While we were fresh off the disappointing loss to Toronto, Elton Brand was going to work. Just before midnight struck, the Sixers struck a deal to bring near all-star forward Tobias Harris to Philly. The Sixers also received Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott. In exchange, the Clippers added Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. LA also got Miami’s 2021 unprotected first round pick, Philly’s 2020 lottery protected first round pick, along with two Pistons’ second rounders in the deal.
There are lots of moving parts to this deal, so let’s break it down piece by piece.
What does Harris add to the team?
The most important thing to take away from this move is what it does to the starting lineup. The Sixers being able to throw out Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid on the court to start and end the game gives them what I believe to be the best starting five in the east, and the second-best in basketball.
The Sixers have been desperately missing a stretch-4 that had switch-ability on defense all season. In Harris, they add a 6’8″ forward shooting .43 percent from downtown and a consistent contributor on the defensive end. All this on a team that relied on him to produce much more. Playing alongside the Sixers already talented roster will allow him to be able to focus more of his energy on creating for his teammates and competing defensively.
Harris’s numbers likely would have been enough to land him in the all-star game if he were in the East. He put up 21 points, eight rebounds, and three assists per game in LA. These are certainly impressive stats. For him to now essentially be the Sixers’ fifth scoring option is incredible. Make no mistake. This starting five can compete with the very best and makes the Sixers a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference
Here comes Boban
Another piece the Sixers netted last night is 7’3″ Serbian Marjanovic. The behemoth will become Joel Embiid’s backup in Philly. He’s on an expiring contract, and it’s unlikely the Sixers will be able to retain him for next year. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t provide valuable minutes behind Philly’s MVP candidate.
Marjanovic has spent his career in a backup role, bouncing between a few teams. He was averaging seven points and four rebounds in LA before he was traded. The Sixers have been struggling mightily to find the right fit behind Embiid off the bench. Muscala at the five wasn’t productive in his minutes. Bolden shows promise but isn’t ready to contribute crunchtime minutes just yet.
The upside of adding the massive Serbian lies on the defensive end. Often times, when Embiid would come off the court, teams would exploit the paint and get some easy buckets to inch their way back into games. To be able to get 7’2″ Embiid some rest and replace him with 7’3″ Marjanovic is a huge advantage for Philly when it comes to rim protection. Embiid and Robert Covington praised the big man’s name a few years back.
This entire trade is really a push towards leaning into their size advantage. The Sixers are in a unique position because of their point guard’s size relative to the rest of the league. By adding 6’8″ Harris and the gigantic Marjanovic, Philly should never be inferior in terms of size.
What do we have in Scott?
Scott is the least important piece of this trade. He could potentially add some wing depth, but I don’t expect him to play a very important role. However, I also said that about Corey Brewer, who it feels like saved the whole season somehow.
Mike “The Threegional Manager” is shooting .40 percent from deep on a bit over two attempts per game. Since the Sixers are so thin, any shooting off the bench will certainly be a welcomed addition.
Ultimately, this trade centers around Harris, but the other guys, both on expiring deals, should not be ignored when evaluating this move.
What players were traded away?
The Sixers had to part ways with rookie breakout Landry Shamet, along with Chandler and Muscala.
The Wichita State product was also the Sixers most effective player off the bench, an area in which they were already thin.
The loss of Muscala and Chandler are more or less canceled out by the additions of Marjanovic and Scott. Muscala could provide a little spark every now and then, but ultimately his rim protection wasn’t strong enough to compete at the five. Chandler was beginning to show a little something before the injury, but frankly, he was a shell of himself and by the time the playoffs came around I doubt he’d have much left in the tank.
Which picks were traded away?
The biggest piece the Sixers traded was the Miami 2021 unprotected first round pick. This asset was picked up in the Mikal Bridges trade that also netted Zhaire Smith (Is he still alive?). The Heat project to be pretty bad in two seasons, especially as the Eastern Conference continues to improve around them.
The Sixers no longer have any first round picks that aren’t their own. Trading the Miami pick away could handcuff them in future deals, especially since they also traded away their own (lottery protected) 2020 pick.
Miami’s selection projects to be at the very least in the lottery, so parting ways with that asset is very significant. To risk their most valuable non-player asset to acquire a man who will be free to leave in free agency this summer is certainly dangerous.
Should Harris walk, The Sixers will have little to no future flexibility, and frankly, their hopes of winning a championship with this core will greatly diminish. This deal, along with the one that traded away Covington and Dario Saric, put the Sixers in urgent win now mode.
Overall, was this a good trade?
The upside of this trade is immense. The Sixers trotting out this revamped starting lineup is exciting,
That said, the risk is palpable. In less than half of a year, Brand has emptied the cabinet to acquire Butler and Harris, who are both on the final year of their contracts. Should they both, or even should one of them leave, it leaves the Sixers with very little draft capital, and almost no pieces to move in order to acquire further talent.
It’s a risk you have to take. The opportunity to get the 26-year-old Harris in your building and make a run for the East in exchange for essentially a promising rookie and a draft pick that could become anything is one that demands action. The idea, of course, is that given a few months in your building, and, hopefully, a nice playoff run, convincing Harris to stay should be no problem. If you can’t bet on yourself to keep top-level talent, then what’s even the point?
That’s what this deal boils down to. Brand made this trade because he believes in what he’s building. This lineup, plus a few pieces around the edge, is ready to compete now. It should be able to compete for several years, as well. If you can’t pull the trigger because you’re scared they won’t like playing here enough, you’re never going to get anywhere. If there’s one thing you can’t be as an executive, it’s a coward.
What will this team look like?
The possibilities on the court with this new addition are very intriguing. One problem the Sixers kept running into was that when Embiid and Redick were out of the game, Simmons didn’t have enough to keep the team competing offensively. Often times this is how those brutal runs by the opposition would begin. Being able to put Harris out there alongside Simmons as a secondary option is nothing short of huge.
Harris can switch on defense, is effective in the pick and roll, and can shoot at a well above average clip. There’s not much more we could have asked for in a player that will become our de facto fifth offensive option.
As mentioned earlier, this trade is also a way for the Sixers to take advantage of their size. This starting five is a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams. In one way it causes problems for the Sixers too, in that we still lack anyone who can competently defend smaller guards. Hopefully, that will be remedied when the trade deadline passes. On the other hand, when the Sixers face off against Boston, Kyrie Irving will be outmatched on defense no matter who he lines up against. I’d assume he’ll take on Redick, but that forces him to spend the entire game chasing him around screens. That would minimize his effect on the offensive end for certain.
Frankly, Golden State has had the 2019 title locked up for months. The Sixers can certainly make the finals this year, but winning that series would be an uphill battle.
This move is one for the present and the future. The team no longer has the assets to make any big deals. Barring trading one of the four guys, this is what they’re riding with now. That makes it all the more important to hit on draft picks and sign effective free agents. This is it now, so every small moves’ importance gets amplified.
However, let me be clear. This core four can and will compete for titles for years to come, should they remain in Philly. When Brand traded for Butler he sent a clear message: “We are here to win now”. He doubled down on that message with this trade.
So, once again, here we are. All the chips are in the pot. Should Butler and Harris walk away for nothing in return, The Process will likely have netted no championships, and we’ll be forced to live with that reality. However, say the gamble pays off. In the center of that table is one pretty massive jackpot.