Elton Brand has some work to do.
The 76ers’ general manager needs to augment the 76ers’ roster for what the organization hopes will be a deep playoff run. Because as the Sixers are currently constructed, they probably aren’t good enough to win an NBA championship – with or without star center Joel Embiid.
At the Feb. 3 trade deadline or in the ensuing contract buyout market, the Sixers crave a reserve scorer/shooter and perhaps a backup point guard.
The bench isn’t good enough. That’s readily apparent for a 25-16 team at the midpoint of the 2019-20 season.
Acquiring a difference-maker by the deadline will be difficult because the Sixers don’t have a lot to trade that other teams would want, but they could secure somebody capable of providing a jolt.
Second-year shooting guard Zhaire Smith, who is behind defensive-minded rookie Matisse Thybulle in Brett Brown’s rotation, is one player who could have some value around the league. He is making $3.1 million this season and is under team control for two more years.
Pistons third-year shooting guard Luke Kennard, who is earning $3.8 million, would be an upgrade. He’s shooting 39.9 percent from 3-point range and averaging a career-high 15.8 points, so it’s no surprise that the Sixers are reportedly interested in him. The concern with Kennard is he’s been out since Dec. 21 due to knee tendinitis and could miss another month.
The Sixers have also apparently expressed interest in Detroit combo guard Langston Galloway from St. Joseph’s. Galloway would also contribute some perimeter help – he’s shooting 39.8 percent from downtown and averaging 10.4 points in 25.5 minutes off the bench. Galloway is in the final year of a contract that’s paying him $7.3 million.
Two years ago, the Sixers added shooter Marco Belinelli and power forward Ersan Ilyasova after they’d been bought out by the scuffling Hawks and they helped the Sixers down the Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
There will likely be candidates again this February, but it’s hard to tell if there will be better players in the buyout market than the Sixers could land via trade.
A third big man had been a concern, but the Sixers seem to really like young, athletic center Norvel Pelle. His two-way contract, which only allows 45 days with the Sixers, is about to expire and the Sixers should and will sign him to a full-season deal. That would mean waiving somebody on the 15-man regular roster — veteran center Kyle O’Quinn could be the one to go.
Embiid is expected to miss another three to seven weeks following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger. The Sixers are trying to adapt to playing at a faster pace without him, then they will have to adjust back to having him later in the season.
The injury allows Al Horford to play center rather than splitting time between the two inside spots, though he’s not the interior defensive force or scorer Embiid is.
Finishing games, especially on the road, is a recurring problem. That’s one reason the Sixers are 7-14 on the road, compared to 18-2 at the Wells Fargo Center.
While Ben Simmons does a lot of things well – he’s a terrific passer/defender and an all-star – he is not a closer, even when Embiid is sidelined. Simmons went scoreless and only took two shots in each of the fourth quarters of road losses to the Mavericks on Saturday night and Pacers on Monday evening.
The 3-point shooting was also abysmal in the last two defeats, as evidenced by hitting a combined 15 for 70 (21.4%) from beyond the arc. That’s not nearly good enough.
Perhaps the Sixers will shoot the ball better Wednesday night against the visiting Nets (7). We’ll see. They hit 40.7 percent of 3s (11 for 27) in last Thursday’s 11-point home victory over the Celtics.
The Sixers are 4-6 without Embiid, but have dropped four of their last five.
If Embiid returns in February or early March and is finally healthy for the playoffs, the Sixers would get a big boost. But he’s going to need more support than is on the current roster.
That’s where Brand comes into play.