It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so I thought I’d gauge where the fanbase stands on the Sixers by offering a mailbag opportunity. Judging by the number of questions there are quite a few topics pressing the fanbase right now. Let’s get to it.

Twitter Replies

So, I’ll put it this way, if all of the other teams in the East were playing up to expectations, I would say the Sixers absolutely are missing that piece. But, honestly, is there a team in the East that isn’t either underperforming or potentially gravely flawed? Brooklyn lacks depth and size, and they refuse to defend anything. Boston lacks depth and size. Milwaukee is underperforming. Miami is trying to string a run together, but still find themselves well below .500. Toronto has had some brutal losses this season and Pascal Siakam has not been nearly good enough.

So, which team are you sure is in front of a fully-healthy Sixers team come playoff time? I think the East has four teams that could potentially get to the Finals, and the Sixers are one of them. If you’re taking it to the next level and asking if the Sixers have what it takes to firmly plant themselves ahead of the rest of the East in their current construction, I would lean towards no. 

Beal, LaVine, or Lowry

As for what that difference-making piece is, I think the obvious answers are Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, and Kyle Lowry, in that order. But, Beal hasn’t requested a trade and the Wizards are not looking to exile him out. I doubt the Bulls intend to deal LaVine for a package that doesn’t include Ben Simmons without a formal trade request from their star-level guard.

That leaves Kyle Lowry, which I think is very feasible. The asking price, from what I’ve heard, is one of Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey, an unknown number of first-round picks, and salary filler (Green, Scott, Poirier, or something like that). If they do have to include Maxey and multiple first-rounders, the Sixers lose leverage in negotiating with Lowry on an extension. It becomes similar to the Tobias Harris contract, except you don’t want to overpay for a point guard already in his mid-thirties. 

Truthfully, however, it comes down to where Toronto is at the trade deadline. Keep in mind, the league implemented the play-in games. That means more teams will be in the playoff hunt during trade season. That could both deter trades of high-impact players and make the asking price extremely expensive. We’ll just have to see how things play out.

Smoothing Jagged Edges

Lowry, of course, would be a major help. But, let’s look at the bench. The Sixers, as a team, have a point differential of just +2.9. That means the average outcome of games for the team sitting in first place in the East is winning by less than three points. The starting unit is outscoring opponents by more than 12 points per 100 possessions—good for third best of any lineup that has played at least 280 minutes this season. So, the first five clearly isn’t the problem.

The bench is the glaring issue. I think the main problem sorely hurting the bench is a lack of organization. Shake Milton will help when he’s healthy, but he’s more of a shooting guard than a point guard, in my opinion. So, a veteran point guard would really help direct the flow of offense and go a long way towards mending that gaping weakness. I would monitor George Hill for that role.

I also think adding a stretchy big man for the Simmons-without-Embiid lineups would add a sorely lacking element to that rotation’s offense. It would invite Simmons to be more aggressive going to the rim without Dwight Howard’s man there to deter the penetration. Buying into the whole ‘surround Simmons with shooters’ philosophy would help win those minutes that Embiid is not on the floor. If you can read my mind, you’re thinking Nemanja Bjelica. I would certainly keep an eye on his availability. If I had to put money on it, I would probably lean towards that being the trade they make.

A Secondary Ball-Handler Or An Old Friend?

Both would be helpful. Lonzo Ball fortifies the perimeter defense in the starting unit and adds an efficient three-point shooter on high volume. You can also stagger him with Simmons so that you have a passing savant on the floor to lead the offense at all times. I don’t buy into the idea that Redick wouldn’t be helpful. Prior to coming to Philly, he had the best seasons of his career under Doc Rivers. He knows the system. He’s also very familiar with Embiid and Simmons, and the team desperately needs a prolific three-point shooter. They cannot be trading twos for threes like they have over the past few weeks, and their main sources of perimeter shooting aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire right now.

Redick will obviously be much cheaper than Ball will be, but I think the more impactful player is Ball. If I had to choose, I would trade for Ball. However, I also think you can acquire Redick on the open market if you call David Griffin’s bluff and wait for a buyout. So, there is a not-so-far-fetched path to getting both. It is my understanding that the Sixers have had an eye on Ball since before the season started, too.

They were trying to acquire LaVine on draft night. I don’t know how close a deal was, but there were talks around draft night. I believe Jason Dumas reported something connecting LaVine to the Sixers, but I cannot find the exact Tweet to link and credit him. He reported that the Sixers were looking to acquire another star without including Embiid and Simmons.

Anyway, to answer your question, they have targeted LaVine, but there haven’t been any credible signs that he would like out or that Chicago wants to move on. Any package for him would likely have to include Matisse Thybulle, who Bulls GM Marc Eversley was instrumental in Philly drafting. But, there shouldn’t be much reservation there. The question, of course, is what the rest of the package looks like, and whether the Bulls are willing to pull the plug by the trade deadline.

The Bench

This is a great question because the bench is struggling quite badly and Joe feels like an easy plug that could alleviate some of the offensive clogging. Doc Rivers has said that there just aren’t enough spots for all of Korkmaz, Thybulle, and Joe. But, I’m not sure how much longer he can keep faith in Korkmaz. It’s just brutal right now. Historically, though, Doc doesn’t entrust rookies with heavy workloads. So, that lack of trust in the youngster could be part of why. Besides that, I think that’s a question to which we’re all searching for an answer.

