After a tough road trip, the 76ers have put together a couple strong performances, loss to the Raptors not withstanding. We saw Joel Embiid hit a new career high of 50. Ben Simmons did the same just a week ago, going for 42. It’s been a good couple of games for the stars of the 76ers. But one concerning trend that has persisted since Shake Milton’s injury against the Sacramento Kings on February 9th is the rather dismal play of the bench. The bench has been brutally outscored in every game by double digits except against the Houston Rockets. Mike Scott managed the near impossible feat of going -20 in just eight minutes of play against the Chicago Bulls on Friday. It’s clear the 76er’s bench needs help badly. If there is one person you can trust to make moves however, it’s Daryl Morey.
What’s the Problem?
Without Shake Milton, the bench lacks any form of consistent scoring. They don’t have anyone that can handle the ball and create for themselves or others really. The closest person to that is the rookie Tyrese Maxey. He’s had some great games, but more often than not he shows that he’s still not quite ready yet. No shame there, as he’s a first year kid without a real preseason. It’s more an indictment on the rest of the team.
Furkan Korkmaz has hit a massive slump and is not a shot creator no matter how hard he tries. Dwight Howard is good for a few put-backs and dunks but is no Embiid in the post. Mike Scott doesn’t really offer much of anything, and Isaiah Joe is a three point specialist and not much more. Even when Matisse Thybulle goes back to the bench when Simmons returns the scoring doesn’t get any better. Thybulle might be one of the best defenders in the NBA already, but he’s almost equally as poor on offense as he is great on D.
What are the 76ers Looking For?
Besides making salaries match, the 76ers need scoring off the bench. As a team, they’ve also struggled from three, so ideally they want someone who can A. Create their own shot and possibly get others involved, and B. hit threes at an average or above clip once Milton comes back. Here are a few trade candidates that fulfill those criteria.
(Note: These trades are not necessarily the exact trade I’m proposing. For instance, picks might need to be involved. I’ll mention it here or there but it won’t be a focus.)
1. Philadelphia 76ers receive Eric Gordon; Houston Rockets receive Danny Green
Danny Green has been playing better lately, but he’s still the one most likely to be dealt. There are games where he completely goes missing on offense, and his defense isn’t what it once was. He’s also fairly attractive for other teams because he is an expiring contract. Eric Gordon’s current salary allows him to be traded to Green one for one. In terms of fit, he fills both criteria offensively. He has thrived as a first man off the bench scorer, winning sixth man of the year on the Rockets in 2016 and coming in second the year after. His numbers this year are similar to that two year stretch. He hasn’t lost his scoring touch and he is a solid three-point shooter who isn’t afraid to let them fly. He’d give the 76ers a massive scoring punch and won’t necessarily take the ball out of Milton’s hands either.
The Rockets would be interested in giving up his multi-year deal to get an expiring back, freeing up room as they get their rebuild started. They’ve already sat Gordon this season for seemingly no reason, signaling they want to deal him. The issue for the 76ers is also that long contract. It only increases in per year money from here on out and lasts until at least the 2022-2023 season where Gordon will be 33. That’s a long commitment and a lot of money. The 76ers already have three guys basically on max deals in Harris, Simmons and Embiid. Adding Gordon’s 18-19 million on top of that for three years really hamstrings their flexibility. If they make a move for Gordon that might be the only move they make for the rest of Embiid’s prime.
2. Philadelphia 76ers receive Evan Fournier; Orlando Magic receive Danny Green. Or Philadelphia 76ers receive Terrance Ross; Orlando Magic receive Danny Green
Both guys can fill the scorer of the bench role that can create their own shot, and both guys can play next to Milton if he is the main ball handler when he returns. Fournier offers more flexibility, as he can take over main ball handling duties if he needs to, and he’s good enough to slot into the starting line up and make that starting five deadly offensively. Ross will cost less money and is already used to coming off the bench and being the main scorer. Both are great scorers and are effective from deep. Fournier is expiring which is not bad because it doesn’t lock the 76ers into anything. If he’s great, they can look to resign him, if he’s not then no harm done. Ross has a longer contract, but the money isn’t that high, going down to just 11.5 million by the last year.
