It wasn’t the blockbuster move many Philadelphia 76ers fans were hoping for, but Daryl Morey did make a trade at the deadline. They traded Tony Bradley, Terrance Ferguson and two second round picks for George Hill and Ignas Brazdeikis in a three team deal. Of course, the real prize was supposed to be Kyle Lowry, but the Toronto Raptors’ asking price was simply too high. They reportedly asked for Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle and two first round picks.
Would Lowry Be Worth It?
One important caveat to consider is that in addition to the four assets already named, Danny Green would also most likely have needed to be involved to make salaries match. To be clear, Lowry is a great player. He’s polished offensively, capable of scoring at all three levels and most importantly can run an offense at an elite level. He can create for himself and others. Since he’s been in Toronto he has averaged around 17 points and seven assists per game on above-average efficiency. Nothing has changed this year, in fact he’s been better from deep than he’s ever been. He would be a perfect fit on the Sixers, giving them that secondary playmaker they desperately need while also chipping in steady scoring (including long-range shooting) and solid defense.
How Much is Too Much?
That all sounds great, but the price was too high. On one hand, Tyrese Maxey is unlikely to see playoff minutes, and first round picks are somewhat negligible for contending teams. Maxey has shown a lot of promise though, and late first round picks still have a chance to be solid players. Maxey himself was pick 21. On the other hand, Green and Thybulle are incredibly valuable to the current team.
Danny Green is the Quintessential 3-and-D Plater
Danny Green has been playing his best basketball of the season after the All-Star break. He’s shooting 44% from deep on 7.1 attempts per game, leading the 76ers’ efforts from three. He’s also playing great defense, including a ridiculous five steal, three block game against the New York Knicks. More than that, Green has been an excellent leader. In that same game against the Knicks, Doc Rivers said that Green was the one that kept the 76ers mentally in the game. Not only that, he led by example, scoring all four of his buckets in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Thybulle on D Could Be the Key
Matisse Thybulle is also playing great right now. After a dismal start to the season shooting the ball, he’s hit 48% of his threes since the break. Sure, it’s only on 2.6 attempts per game, but it’s better than nothing, and nothing was basically what you got at the beginning of the year. Thybulle is also continuing his top level defense, holding scorers like Zach Lavine and Bradley Beal under 20, while also averaging two steals and 1.3 blocks. That defense will be critical to their projected battle against the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs. Lowry isn’t a slouch defensively, but he can’t play D like Thybulle (few wings in the NBA can) and he certainly can’t replace Green (another plus defender) and Thybulle combined on the defensive end.
Despite all of that, Lowry might be worth Thybulle and Green alone. That’s how good Lowry is. The entire package though, with Maxey and the first round picks, is a different story. Lowry is good, but he’s also 35 (on Thursday) and although his game is aging gracefully, time is the only undefeated opponent. He’s also on an expiring contract, with no guarantee the 76ers can or will want to re-sign him. Giving up two promising young players and another two picks (and Green) for what is essentially a rental isn’t great business.
The Trade That Did Happen
That was a lot of writing for the trade that didn’t happen; let’s talk about the one that did. The Sixers gave up Terrance Ferguson and Tony Bradley for George Hill. Ferguson didn’t matter, he only saw any time during blowouts. Tony Bradley is a bigger loss. His last game in a 76ers uniform was his best one, where he scored 18 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and had four stocks. He was perfect from the field as well in a very tight game. He’s had a few games where he really stepped up as the starter in Joel Embiid’s absence. At the same time, he is surplus to requirements. He didn’t play when Embiid was healthy because Dwight Howard is the primary backup. Howard has also been playing great most games, and often closed games with the starters even with Bradley around.
What Does George Hill Offer?
No disrespect to Ignas Brazdeikis, but it’s unlikely he factors into the 76ers’ game plan much. The real prize of the trade is George Hill. He hasn’t played much this year as the Oklahoma City Thunder had no reason to play the vet, but in many ways Hill is a lesser Lowry. Hill can run the point, he can shoot the three (led the league last year with 46%, currently shooting 38.6%) and he plays good defense. He can’t create his shot like Lowry can, but he can play-make for others, which the 76er’s bench unit lacks. He will most likely subsume all of Maxey’s minute and some, slotting right into the bench unit. His shooting and passing fit much better next to Shake Milton versus Maxey.
The team, when fully healthy, got better. Bradley wasn’t seeing minutes when Joel Embiid and Howard are healthy, and Hill improves the bench. With Hill the 76ers now have six above-average to elite shooters from deep. Was it the most impactful move they could have made? Probably not. Then again, not panic-buying and over-paying is smart. Morey has made the judgment that the core stars of this team, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid are enough to win the championship. It’s a fair assessment to make. The 76ers without their MVP candidate are 9-1 in March and just had a six game win-streak. The best answer won’t become clear for years to come, but for now In Morey We Trust.
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