As the Draft Approaches, Thybulle Trade Rumors Grow and Reports Link Sixers to P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly 76ers Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers have many holes to fill this offseason. Wing depth and an infusion of toughness are among the most pressing issues to correct for an organization which has failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs thus far in superstar Joel Embiid's career. The NBA Draft, the first chance for the Sixers to improve their roster this offseason, is finally here. It kicks off Thursday at 8 p.m.

President of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who was general manager of the Houston Rockets for 13 seasons from 2007-2020, might be going back to his old stomping ground in an attempt to propel the Sixers' roster into championship contention. Multiple reports in recent days have connected the Sixers with both P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon, two players who were in Houston for part of Morey's tenure there.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported on Tuesday that Gordon would be available in trade talks and the Sixers, along with the Phoenix Suns, are the two teams most heavily interested in acquiring him.

Gordon would immediately bring a much needed scoring boost to the Sixers' bench unit. He is coming off one of the most efficient shooting seasons of his career. His points per game (13.4) might have dropped but he shot a career-high 47.5% from the field while also knocking down 41.2% of his attempts from 3-point range. He has had some trouble staying healthy in recent seasons, but he can still put up solid numbers when healthy. However, his $19.5 million cap hit next season (he is under contract for two more years with the final year being totally non-guaranteed) would make it difficult for the team to match salary in order to complete the trade.

In addition to Gordon, the rumor mill has been spinning in recent days about the Sixers' interest in Tucker. The Athletic's Shams Charania on Monday reported Tucker will be opting out of his $7.4 million player option with the Miami Heat. Things began to heat up even more after The Inquirer's Keith Pompey came out with a report on Tuesday night detailing the team's rumored interest in the 37-year-old:

Multiple sources have the Sixers intending to offer him a three-year, $30 million contract. Time will tell what will happen. But a source added that there’s mutual interest between Tucker, 37, and the Sixers.

Things could change before the start of free agency at 6 p.m. on June 30, but league executives believe there’s a good chance Tucker will become a Sixer.

The Sixers do not currently have the cap space to sign Tucker for the reported $10 million per season. They have the taxpayer's mid-level exception, valued at $6 million, available and therefore would need to free up approximately another $4 million to have access to the full non-taxpayer's mid-level exception (valued at roughly $10 million).

There are multiple ways the Sixers could clear the space necessary to use the NTMLE. Pompey, in his report, wrote that the team is shopping the package of defensive standout Matisse Thybulle and the No. 23 pick in the NBA Draft in an attempt to clear cap space. He goes on to write in further detail about a potential three-team trade involving Thybulle and the No. 23 pick: "The Sixers, however, could try to make some things work with the three-team trade. The Sixers are looking for a third team to help facilitate the trade. In order to get Thybulle and the first-rounder, sources say Sixers are asking a third team to give up a first-round pick to make the deal work."

Trading two of the team's most easily moveable assets for in essence only cap savings and a future first-round pick in return would be foolish. The Sixers have far too many holes on their roster to not get something of immediate value in return for Thybulle, who is a two-time Second Team All-Defense, and the No. 23 pick in a stacked draft class. Thybulle became even more valuable for the Sixers after veteran Danny Green tore both his ACL and LCL in the Game 6 loss to the Heat, making him one of the team's only wing players who has some athleticism.

The Sixers' desire to package either Thybulle or Green ($10 million cap hit which becomes fully guaranteed if he is still on the roster on July 1) with the No. 23 pick is well known. The return in a potential trade, however, is up for discussion. After Pompey's report on Tuesday containing the team's reported desire to ship out Thybulle and the No. 23 pick for cap savings and a future first-round pick, a trifecta of reports came out on Wednesday evening painting a different picture.

Bryan Toporek of Forbes Sports was first to report the team is not interested in shopping Green, Thybulle or the No. 23 pick solely for cap savings.

Paul Hudrick of Liberty Ballers followed it up with a report adding some more context surrounding the team's approach heading into the NBA Draft:

The notion that the Sixers could move Thybulle and/or Green just to create space to sign Tucker is not the case, per a source. The team still views Thybulle as a player with value, and, as Kyle Neubeck of The PhillyVoice has reported previously, they will not be looking to give away the two-time All-Defensive Team player.

Regarding pick 23, a source says the Sixers are “not desperate” to move it. The team would feel comfortable making the pick and has a list of players they believe could help them. As a team outside the lottery, they have looked into seeing what they could get in exchange for that pick.

While there does appear to be legitimate smoke with Tucker, this isn’t a Tucker-or-bust situation for the Sixers. There are still several scenarios the team is exploring to improve its rotation and depth ahead of the draft and the start of free agency. And pieces like Thybulle, Green and pick 23 could still be in play. But don’t expect the team to dump any of those assets without gaining anything in return.

Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer then went on to report late Wednesday night the Sixers "have called several teams specifically searching for a first-round pick in exchange for Thybulle as part of a three-team deal framework to land an impact veteran rotation player." The signs are pointing mostly in the direction of the team looking to get something with an immediate impact in any trade involving Thybulle and the No. 23 pick.

To round this back to the team's desired interest in Tucker, is he even worth making a move or two to free up access to the $10 million NTMLE? He would bring some much needed toughness and grit to a roster in desperate need of exactly that. He also is a good defender who is capable of knocking down a three when left open. He averaged 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 48.4% from the field (the highest percentage since his rookie season) and a career-high 41.5% from 3-point range last season.

He is 37 years old and the reported three-year, $30 million contract would definitely be a steep price to pay in addition to putting him under contract through his age-40 season. However, Embiid did talk about wanting to play with Tucker after their Game 6 loss to the Heat and Tucker has multiple suitors, meaning they likely will have to win a bidding war for his services.

One potential framework of the Sixers' potential offseason plans is beginning to take shape. However, there are many moving pieces and things are liable to change at any moment both in the hours leading up to Thursday's NBA Draft at 8 p.m. and throughout the draft itself. As Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice reported on Wednesday, "there are roughly a half-dozen noteworthy trade scenarios being kicked around by the Sixers at the moment." More will likely be known about the Sixers' offseason plans by the end of the night. Stay tuned because this could be a wild ride.

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