The draft is less than a week away, which means free agency is two weeks away, which means … THINGS ARE ABOUT TO CRAZY, FOLKS!
The Busy 76ers
As the Chicago Bulls quieted some of the talk around their team this week, their Eastern Conference foe did the exact opposite.
The Philadelphia 76ers suffered another early playoff exit despite the blockbuster acquisition of James Harden at this season’s trade deadline. In the thick of Joel Embiid’s prime, the time is now to capitalize on his Hall-of-fame skillset, which means they are open to another big-time shake-up this summer.
According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the front office has tried to gauge interest in rotation players like Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, and, Shake Milton. They have also been willing to deal an injured Danny Green alongside their No. 23 first-round pick in next week’s draft.
Where the value of each of those players stands is up for a lot of debate. While Harris is the most notable name to be rumored as available, he’s owed a combined $76.8 million over the next two seasons, severely damaging his immediate trade value. As for Thybulle, while he continues to provide an All-NBA skillet on the defensive end, he’s struggled to stay on the floor at times due to his lack of perimeter shooting. Korkmaz and Milton are both solid bench players, but solid enough to give the 76ers anything that can be deemed significant in return? Not likely.
Still, the message is clear from the Philly brass: They are open for business, and they are eager to improve this roster before the start of next season.
In addition to all of this drama is the ongoing Harden saga. Not only has the former MVP demanded a trade from two teams in less than a year, but he has failed to look like the asset he once was. Now, up for a new max contract, there have been major questions about whether or not the 76ers should invest that much capital in him.
Those questions have led to the latest report from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, who shared on Thursday that Harden is likely to return to Philly on a short-term extension.
Sixers ownership, though, has been resistant to the idea of giving Harden a full four-year maximum contract extension beyond his 2022-23 option season, sources told B/R, or the five-year deal that Harden would be eligible for if he chose to decline his $47.4 million player option for next season. Signing perhaps a two-year extension after his option season to create a new three-year framework would also provide Harden with greater optionality for his own career.
If Philly can get this done, I’d consider it a *small* win. But the fact of the matter is that Harden is likely to be overpaid regardless of the scenario.
Deandre Ayton’s Market
The more time that goes by, the more clear it becomes that Deandre Ayton will play for another team next season.
Long-time NBA Insider Marc Stein wrote earlier this week that the Suns are expected to have “serious sign-and-trade talks” involving the 23-year-old. Fischer of Bleacher Report went on to add to the Ayton talk, listing the Hawks, Pistons, and Raptors as the three most likely landing spots for the big man.
Of course, those are all Eastern Conference teams, which should put the Chicago Bulls on high alert. The Raptors and Hawks, specifically, are the two squads that finished just below the Bulls in the standings last season. In other words, those are two teams who could easily find themselves duking it out with Chicago for a playoff spot next year, and Ayton would undoubtedly give either a significant boost.
As for the Pistons, an Ayton-Cunningham duo isn’t one I want to play four times a year.
Will the Hawks Go Big?
Speaking of the Atlanta Hawks, they have also found themselves increasingly part of the offseason conversation.
Players like John Collins, Kevin Huerter, and Clint Capela have been mentioned as potential trade chips to find the franchise a fresh star to pair with Trae Young. Both Ayton and Rudy Gobert have been labeled the most as targets, but even Zach LaVine has found his name in the mix (in your dreams).
Similar to the 76ers, it seems evident the Hawks are hungry for a revamped roster. However, team president Travis Schlenk pushed back on that narrative this week.
“We’re the easy target,” Schlenk told The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz. “Every rumor out there has the Hawks in it.”
“It’s not going to be a major overhauI. I think some people have assumed some things based on some of my comments or Tony’s comments after the season.”
I’ll believe the Hawks don’t go big when I see it. The fact they followed up an Eastern Conference Finals appearance with a No. 8 seed could surely have them worried about falling too far behind. Not to mention, as far as having young talent and reliable role players go, they can form one of the better trade packages in the league.
Jerami Grant Finally on the Move?
Remember when some Bulls fans grabbed their pitchforks and lit their torches because Jerami Grant was a trade target at the deadline? Ah, good times.
The Bulls no longer appear eager to add Grant (although, we know how sneaky AKME can be), but the Pistons do appear keen on finding him a new home.
Here’s what Jonathan Givony had to say in his latest mock draft for ESPN:
[Kegan] Murray’s fit here looks strong, especially with the amount of trade chatter surrounding power forward Jerami Grant. The incumbent is widely expected to be on the move this summer, as he’s entering the final year of his contract and doesn’t look to be on the same timetable as the rest of the Pistons’ roster.
In the middle of a rebuild, Grant likely doesn’t fit into the Pistons’ picture as well as whomever the organization can get in a trade return, so I totally understand wanting to cash in on his value. However, I’m extremely curious to see what opposing teams are prepared to offer this summer.
Grant is a strong defensive player who has improved his offensive game mightily in recent years, but he seems to want a bigger role than a true contender could offer. Also, the fact he’ll be up for another big contract in just one season could scare teams away.
And One …
- The Rockets are going all-in on young talent. Does that mean Eric Gordon or John Wall could finally be on the move?
- Is Fred VanVleet about to get paid again?