It's been over three months since the Philadelphia 76ers made a big move, swapping Al Horford and a pick for Danny Green. That might not sound like much, but it's an eternity in Sixers time. Think about how many different iterations of the 76ers we've seen over the past several years. Markelle Fultz was an opening night starter for this team 28 months ago. Since then, we've seen the Jimmy Butler trade, the Tobias Harris blockbuster, The second Butler trade, the signing of Horford, the exile of Horford and the acquisition of Seth Curry. This team does not sit still. Neither does Daryl Morey, who trades more than any other executive in basketball.
Put the two together and condense their offseason to such a degree that completely reshaping their roster was nearly impossible and you get one of the NBA's sleeping trade giants. The 76ers have the assets, the motivation and the ambition to make a major splash at the deadline. Here's everything you need to know as they attempt to do so.
- Individual shot-creation: Philadelphia's clutch offense has actually been quite effective this season with a No. 6 ranking at 116.1 points per 100 possessions, but the playoffs are an entirely different beast. Defenses will aggressively double Joel Embiid and sag off of Ben Simmons. The easiest antidote here is perimeter offense, but outside of Embiid, the 76ers do not have a player currently in the top-50 in the NBA in isolation scoring per game. Even a passer that could make use of Simmons as a cutter and decoy would go a long way.
- Shooting: This is a no-brainer. Philadelphia currently ranks No. 26 in 3-point rate and No. 15 in 3-point percentage. That is going to make it significantly easier for defenses to throw the kitchen sink at Embiid in the playoffs. The 76ers need to improve upon the Danny Green spot offensively without sacrificing defense. For the second consecutive season, Green is only hovering around league-average as a shooter, and the length of that sample has meaningfully weakened his gravity.
- General bench talent: Doc Rivers has tried to align Embiid's minutes with Simmons' this season for the sake of promoting chemistry that might carry over into the playoffs. It's a wise move with an unfortunate consequence: 76ers bench units almost universally get killed. Their five-man bench mob of Dwight Howard, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton has been outscored by 21 in 38 minutes, for instance, and most alignments have had similar struggles. It's easy to dismiss bench struggles as a regular-season issue, but, well, just ask the 2019 Sixers how impactful they can be. Philadelphia got outscored by 109 points in the 99 minutes Embiid sat out against the Raptors in their seven-game second-round loss. Whether it's an alternative postseason lineup that takes advantage of Simmons-led groups or an improvement upon the bench mob approach, Philly needs to sort out its bench issues.
- Untouchables: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons
- Probably staying: Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle
- For the right price: Dwight Howard, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, Isaiah Joe
- Let's make a deal: Danny Green, Mike Scott, Terrance Ferguson, Vincent Poirier, Tony Bradley
- Tradeable first-round picks: 2021, 2022 (if neither 2021 or 2023 are traded), 2023
- Tradeable first-round swap rights: 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024
- Tradeable second-round picks: 2021 (own/Houston), 2021 (New York), 2023 (own), 2023 (Atlanta/Charlotte/Brooklyn), 2024 (own), 2024 (Miami), 2025-27 (own)
- The 76ers are currently above the luxury tax line. They can therefore only absorb 125 percent of their outgoing salary in any trade, regardless of what tier of salary they bring in.
- Philadelphia spent a small fraction of its taxpayer mid-level exception on Isaiah Joe this offseason, but the remainder is still available. That amount prorates by the day.
- The 76ers gained an $8.2 million trade exception in the Al Horford deal.
- Danny Green and Mike Scott will be unrestricted free agents, but the 76ers will have Early Bird Rights on both. That will allow them to offer up to 175 percent of their 2020-21 salary.
- Furkan Korkmaz will be an unrestricted free agent that also comes with Early Bird Rights, but because of his minimum salary this season, the 76ers can pay him up to the average player salary.
- Terrance Ferguson and Tony Bradley will be unrestricted free agents with full Bird Rights. The 76ers can offer either any amount up to the max in order to retain them.
- Vincent Poirier will be a restricted free agent with Early Bird Rights. This subjects him to the Gilbert Arenas provision, which is explained further here. In all likelihood, though, it will not be invoked. If Poirier is signed to an NBA contract next season, it will likely be for the minimum.
- Dwight Howard will be an unrestricted free agent, and the 76ers will only have Non-Bird Rights to use in retaining him. That will allow them to offer him 120 percent of his 2020-21 salary.
Possible trade targets
- Low-end -- Eric Gordon: Most teams would balk at the two guaranteed seasons and roughly $38 million left on Gordon's contract, but Daryl Morey is the executive that signed him to that contract, and with Philly capped out moving forward regardless, the downside for the 76ers is somewhat minimal. Gordon's ball-handling would be a welcome addition to those struggling bench units, but he is shooting well enough this season to hang with the starters as well, and his underrated defense has been critical to Houston's limited postseason success in recent years. The 76ers could probably get him for nothing more than matching salary.
- Medium-end -- Victor Oladipo: Philadelphia's best post-Process season came as a result of acquiring a distressed asset. Oladipo is hardly Jimmy Butler's equal at this stage, but the logic of acquiring a talented player at his least valuable makes sense for a team that is running out of ways of adding a third star. The version of Oladipo we saw in Indiana this season that shot roughly league-average on 3-pointers and looked to have regained a good portion of his explosiveness would be a great addition. The Houston version? Not so much. Philadelphia will have to determine how much room Oladipo has for improvement on a better roster. It's the sort of high-risk, high-reward move Morey typically doesn't shy away from.
- High-end -- Kyle Lowry: The perfect addition. If the Raptors are willing to trade Lowry, his hometown 76ers should be at the front of the line. He solves almost every one of their flaws. He's a more consistent shooter than Green. He's a proven playoff shotmaker. He can defend most perimeter players. He is one of the greater carriers of bench units in the modern NBA. If it takes Maxey or Thybulle or picks, Philadelphia should jump at the chance to add Lowry. If it takes all of them? It's up to the Sixers to determine whether or not it makes sense to go all-in for the title right now, but with Lowry, they'd have as good a shot as anyone.
Possible buyout targets
- Guard -- JJ Redick: Brooklyn would be the favorite if Redick eventually gets a buyout, but the two years he spent with Philadelphia should give the 76ers a puncher's chance. The Embiid-Redick dribble hand-off was a staple of the 76ers offense during the Brett Brown era. Reviving it could give them some sorely-needed shooting in the playoffs.
- Forward -- Darius Miller: If Miller could stay healthy, he probably wouldn't be a realistic buyout candidate. He's never been able to do so, though, and his valuable shooting could therefore become available after the deadline. Miller doesn't bring much else to the table, but Morey has hardly ever shied away from one-dimensional shooters.
- Center -- Luke Kornet: Shooting big men are few and far between on the 2021 buyout market. Kornet hardly qualifies given the past two seasons he's had in Chicago. But hey, he's a different look off of the bench. With Dwight Howard in place, there's no reason to seek out an extra traditional backup.