At Trade Deadline, 76ers Acquired ‘Best Player’ Who Was Moved While Keeping Flexibility for Future Moves

At Trade Deadline, 76ers Acquired ‘Best Player’ Who Was Moved While Keeping Flexibility for Future Moves Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers came into the trade deadline looking to thread the needle between helping the team now while also maintaining flexibility for this upcoming offseason. Were they successful in that pursuit? The team made multiple moves, headlined by the acquisition of sharpshooter Buddy Hield, without giving up any first-round picks. According to president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, Hield was the “best player” moved at Thursday’s trade deadline.

“I feel like we got the best player at the trade deadline that was traded,” Morey said to reporters Friday night, via the PHLY Sports YouTube page. “I felt like he gave us exactly what we were looking for, which is he’s one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history. We really like what he adds to the team and we feel like our healthy group, our playoff rotation with [Buddy] Hield is right there with everyone in the entire league.”

Hield provides elite 3-point shooting to a Sixers team in desperate need of it. He is a career 40.1% shooter from long distance on 7.7 attempts per game. Since the 2016-17 season, Hield’s first in the NBA, he is second behind only Steph Curry in 3-pointers made. He is a superb fit offensively next to both Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

“Look, with Joel [Embiid] and Tyrese [Maxey], he puts the fear of God in other teams,” Morey said. “The shots are coming; they’re coming in transition, they’re coming deep, they’re coming off actions. You need to pay a lot of attention to Buddy Hield on the court … and that’s super valuable with Joel and Tyrese in opening up things for them.”

The 31-year old made his Sixers debut in the 127-121 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday. Hield scored 20 points while also grabbing four rebounds and dishing out six assists. Even on a poor shooting night (8-of-21 from the field and 4-of-12 from 3-point range), his gravity on the floor was immediately clear. Caitlin Cooper of the “Basketball, She Wrote” Patreon broke down how Hield can impact the game through more than just his shooting.

In addition to Hield, the Sixers also acquired guard Cam Payne from the Milwaukee Bucks. Payne also made his Sixers debut on Friday, and he put together an impressive performance. He finished with 20 points, three rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block in 36 minutes. There has not been much discourse surrounding the addition of Payne to the roster. He can be a valuable guard off the bench capable of running the offense for short stretches and knocking down a few 3-pointers.

Much of the discussion surrounding the Payne trade centered around fan favorite Pat Beverley being shipped to Milwaukee. Beverley’s attitude and leadership will be missed. However, the Sixers seemingly believe they can replace his production through Payne and an eventual addition from the buyout market.

“We saw his minutes going down and we thought it was best for him to be able be in a place where he was gonna play a bigger role on a team and, here, we saw that role diminishing,” Morey said.

The Sixers also traded away Jaden Springer to the Boston Celtics for a 2024 second-round pick. Springer, a 21-year-old guard, had just begun to crack the Sixers’ rotation this season. He was one of the team’s better perimeter defenders, although his offense remained a work in progress. Morey delved into the team’s reasoning for trading away Springer, a move that received much scrutiny.

“We had to look at, ‘What are the odds Jaden Springer — who I think has a great future — will help our playoff rotation in the one, two, three-year maybe horizon? And what are the odds that the second-round pick will help us?’ And we thought the second-round pick helped us more. That’s just the reality.

“It allows us to go get maybe a veteran at next year’s deadline and things like that. … We thought that was the right move. So yeah, we did it. It sucks. Jaden’s going to be really good, I think. I think his timetable’s a little pushed out, though — (in) our evaluation. And if we’re wrong, we’re wrong. Our evaluation was that his timetable to help a playoff team was further out than what the second-round pick could do for us.”

The Sixers made multiple moves at the trade deadline, although they were not as active as many might have hoped. One of the holes they have yet to resolve is adding another center. Embiid is set to miss an extended period of time after having surgery on his left meniscus. Paul Reed is a solid backup center, but he is struggling to handle the increased minutes. Morey confirmed that adding another center was one of the team’s priority. He said the team was “aggressive” in their attempts at acquiring another big man. However, “they just weren’t available, so it didn’t happen.”

The Sixers did reportedly come close to acquiring another center. According to Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports, the Sixers nearly completed a trade for Chicago Bulls big man Andre Drummond. The two teams “had a framework in place,” but the Bulls “needed to secure another big man in a separate transaction to feel comfortable going through with the deal.” Chicago failed to make the separate transaction and the framework ultimately fell through.

Despite any of the deadline moves the Sixers made, Embiid’s health remains the crucial factor that will determine where the Sixers go this season. On that front, Morey expressed optimism the big fella will be able to return this season.

“Feedback has been more good than bad since the first we heard about what led to his procedure,” Morey said, “so we’re hopeful and we’re building the team to make it better this year. Obviously, it’s not 100 percent, but we felt like with Joel playing at an MVP level — where hopefully he can get back to that — that this is a year we’ve got a real shot.”

Regardless of if Embiid returns this season, the Sixers’ deadline moves did not have any impact on their future flexibility. The team did not trade away any of their first-round picks. Hield, the main player they acquired at the deadline, is on the last year of his contract.

The Sixers are still well-positioned to make a big move in this coming offseason. By draft night, the team will have up to five first-round picks available for trade. In addition to their available draft capital, they will also have upwards of roughly $60 million in salary cap space. It appears Morey threaded the needle between helping this year’s team improve while also keeping open their future flexibility. Only time will tell whether his cap space plan will prove fruitful.

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