• Alec Liebsch

76ers Trade Deadline Preview: Ball Handlers

It's the most wonderful time of the yearTrade Seasonand your 76ers are right in the thick of it. In this three-part series, I will be outlining just about every player the Sixers can trade for ahead of the March 25 trade deadline. Your squad is on a chase for a championship, and I've got you covered with everything you need to know.


It's time for part two of the series. Over the weekend I expounded on a few big men the Sixers could target, and now it's time to focus on their biggest need: ball handlers.


Guys who can compose the offense, put the ball on the deck and make something happen. Gents who can not only dribble (!) but also shoot (!!!) might as well be endangered species in Philly. That needs to change if they want a legitimate shot at a championship.


Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors


A homecoming? Lowry, a Villanova alum and North Philly native, is on an expiring contract and doesn't seem keen on returning to Toronto in the fall. The Sixers have already been liked to Lowry in trade rumors, and for good reason. He's as close to an ideal fit as they can get at the deadline.


Lowry checks just about every box you can think of: can run the offense well, can shoot (38.3% 3-point shooter since 2015-16), is matchup-proof defensively, and has competed well at the highest levels in the playoffs. Even before his championship run in 2019, he and DeMar DeRozan had the Raptors in serious contention for several years in a row. Lowry is a winning player.


All that said, Lowry's best days are behind him. In his age-34 season, he has definitely shown signs of decline as a defender and scorer. The Raptors' offense isn't great, and that's because Lowry and Fred VanVleet have to create almost everything. They're underqualified for that role over the long haul.


In Philly, Lowry's load would lighten quite a bit. For the rest of the regular season can mostly operate off of Embiid and Simmons, and set the tone as the point guard in spurts. His heaviest lifting wouldn't come until the playoffs, a responsibility he's proven to be capable of.


Danny Green has to be included in any deal for Lowry due to salary-matching. Some of the end-of-bench expirings would be added as well, and the outgoing assets would probably be Tyrese Maxey (or Thybulle) and a first rounder. It sounds like a steep price for a 34 year-old, but this veteran is exactly who the Sixers need. He may put them over the top in the East.


Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans


One of the more unique players I'll be covering, Lonzo Ball is not the same guy he was coming out of UCLA three-plus years ago. He used to be critiqued for a weird and ineffective jump shot; now he shoots 38.7% from 3 on 7.8 attempts per game.


Granted, Ball isn't getting those shots like other high-usage ball handlers. He's not pulling up like Damian Lillard or Stephen Curry. The oldest Ball brother operates as catch-and-shoot guy and ball mover. Functionally, he's closer to a wing than a point guard on offense.


His off-ball efficacy is what makes him a good fit with the Sixers. Ball can give the offense a jolt without getting in the way of Embiid or Simmons, and in a pinch can run offense with one of them. There's a lot of fun to be had with Ball and Simmons in transition, and Ball can certainly get Embiid a few easy looks while also spacing the floor for him. When Embiid gets double-teamed and kicks it out, he needs willing shooters and cutters around him; Ball is exactly that.


But perhaps most importantly, the machinations of a Ball trade should be very attractive to Morey. Lonzo is a restricted free agent after the season, meaning Morey can match any offer sheet another team throws at him. The Sixers won't have much to play with in free agency, so RFAs like Ball may be their best bet to add a difference-maker to their core.


Lonzo raises the Sixers' current and future ceiling. He's 23 years old, fits with the current roster, is at a salary that's easy to match in trades ($11 million), and may not cost all that much to acquire. Two first round picks, or one pick and Matisse Thybulle, should get the Pels talking.


Devonte' Graham, Charlotte Hornets


The odd man out in Charlotte would give the Sixers a skill they've sorely lacked. Devonte' Graham, a third-year guard from Kansas, is exactly the type of quick-trigger, unconscious shooter Simmons and Embiid would love to have.


In a featured role with the Hornets last year, Graham averaged 18.2 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 37.3% from 3 on 9.3 attempts per game. This season he's been a bit less accurate from downtown, only hitting 34.7% of his 8.1 tries per night. He's taken far fewer this season (202 3PA so far) than last (585) so there's still hope for him to shooting at an above-average clip.


He could be even more accurate in a different role. The Hornets were a pretty blank slate in 2019-20, clinging to any semblance of offensive functionality, and Graham carried that load for them. He was everything for them. This season is different; the Hornets are solid, and the focal points are Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball. Graham has had to take a back seat, an adjustment that's difficult for anyone coming off a year like he had.


Philly could maximize Graham. His shooting, both in accuracy and volume, would be a welcome addition to a Sixers offense that ranks second-to-last in threes attempted per-100 possessions. Embiid and Simmons need kickout options that will fire away at will, something Graham has zero issue doing.


His weaknesses would also be accounted for. He shouldn't be the main facilitator of an offense, which he wouldn't have to be next to Simmons. He's undersized for a guard at 6'1", making him a target for opponents on defense, but a team led by Simmons and Embiid can take care of that.


The hardest part of this trade is figuring out what Charlotte wants. He's a restricted free agent after the season, and technically fills a long-term need for Charlotte, but he's also likely to want more than the front office is willing to pay. A protected pick or solid young player (both of which the Sixers can afford to lose) could be the best the team can do.


Victor Oladipo, Houston Rockets - I already did a write-up on the well-traveled guard, which you can read here. His dip in shooting accuracy doesn't seem to be a fluke though, and his defense has already taken a hit from all the injuries. Morey would be buying low on him, banking on talent to win the day.


George Hill, Oklahoma City Thunder - 3-and-D point guards don't come around every day, nor are they usually on bad teams. Every contender could use Hill, which means his trade value is likely to be higher than you're comfortable with.


Delon Wright, Detroit Pistons - Wright used to be mostly D, but now he hits 3s with sustained success, shooting over 37% from downtown across the last two seasons (206 attempts). On top of that, he's basically the only point guard in Detroit and does a solid job running the offense. He's a great short-term fit on a modest contract.


Terry Rozier, Hornets - Like Graham, Rozier helps the Hornets win now. But also like Graham, Rozier's contract is expiring. Is their front office willing to be pragmatic with either guard, even as they sniff the playoffs for the first time in half a decade? Scary Terry definitely makes sense on the Sixers if so.


Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs - Morey asked about Mills way back on Draft Night, and his shooting would makes him an excellent fit on this team. The main roadblock comes from the other party; San Antonio rarely makes midseason moves, and it finds itself 5th in the West right now. There may just not be a trade here.


Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings - Hield's contract makes him tough to move—he's owed $61.5 million over the three years after this one—but man would he make a difference. Few guys fire away as effectively, or as often, as Hield; he'd be a deadly partner for Embiid's two-man game, and would have no trouble shooting off Simmons' kickouts.


Tomas Satoransky, Chicago Bulls - Zach LaVine may not be gettable, but some of his teammates should be. Satoranksy is one of the more malleable players on this list, able to operate on and off the ball pretty seamlessly. He's a good release valve when Simmons needs another ball handler. It's just a matter of Chicago's willingness to deal.