With the trade deadline fast approaching on February 23, today we will take a look at what the Philadelphia 76ers could have in store. We will break down some players the 76ers are probably looking to move and what they could receive in return. Let us start off with the obvious:
Nerlens Noel - PF/C
The 22-year-old Nerlens Noel seemed like a burgeoning starting center in his first two seasons in the NBA. By advanced metrics, Noel has rated as a superb defensive player in his career with an offensive game that has improved every season. He is a player most teams would love to have as their starting center.
This season, Joel Embiid finally returned to health and has shown everyone the monster that he is. Noel, on the other hand, began the season injured and not at all happy about being replaced in the starting lineup by Embiid. Throw in the fact that the pairing of Noel and Embiid on the court is just not successful and that all goes without even mentioning anything about the third lottery pick, Jahlil Okafor. Needless to say, Noel is probably searching for a new basketball home in the near future.
I do not see any possible way the 76ers get fair value for Noel. First off, a fair number of NBA teams seem to be going away from players like Noel; he is a big man with limited offensive range and most of his value is tied to being able to guard a center and protect the rim. Second, everybody knows Philadelphia wants to move a big man because of their logjam. Simple supply and demand tells you that if you have an overabundant supply, then the price drops.
Potential Landing Spots
The Boston Celtics usually jump out as the first team rumored after Noel. The Celtics have an intriguing combination of young players and picks they can offer Philadelphia in return. The Sixers are probably in search of a wing from Boston, and if they could secure Jae Crowder, Jalen Brown or Marcus Smart in return for Noel, it could be a very intriguing trade to Philly. Draft picks could also be in the 76ers wheelhouse, but remember no team is going to pay through the nose for Noel given the current logjam situation in Philadelphia.
An underrated move that the Sixers should consider is moving Noel to the Portland Trail Blazers. This is a team with a plethora of wing options that could be enticing. Maurice (Moe) Harkless and Allen Crabbe stick out as two targets for Philadelphia. The 76ers could probably even convince the Blazers to add in a few picks, especially if the Blazers believe they can make a playoff run with Noel on their roster.
The recently struggling Cleveland Cavaliers could also be in on Noel. They could use his defense in pursuit of their second straight NBA Championship, and it would give them a center that the roster lacks to pair with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. This is a hard sell to Philadelphia because Cleveland lacks young talent and the draft picks will be late in any round due to the Cavaliers' penchant for deep playoff runs.
Be on the lookout for a surprise team. I feel like many of these trades get made by a team that is not really rumored to be in the market or has a glaring need for the player. That allows both teams to keep the trade talks under wraps and get the deal done without so much scrutiny. Again, this is just an observation from year’s past.
Jahlil Okafor - C
Okafor is a player who is in some ways the antithesis of Noel. He is a very skilled offensive big man — He lacks a 3-point shot, but is very crafty with his back to the basket and is a man who knows how to sink his attempts. As a 20-year-old rookie last season, Okafor averaged 17.0 points per game in 30 minutes, while shooting 50.8 percent. Rookies do not normally shoot over 50 percent from the field, which is a testament to Okafor’s offensive skill.
That being said, Okafor struggles on the defensive end of the floor. He lacks the mobility to guard stretch fours and fives and is not a great rim protector. Okafor also has been accused of being in poor condition during his brief NBA career and was caught many times missing defensive assignments last season. He seems to just struggle in general on that end of the floor.
This is a question I struggle to answer. He was the number three overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and some teams reportedly had him in the top two on their boards. He arguably had an above average rookie season, displaying his skills on the court, but off the court, he had a few mishaps. Couple that with the fact that the NBA is moving away from this type of player and his defensive deficiencies, and Okafor may be a player who just isn’t that valuable to other franchises.
Potential Landing Spots
A trade that has intrigued me for quite some time is the Sixers moving Okafor to Phoenix for Brandon Knight. I am not sure Phoenix would go for this trade given the presence of Tyson Chandler and Alex Len; however, in my opinion, Chandler is not part of the next great Suns team and the organization seems to not be in love with Len. The trade gives the 76ers a combo guard who can space the floor and play make for their impressive young talent. Not sure this is a deal that happens, but it looks like a win-win trade to me.
Given what Philadelphia values Okafor at, this is a difficult trade to make, so it will be very interesting if any team brings an offer to the table that the 76ers accept. Stay tuned.
Richaun Holmes - PF/C
The fourth string big man might be the most intriguing target for any team at the trade deadline. Richaun Holmes is 23 years old and in his second NBA season. Buried on the depth chart by Embiid, Noel, Okafor, Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova, the minute's load is sparing this season.
