NEW YORK – Don’t make a mistake. The 76ers are a dangerous team as their roster stands.
They could make a deep playoff push as long as Joel Embiid stays healthy and James Harden continues to thrive as a pass-first, triple-double threat. The Sixers are therefore unlikely to make any major changes to the roster before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline at 3 p.m.
But they are looking for a reserve center, a backup playmaker and another shooter. Yahoo Sports reported Saturday that Utah Jazz outfielder Jarred Vanderbilt is a top target in the Sixers’ quest to bolster frontcourt depth behind Embiid. However, Utah wants a first-round pick in exchange for the fifth-year veteran.
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The 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt is a power forward, but has the ability to defend all three frontcourt positions. The Indiana Pacers see him as an attractive option. And Utah has discussed wrapping Vanderbilt with Malik Beasley in potential trades with the New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers and Atlanta Hawks.
Philly would probably have to bring in a third team to make a deal for him. Without a lot of tradable assets, the Sixers, who have an available roster spot, might be better off acquiring a needy player on the buyout market.
But they also want to remove the salary to go below the threshold of the luxury tax. Adding a player through the buyout market without losing pay through a trade would only add to the luxury tax.
The current Sixers roster has a salary of $151.4 million, according to Spotrac. They would need to lose $1.1 million to fall below the league’s $150.3 million threshold.
That’s why Furkan Korkmaz, who earns $5 million this season, and Jaden Springer, who earns $2.1 million, were mentioned as guys the Sixers considered trading in order to lose money.
PhillyVoice first reported that Georges Niang ($3.4 million) and Danuel House Jr. ($4.1 million) may also be trade candidates.
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Right now, Matisse Thybulle ($4.3 million) is arguably the most marketable asset the team is willing to part with. The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings are among the teams that have had internal conversations and/or monitored the situation. And the Hawks are another interested team, according to The Stein Line.
But if they’re considering losing their salary, the Sixers should give something away to a team that can collect that salary and not receive a salary in return. Sometimes teams that need to lose wages include cash and/or draft picks to sweeten the deal, paying a price for a favor.
If a player is of some value — Thybulle, for example — the Sixers could get less pay in return and potentially drop below the cap. It would help both parties.
This is where there is a dilemma. Thybulle isn’t just the Sixers’ best perimeter defender, he’s a two-time All-Defensive selection on the second team. Even if they don’t use him enough, the Sixers would have a major defensive void to fill by trading him, especially come playoff time.
Thybulle and the Sixers did not agree to a rookie-wide extension by the Oct. 17 deadline. As a result, Thybulle is on course to become restricted free agency this summer if the Sixers make him a quality offer in June.
With full bird rights to Thybulle, the Sixers will be allowed to go over the cap (a luxury tax threshold) to re-sign him. They will also have the right to match any offer sheet he signs with another team as a restricted free agent. The ball is still in their court.
But if the Sixers don’t want to pay Thybulle or don’t have him in their future plans, then they might as well get something in exchange for him at the trade deadline.
It’s kind of like what the Washington Wizards did when they traded Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 23. Like Thybulle, Hachimura did not receive a rookie-scale extension. Despite being the ninth pick in the 2019 draft, he was behind forwards Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija. So instead of just letting Hachimura go for nothing this summer, they traded him for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks.
READ MORE: Sixers’ Matisse Thybulle doesn’t stress at trade deadline this time
So the Sixers have a decision to make.
The same can be said of Niang, who has some value due to his three-point shot. The power forward has been one of the Sixers’ most reliable reserves, although he struggled defensively in the playoffs while battling injury. And the team would miss his energy and ability to hit clutch shots.
Meanwhile, House lost his spot in the rotation to Thybulle. The swingman’s stock plummeted due to inconsistent play in his first season with the Sixers.
Outside of the rotation, the Sixers don’t see Korkmaz as someone who can help them. Same for Springer. The second-year guard also doesn’t have much value in the league, sources say.
This is why the buyout market is the best option for the Sixers to add depth as they don’t have many attractive assets. However, making a trade and losing pay before Thursday’s deadline is the best bet for the owner’s pockets.