Four Backup Stretch Big Options for the Sixers before the Trade Deadline
The Philadelphia 76ers sit atop of the Eastern Conference with a 14-6 record. Joel Embiid has been performing on an MVP level throughout the season. Tobias Harris has turned himself into a decisive point scorer and Ben Simmons has dominated defensively and shown signs of improvement on the offensive side of the court. There is however, still work to be done for this team to continue to improve as they progress through the season.
The Sixers have found struggles within their first and second team units, specifically with a Simmons-Thybulle-Howard lineup. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Morey and the Sixers front office make a move for a big who can stretch the floor. There is a fairly high likelihood that a deal gets made before the trade deadline, even if it isn’t the blockbuster that some expected. As we all know, sometimes the smaller move is the more impactful one, so here are a few names to keep an eye on before the trade deadline on March 25th.
Markkanen might not the Bulls player we are all hoping to acquire before deadline (Lavine), but would still be a perfect fit in the second unit as a stretch four and a great match as a small ball five when Embiid sits. The Finnisher is having his best pro season so far, averaging 18.5 points, and 6.5 rebounds, with a 48/38/84 shooting split. Chicago picked up Markkanen’s option for this season, and reserve a $9 million qualifying offer for him next season. Would the Bulls be willing to part with Lauri? It’s hard to say, but if the Sixers are willing to part with one of their young guys (Furkan or Thybulle most likely) plus a pick, it could be a reasonable possibility, and a remedy for some current spacing issues in the second unit.
There are a few issues with the idea of PJ Tucker, but we can ignore those for now. Tucker would provide almost exactly what the Sixers need for their bench. PJ is averaging 5.6 points per game, but shooting 44% on a 2.6 3PA per game. Tucker’s contract is also favorable (Expiring $7.9 million), and the Sixers have some money to play around with for this exact reason.
The problem with Tucker, is where he would be coming from. There were rumors during the Harden Saga that Houston’s management refused to do a deal with Morey based on their recent history, so it seems unlikely that Philadelphia would be able to pull off a trade like this due to the disdain that the Rockets hold for Morey. The supposed asking price for Tucker is three 2nd round picks, and if that is the case I would not hesitate to do that deal as soon as possible, petty front offices willing, of course.
Bjelica would be an interesting add, as a guy who basically stabbed the Sixers in the back just a season ago. Bjelica is averaging a pretty poor 6.6 points per game on a disappointing 24% from deep. His contract mirrors Tuckers, as an expiring $7.15 million, and fits into a role similar to Mike Scott. Apologies to the Mike Scott Hive, but historically, Nemanja is a much better shooter. Bjelica is a player that the Sixers wouldn’t have to give much up for so compared to the other guys I have mentioned he would most likely be the cheapest option.
A sleeper pick that could potentially be effective in a role here in Philadelphia, Melli is in his second season with the Pelicans and is struggling as of late. This season, Melli is only scoring 1.6 points per game, and is shooting 19% from beyond the arc. Pretty ugly numbers from the Italian Stallion, but his true numbers are much better than that, with averages of 6.6 points and 34% from deep, albeit those being just from last season. With Melli’s poor recent play, I would assume his price tag is very low, so if the Sixers are looking to add a shooting big man but don’t want to pay a premium, this could be their guy.
Personally, I think the Sixers roster is strong enough to be great as constructed. As an objective fan, I realize that in order to win a championship, they will have to fix the holes they have regardless of how small they may be right now. I trust Morey, and I believe that there will be a move made at some point so whether that is for a stretch big, or a wing creator, it’s just a matter of time.