Holmes has shown some good things in his limited playing time during his two seasons. He can block a shot, protect the rim and has a surprising offensive game. This is a big man with 3-point range that still shoots over 50 percent from the field in his limited action. I would love to see this guy get a consistent role on a team just to see what he can produce given regular playing time.
If the value of Noel and Okafor are depressed by the glut of Sixers big men, then where does Holmes stand? I think Philly would move on for a young wing or point guard with reserve capabilities. The 76ers could probably be enticed by a package of second round picks given the fact that they drafted Holmes in the second round in 2015.
If the 76ers could move both Okafor and Noel, I think Holmes is the ideal backup center in the Sixers plan, but given my discussion on how difficult both players will be to move for “fair value,” I think Philly will be stuck with one of them and move on from Holmes.
Potential Landing Spots
This is a difficult exercise in the sense that any team could use Holmes. He is fine being a backup and even not being called upon to play if the matchup dictates it. I would guess that he is most likely headed to a contender. The teams at the top of my "Buying Holmes on the Cheap" list would be the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Nik Stauskas - SG
I will start this off by saying I do not really see the team moving Nik Stauskas as the key piece in any trade. He seems more like a throw-in or kicker to boost the value of another moving player.
With that said, Stauskas is finally living up to his billing in his third NBA season. Stauskas, a 2014 lottery pick by the Sacramento Kings, was billed as a sharpshooter coming out of Michigan. Despite this, his 3-point shot was below NBA average during his first two seasons. That, accompanied by his poor field goal percentage and defensive stats, made him a depressed commodity.
This year, Stauskas seems to have turned a corner. He is shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point land on 4.0 attempts per game and has finally boosted his field goal percentage over 41 percent. Additionally, his advanced defensive metrics have improved without being spectacular.
Still just 23 years old, a contending team could view Stauskas as a rotation piece that helps them in the playoffs. If he can space the floor and play passable defense for 20 minutes in a playoff game, then that is a win for a contending team. Obviously, they are not paying a high first round pick where he was drafted, which is why I see him as more of a sweetener in any trade.
Potential Landing Spots
Your best bet here is to read above. I think Stauskas could be packaged together with either Noel or Okafor to bring back a better return from a contending team. Stauskas is an asset in his current form, so it would also not be surprising for the 76ers to keep him for their increasingly bright future.
Robert Covington - SF
Robert Covington always strikes me as a player who gets a bad rap. Sure he shoots a terrible field goal percentage every year, was undrafted in 2013 and sometimes makes you scream at the TV (“Robert, stop shooting the ball!”), but this guy has some valuable qualities.
In his career, Covington has been a good 3-point shooter. Hitting on 35.1 percent of his 1,182 NBA attempts as of January 26, 2017, Covington has shown a knack to nail the three-ball. I would argue he should shoot more threes and fewer twos, but that is a whole different article.
Bob Cov has also proven to be a pretty impressive wing defender. It goes beyond the 1.5 steals and 0.6 blocks per game he averages in 27.8 minutes per game for his career. He has had over 2.0 defensive win shares each of the last two seasons. That is an impressive number for a guy with a reputation as a chucker who sometimes gets billed as a non-NBA player.
Now may be the time for the 76ers to move on from Covington. He is 26 years old and is what he is at this point in his career; I do not expect to really see any new tricks from him at his age. With the Sixers ready to build around Simmons, who is now entering the fold, and Embiid, Covington may not be the best fit in their young core. He will be pushing 30 as Embiid and Simmons enter their prime, so strike while the iron is hot.
Covington may not have a ton of trade value on his own, but again like Stauskas contending teams are often in need of wing help (save the Boston Celtics, who always seem to have a plethora). A good 3-point shooter who can defend one through three on the court probably is a nice sweetener for a team looking to make a deep run.
Potential Landing Spots
The team I always picture Covington being his best self on is the Houston Rockets. I think the Rockets play to Covington’s strengths, and he would provide that team with a nice defensive boost. I am not sure that this is a move that happens, but let us not forget that Coach D’Antoni was in Philly last season, so it is a possibility.
The Portland Trail Blazers would be an interesting team for Covington as well. Him spacing the floor alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum would be fun. Plus, it would give Portland the defensive boost they desperately need. The Blazers have a ton of depth in their squad, so I am not sure they would make the move, but I do like the fit.
We could see Bob Cov many places, but most likely he sticks with the 76ers and continues his underrated play in Philadelphia.
There you have it, a look at what the 76ers may be dangling out in trades as you read this. Philadelphia has proven to be a fun team on the upswing that has assets it needs to move to improve their team, so it will be interesting to see if they are the big movers during this trade deadline. We'll all just have to wait and stay tuned.