With the Philadelphia 76ers on the brink of playoff elimination, it would not be a surprise to see them make a change this offseason. Will that involve a call to the San Antonio Spurs?
It’s still no guarantee that the San Antonio Spurs listen on Kawhi Leonard offers this offseason, amidst the behind-the-scenes issues between the two sides over a right quadriceps injury. Leonard and head coach Gregg Popovich have yet to sit down for the “heart-to-heart” conversation that LaMarcus Aldridge had in 2017, so it’s still possible to mend fences.
If the Spurs do put Leonard on the trade block, the calls could be fruitful, with teams from both conferences showing their interest for at least one year of this player (he can opt out of a five-year contract after the 2018-19 season).
Amongst the potential suitors, the Philadelphia 76ers stand out. Not only may they look for outside upgrades — if the Boston Celtics sweep them on Monday — the young assets are in place to trade for a superstar of Leonard’s caliber, along with the bigger market his camp desires.
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This starts with Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2017 NBA Draft. Philadelphia traded up to select him, swapping spots with the Celtics, who took Jayson Tatum, a possible star in the making.
Head coach Brett Brown — a Popovich disciple — has yet to play Fultz in Round 2. The Washington product, due to a shoulder injury, also appeared in just 14 games in his rookie season. Will year-long success without him make the Sixers deem Fultz expendable?
Dario Saric slides in as a secondary piece to a deal. Though not the most athletic player, this two-year pro stands at 6’10” and plays as not only a stretch four but someone who can use his size to find opportunities closer to the rim. He improved across the board from his rookie season in points per game, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage.
Despite the regular season success, the 76ers will own a lottery pick from the Los Angeles Lakers, stemming from the three-team trade that saw the Phoenix Suns give Philadelphia the Lakers’ protected first-round selection. After missing out on it in consecutive drafts, the riches will come to fruition in June.
As of May 5, the pick is positioned at No. 10. According to NBADraft.net, it’s in the range of Alabama’s Collin Sexton, Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and Villanova’s Mikal Bridges.
If not No. 10, there’s still No. 26 in the same draft, along with future first-round picks.
Philadelphia owns interesting pieces to send, and that’s without mentioning Jerryd Bayless’ expiring contract that’s likely included as a necessity to match money. The assets are there, so will these teams connect?