George Hill, although I think it’s somewhat close. The second unit’s offense is just so dreadful that any amount of veteran experience and organization would help smooth the jagged edges. I think a healthy package for Hill involves two second-round picks, Mike Scott, and Tony Bradley. The logistical factor that could make a PJ Tucker trade easier is that he fits into the trade exception created by the Horford trade. Morey and company could send a pair of second-rounders to Houston for their troubles.

I answered this question above, but I’ll add another name. Wayne Ellington might enjoy having a more prominent role with a non-contender, but the Pistons will eventually shift their playing time towards their youngsters as they continue to fall towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. So, I would guess Ellington either secures a buyout or they trade him and get an asset back. Ellington’s contract would fit into one of the Sixers’ trade exceptions, so a second-rounder for the veteran sharpshooter could do the trick.

For the sake of time and length of this article, see above.

MVPiid

The NBA’s season awards are largely narrative-based, in my opinion. So, even if Embiid is the best player in the league and doesn’t miss too many games, I’m not sold that he’ll get the MVP honor over LeBron James. The narrative going James’ way is just very strong. But, you make a valid point, Kevin. Embiid is on pace to miss approximately sixteen games this season. If that pace holds true, it won’t matter what his stats say.

I strongly believe they win the Portland game if Shake is available. They would’ve been in the Phoenix game longer with Shake, and maybe they play those last few minutes of the fourth quarter differently. But, I’m not convinced they win that Phoenix game even with him. Booker was ridiculous down the stretch, and there were a couple of different mismatches the Suns could’ve looked to exploit. I just felt that the Suns were in control of that game once they took the lead in the third quarter.

The Curious Case Of Mike Scott

They will probably give him a chance to carve out some role as a stretchy big since the bench is so barren and they need shooting. But, his contract is so attractive as salary filler in a bigger trade that it’s hard not to include him in any deal the Sixers execute.

Bjelica’s offense. He can fit in a variety of different lineups and offers some positional flexibility. Tucker is confined to the corner. He is either playing small-ball center or traditional-lineup power forward on the defensive end. Rivers also staggers Embiid and Simmons enough that they can make up for whatever defensive presence Tucker provides at this juncture of his career.

Howard has sneakily played fine. The key is simplifying his role to lobs and putbacks, glass presence, and rim protection. It’s easy to pose this question when you see him turn the ball over after being forced to handle in a crowd with the shot clock winding down. But, I think he gives more than Tony Bradley does in terms of vertical athleticism, and I actually think Bradley is playable.

Blake Griffin is immobile and is not the shooter he once was (he really wasn’t ever a great shooter, either). For once, Brian isn’t out of his mind.

Direct Messages

This first one comes from Jay:

“Would you feel content for a Danny & Furk swap for Lonzo & JJ? Then, adding Bjelica for Mike Scott? I think those move gives us another ball-handler, more shooting, and a more competent bench that won’t cost us all of our most valuable assets. Lonzo is the perfect backup to Ben and I feel confident in starting Shake given our new offense and his individual progression. We don’t need an all-star guard for this team to be a true contender…

Starting Shake gives us a promising shot-creator without breaking up the entire camaraderie of the team. Sure, we take a slight dip in defense losing DG, but it’s balanced out given Shake’s ability & boost on offense. I may be with the small percentage here, but even with all the intangibles DG brings to this team, he is very much replaceable. A starting 5 of Shake, Seth, Ben, Tobias, Embiid with a bench of Lonzo, JJ, Mattise, Bjelica, and Howard can compete!”

Sure, I would. But, the trade for Ball and Redick is a video game trade more than a viable deal that David Griffin would accept. New Orleans isn’t winning this trade at the margins at all. They’re going to command draft capital, as well. So, you will have to give up real assets. Same thing goes for acquiring Bjelica. The Kings know that they have leverage because they’re trading with a contender. They can ask for additional draft capital to sweeten the deal.

As for the rest of what you said, I see where you’re coming from. But, Milton gives you some credible ball-handling and scoring off the bench. I can’t put him in the starting five and actively worsen the already-weak bench.

The next one comes from 40calvin:

“What is the minimum haul for Buddy Hield?”

My guess would be one of Milton and Maxey, Thybulle, and multiple second-round picks. The ‘picks’ component is difficult to evaluate, since Hield has vastly underperformed his contract. He is, however, a prolific three-point shooter and an instant boost to an offense. If the Kings are already getting a young guard and a defensive wizard, maybe only a couple of seconds will do the trick. But, I can see a path to them asking for firsts, too.

The last one comes from Jacob:

“I’m currently a sophomore and I decided I wanna do all I can to become a sixers reporter. I have a Sixers page on Instagram with 18.7k, and posting game recap articles, updates, fun graphics etc. I was wondering if you had any tips on how to become a reporter?”

Truth be told, I’m still figuring it out, myself. First, the sooner you can identify that this is the career path you want to take, the better. If you can develop some experience or skill prior to your college years, you can put yourself in a very good position to grow by joining your school’s newspaper and covering their athletic events.

Second, it’s a relationship-based business. You have to be outgoing and driven to make connections, even if it takes you outside of your comfort zones. The better you become at building and nurturing relationships, the more you will build your brand.

Third, never let the highs take you too far away from where you came from. Be humble and be respectful. Make sure that your intentions are always well-articulated. I cannot tell you how many opportunities have opened for me just by always trying to be a good person.

Lastly, you have to discipline yourself to want to get better every day. I do something–podcasting, statistical research, watching film, writing, or covering the beat–every day. I might take one of the weekend days to do nothing related to my work every once in a while, but I typically do something to better my craft every day of the week. That work ethic will get people to notice you. It’s how you separate yourself from the casual blogger.