Another reason why Green is the most likely trade candidate on the 76ers is the existence of Thybulle for the 76ers. He’s had to start when Simmons has been out and he’s been effective as usual in his defensive specialty role even with the extra minutes. With Harris, Simmons, Curry and Embiid the extra scoring Green provides isn’t entirely necessary, although Green’s gravity and spacing are far superior to Thybulle at this stage in his career.
The bigger question is why would the Magic do this. The Magic have a win-now roster, with multiple good players in their primes, Fournier and Nikola Vucevic for example. But injuries and other factors currently have them 13-18 and 12th in the East. Then again they have won three straight. So it’s not yet clear if they are buyers or sellers in the trade market. If they are buyers, Green makes no sense for either player. If they are sellers, they will need to get significant compensation from the 76ers to get Fournier, as he is an expiring just like Green and a much better player right now. First round draft picks or promising young guys like Thybulle or Maxey will need to be shipped with Green. As for Ross, they trade his longer lasting contract for Green’s expiring to facilitate a rebuild.
3. Philadelphia 76ers receive Eric Bledsoe; New Orleans Pelicans receive Danny Green
Bledsoe doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a prodigious scorer off the bench. But he could be a straight upgrade over Danny Green as a three and D player. Bledsoe is coming off two straight all-defensive team selections and he’s currently shooting 40% from deep on 5.4 attempts per game. If the 76ers want to stick with Milton as the primary ball handler off the bench, Bledsoe could also fit well next to him, and the wing defense Bledsoe and Thybulle would bring on that second unit could be suffocating.
The salaries work out 1 for 1, and Green is expiring which the Pelicans may value over Bledsoe, who is under contract until 2021-2022 at the latest. Then again, that’s not really that long. The Pelicans also aren’t under that much cap pressure right now. They aren’t ready to compete yet, but will be soon and Bledsoe is a good role player that won’t take possessions away from Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram. However, if they combine the room saved by Steven Adams’ expiring contract and the money saved by shipping Bledsoe for an expiring, that equals a max slot they can use to really go after a third star next year.
4. Philadelphia 76ers receive Danilo Gallinari; Atlanta Hawks receive Danny Green and Mike Scott
This one is a bit of a long shot. After all, the Hawks just traded for Gallinari themselves. But his tenure as a Hawk has been pretty terrible so far, and the Hawks are slipping away from contention. They are 2-8 in their last ten, not really where they want to be. The core of the team is still very young, so they have some time and don’t need to go all in yet. Green and Scott allow them to get out of Gallinari’s contract early if they want to make a run at someone else. Gallinari’s contract is only fully guaranteed this year and next though.
For their side, Philly can use a stretch four as well as a capable overall scorer off the bench. Despite his struggles this year, Gallo has had two straight seasons averaging 18+ (although that was as a starter) and despite the fact that he’s shooting 37% from the field this year, he’s also shooting 37% from three, still a good number. Philadelphia needs more three point shooting especially on the bench unit, and guys like Dwight Howard or Embiid will like the extra spacing provided.
The 76ers will be hard pressed to grab Gallo. The Hawks probably won’t give him up for just expirings, and the way Gallo is playing I’m not sure he’s worth giving up draft picks or promising young guys. Again, the Hawks probably don’t want to give up on a guy just 30 games into the season either. But I think it would be a good fit if he was available.
Other Potential Targets
There are a couple other potential trade candidates that could definitely help the 76ers but aren’t quite as sexy as the guys listed above. They will most likely be much cheaper however.
George Hill provides ball handling and is a career 38% shooter from deep.
Nemanja Bjelica is a stretch big to give some extra spacing to the lineup. He’s not shooting well right now, but he’s a career 39% three-point shooter.
Delon Wright is another ball handling and three point shooting combo. He’s shooting 38% from deep and has 4.9 assists for the Pistons right now.
J.J. Redick has been playing somewhat better after a terrible start to the season. He’s currently shooting a career low 37% from three. Which is still above league average and 76er’s fans should know how good Redick can be from deep.