The Philadelphia 76ers are in a tough stretch. An impressive win over Boston on Thursday night notwithstanding, they’ve lost four of their last six and seven of their last 12. Joel Embiid is on his torn hand ligament and is out indefinitely. Philly has become one of the most frustrating teams in the league, if not the most. Their collective talent is jaw-dropping, but it doesn’t seem to fit all that well together and Ben Simmons won’t shoot.
Everyone is tired of talking about that last part.
But it’s not going away.
The reality is that as long as Simmons is around, for all his greatness in just about every other aspect of the game, his inability, or unwillingness, to shoot is going to continue to be a hurdle the Sixers have to overcome. It’s a problem made even more difficult given the presence of Embiid. At their best, both those guys are operating on the interior, making whatever perimeter spacing the Sixers can muster of even greater importance than it generally is for every team.
To that point, Philadelphia is looking to add shooting at the trade deadline, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, who notes that the Sixers have inquired about the services of a “long list of wings, including Malik Beasley (Nuggets), Glenn Robinson III (Warriors), Davis Bertans (Wizards), E’Twaun Moore (Pelicans), and Andre Iguodala (Grizzlies).”
Also From O’Connor:
Most interestingly, sources say the Sixers inquired about Robert Covington, whom they dealt to the Timberwolves in 2018 in the (Jimmy) Butler trade. I reported last month that Covington is available, and that is still the case. But Minnesota could have so many bidders for Covington that the price will be too high for Philadelphia to make a reunion a reality.
Of all those names, Covington and Bertans would be at the top of the wish list. Bertans is flat our one of the best shooters in the league, and Sixers fans are plenty familiar with Covington’s capable 3-and-D ways, even if it has been a relative down shooting season for him so far.
The question is, do the Sixers have enough to get one of those top targets without sending out one of their core guys? They have second-year guard Zhaire Smith, who was touted as an elite athlete with elite defensive upside, but he’s currently in the G-league. Rookie Matisse Thybulle is a defensive wizard and emerging 3-point shooter that would certainly raise some antennas, but as O’Connor reports, “league sources say the Sixers would be (understandably) reluctant to deal him.”
Philly might have to throw in a future draft pick to make a true needle-moving deal. They don’t have their first-round pick in the upcoming 2020 draft; as part of the Tobias Harris trade, they sent it to the Clippers, who then moved it to Brooklyn, to which the pick will convey assuming the Sixers make the playoffs this season. But starting in 2021, the Sixers are set with their own picks, and a player like Bertans might well be worth one of them.
It would be great if the Sixers could kill two birds with one stone and get a player who can both space the floor and act as creator in the half-court. That’s where they leaned on Jimmy Butler last season, especially in the playoffs, and through that lens, losing Butler and J.J. Redick was not something they made up for with replacements Josh Richardson and Al Horford. Both of those guys are capable shooters, but Richardson is out of his depth as a primary initiator and Horford isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, a featured shooter.
The Sixers do have a recent history of in-season moves for shooters that really impacted their team. In 2018 they brought in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova mid-season and it turned them into an entirely different team. There were times in the playoffs when Simmons was running up-tempo with shooters all around him that the Sixers looked like they were about to explode straight into title contention ahead of schedule.
That hasn’t come to fruition just yet, but they’re close. Another shooter would put them even closer.
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