an eye on, especially with the fallout between Beal and Wizards’ management of late. The Sixers seem to have enough firepower with their assets to get a deal like this done, especially with Fultz, Shamet, and the 2021 Heat pick on the table.
Trading for Beal makes the 76ers NBA Finals contenders this year, especially if they can then find a way to work the buyout market to fill out their bench with competent veterans.
This is the most unlikely trade package of the bunch, and one that the Sixers should put second as they must add to their shallow bench first.
Working a deal like this would certainly be a “power move” from Philadelphia 76ers’ general manager Elton Brand, and one that shows he recognizes the championship window the Sixers are in.
Overall, Philadelphia needs to be on the phone with Washington in some shape or form come February when the trade deadline rolls around, especially if the Wizards continue their struggles.
Already a contender in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers are one or two moves away from taking their team to the next level this season.