O’Brien: Grading the Sixers’ trade deadline

NBA trade deadline graphic. - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

I originally wasn’t going to write about this, as I made my peace with this season in a column a few months ago. But I just need to wrap my head around what happened last Thursday’s trade deadline and try to write through my feelings a bit. If you’re reading this, you know what’s up, you don’t need me to explain this, so I’m just going to go trade-by-trade and give a little spiel about them. 

Trade #1: Furkan Korkmaz, Marcus Morris, and three second-round picks to the Pacers for Buddy Hield.

An extremely surprising trade. Buddy Hield is far and away the best player that was traded on Thursday. I typically don’t like players who can shoot threes and do nothing else, but the Sixers were in desperate need of a player like this who can let it fly every night. And Buddy Hield is legitimately one of the best shooters of all time, so good that he’s a notable exception to my aforementioned rule. This trade could meaningfully shift the title landscape if Joel Embiid comes back at some point during the season, which seems to be a coin toss. In fact, I think the Sixers’ relative inaction on Thursday indicates that they’re not sure. But this is a good move regardless of that. I like that Korkmaz finally got his trade request fulfilled, and I like that Hield is finally on the team after wanting to come here for years. A+

Trade #2: Danuel House, Cash Considerations, and a 2024 second-round pick to the Pistons for a 2028 second-round pick. 

One of the subplots of the past two seasons has been the league’s sudden obsession with second-round picks, a type of asset that had previously been disregarded. This is probably due to two things: the emergence of Nikola Jokic – who was drafted late in the second round in 2014 – and the fact that generally speaking, no contending teams own any of their first-round picks at this point, and these second-rounders are the only things anybody has to trade. This is the second year in a row that the Sixers have made a cost-cutting move at the deadline, a frustrating priority when other contending teams are spending big. However, this one is easier to stomach because it opened up space for Philadelphia to sign Kyle Lowry. I’ll talk about that in greater context later, so on its own, the House trade gets a B. 

Trade #3: Jaden Springer to the Celtics for a 2024 second-round pick. 

I’m more confused by this than upset about it. During a deadline-related press conference, Daryl Morey explained that the pick would be more valuable than Springer to a contending team. He specifically said that Philly could use the pick to “acquire a veteran at next year’s deadline.” Except that can’t happen because it’s a 2024 pick, meaning it has to be used this year. Now, it’s possible he misspoke and meant “a pick” generally, so I don’t want to do a “gotcha” thing. But if that’s the logic behind this specific trade involving these specific assets, then it’s stupid. Springer was drafted in 2021 at just 18 years old with the knowledge that he would be a long-term project, and now he gets traded while said project was still incomplete and going well. While he has been a non-factor on offense, he got traded after a stretch of games that saw him competently defend players like Luca Doncic and Steph Curry. And this speaks to my philosophy regarding one-way players. It’s not okay for, say, your lead point guard to not be a threat to score at all, or for your starting center to be a bad rim protector. But it is fine for the players deep on the bench to have specific utilities. Springer was the Sixers’ ninth man on a normal rotation, who played spot minutes when Nick Nurse needed some perimeter defense. That is not a player you need to trade and not a position you need to upgrade on. D. 

Speaking of perimeter defense…

Trade #4: Patrick Beverley to the Bucks for Cam Payne and a 2027 second-round pick. 

I respect my readers, so I’m going to be honest with you: this article is a shaky excuse to talk about this one specific trade. I’m personally upset by this because Beverley has been one of my favorite players for years. He’s the type of guy you hate until he’s on your team, a pesky heel that makes every game more entertaining. He was ten times better than I thought he’d be when he got here. Disregarding my own feelings, this is still a bad trade. I think if he went to any other team besides the Bucks, it would be easier to stomach. The story of the Bucks’ entire season was a lack of perimeter defense, a result of trading Jrue Holiday for Damian Lillard (I still think trading Khris Middleton would have been better for both sides, but I digress.) In fact, they’ve had a poor defense in general, spending most of the season ranked No. 20. Now, Beverley won’t singlehandedly fix this – he’s probably not even going to be a starter – but it is insane to help a conference rival in this manner. I’m bracing myself for a playoff series where Beverley contains Tyrese Maxey. The logic behind this trade was that we knew Kyle Lowry was coming, entirely usurping Bev’s role as a backup point guard. Okay, fine, but why not just keep him? You didn’t need to do this, as you already gave yourself the capability to do this by moving House. He’s a better player than Cam Payne, a more valuable asset than a second-round pick, and an excellent locker-room presence. And that’s the really egregious thing. I’m not a “vibes” guy, I don’t think you can win with the power of friendship like the Care Bears or something. But you absolutely need one or two guys on the roster whose main role is “dog.” You gave that guy up to – again – a team that was lacking that. So go Bucks, I guess. F.

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