Dear Sixers: Pick Up The Phone, Call Mitch Kupchak, Make This Offer

Dear Sixers: Pick Up The Phone, Call Mitch Kupchak, Make This Offer

Sixers CEO Adam Aron has previously offered me -- well, all of us -- the opportunity to play fantasy general manager for his basketball team. Today, I'm accepting his invitation.

Pau Gasol.

Andre Iguodala.

The Sixers have every reason to call. And the Lakers have every reason to listen.

Background
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is openly shopping Gasol in an effort to reshape his roster following the second round beating delivered by the Thunder. You may also remember that Gasol was nearly traded to the Rockets immediately before last season, and would now be in Houston if not for the controversial rejection of a three-way deal that would have sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles -- the other Los Angeles.

Of course, moving the remaining two years of Gasol's contract, worth $38 million, is also a motivation for a Laker front office with well-documented tax concerns. That said, unless they're going to work out a multi-team deal with some wonderful trade exceptions and a whole lot of moving parts, they're going to have to take a fair portion of his salary back, per league rules.

Andre Iguodala fits the Lakers. His name has been brought up in discussions describing potential deals for Gasol, but it's never seemed like anything more than a "this guy's name is bantered around quite a bit, his salary matches close enough to work, and he fills a legitimate need for L.A." kind of suggestion. Then again, why does there need to be anything more?

I'll repeat: His salary matches close enough to work, and he fills a legitimate need for L.A. Then there's what Gasol brings to the Sixers. Let's take this apart in sections.

The Terms
A straight up Iggy-Pau swap wouldn't have worked previously. Last year, the deal would have pushed the Sixers over the Luxury Tax and the salaries would have fallen $500,000 outside the 125 percent + $100,000 threshold that needs to be satisfied once a team heads beyond the cap . If the deal was going to happen, the Sixers would have had to send something extra, like the $1.6 million they were paying Nik Vucevic during his rookie year. This decision, both financially and on the floor, made sense. More on it in just a second.

But once these contracts rollover to their 2012-13 values, they get close enough to work on their own. Gasol receives an only $285,000 raise while Iggy's contract escalates about $1.2 million. It's a gap larger than $500k, which means it works.

That said, if Vucevic isn't included in the deal, the Sixers have a logjam under the basket and the Lakers get a lot shorter. His contract clears a bit of extra salary for the Sixers, prevents the logjam, and provides the Lakers with height in return and a team option to terminate after just one year. His addition is obviously a negotiating point and there are other options. (Note: Just as a matter of full disclosure, and as reader Stu points out, Gasol does have a 15% trade kicker if he were to be swapped, bumping his salary to around $22 million per as a Sixer. The kicker does not impact the salaries matched in the deal, however).

Why It Makes Sense for Los Angeles
Starting with the Lakers, they desperately need a primary defender to take shift responsibilities away from an aging Kobe Bryant. If Los Angeles is going to maximize what's left of Kobe's career, they're going to need someone to lessen his burden on his own side of the timeline. Iguodala is an elite defender, one of the five best at guarding the perimeter in the league and is in serious consideration for an Olympic bid because of it. For 82 nights a year, plus the playoffs, he can cover the other team's best player, assuming his knees allow him to, though potential injury is part of literally any scenario. Worst case, he and Bean split it even at 41.

Moreover, the Thunder have clearly emerged as the new power in the Western Conference. The Lakers will, more likely than not, have to go through OKC if they're getting back to the Finals in pursuit of Kobe's sixth ring and their 17th NBA title. Bryant isn't going to get a pass on playing D for the rest of his career, nor, with the way he's wired, would he want one; so when it comes time to match up with Durant, Westbrook and Harden on D, they will be better prepared than they are now.

Speaking of what they have now, they get an immediate upgrade at the small forward spot by replacing Ron Artest. Quick stats from last season:

    Artest: 26.9 MPG, 3.4 Reb, 2.2 Ast, 7.7 Pts
    Iguodala: 35.6 MPG, 6.1 Reb, 5.5 Ast, 12.4 Pts

Of course, if this hypothetical deal were to go through, the Lakers would need to come up with a solution for the remaining two years and $15 million on Artest's contract. How they handle that is their business.

As for the benefits of Vucevic, in return for the departing Gasol, the Lakers get back a 7-foot big, who can back up center Andrew Bynum, a guy with a litany of injury issues, and some usable height at the 4, should they opt to use him in that capacity. Of course, he was also a first round pick in 2011, so we'll finish with the word "upside."

Oh, and they save $4 million over the next two seasons assuming Iggy plays both years. If he goes early termination in the summer of 2013 (unlikely, but you never know), they save a boatload. Actually, go read that link about their tax situation. It's horrifying.

Why It Makes Sense for Philly
Gasol immediately becomes one of the five best bigs in the Eastern Conference and makes the Sixers very long and very versatile. A backcourt of Holiday and Turner (plus additions) is paired with any combination of Young, Turner and Harkless at the 3 and Young, Gasol, Moultrie, Allen and possibly Vucevic between the 4 and 5 (I'm leaving Elton Brand out of his equation for an obvious reason, which we'll get to). Moreover, Gasol fits this team both in transition and in the half-court. Not only can he run the floor, but he creates passing and scoring options out of the post.

The Sixers will need to fill out the rest, particularly in the backcourt, with or without Gasol, but this trade would suddenly make Elton Brand and his contract even more interesting. The Sixers could keep Brand if they wish, so long as their additions don't force them to the tax, and have great depth under the basket, or trade him or amnesty him.

The trade or amnesty options are the fun parts. Truth be told, I'm not trading for Pau Gasol just to stop there.

Look at the teams you consider title contenders around the NBA. Now look at your Sixers. I love this team and loved watching them give the Celtics everything they had, but they're not a serious threat with this roster and we all know it. To win a championship, they need a serious paradigm shift and Gasol gives them that shift. For two seasons, Pau Gasol gives the Sixers a window to change their immediate future, because Gasol makes Philadelphia, almost overnight, a destination.

There are two roads through the Eastern Conference, one is through Miami and the other through Chicago. On the next tier down, Boston is on the decline, Indiana the incline, New York the always possible incline and Atlanta constantly middling. The Sixers, even if they prove to hang with the Celtics, Pacers, Knicks and Hawks, are not, at current, in the same league (almost literally with the way the NBA is structured between top and bottom) with the Heat and Bulls.

A trade for Gasol and the options presented by Brand's contract help to change that. By himself, absent any other moves, Gasol makes the Sixers more competitive in the East. But with someone else, a real someone else,
a real someone else now affordable given the $18 million they would have to spend or send, and a real someone else who might now consider Philadelphia an actual option to compete with Miami and Chicago, the Sixers won't be picking in the very middle of the first round any more, where they've been stuck for years, adding complementary pieces that fractionally improve a roster at an exponential disadvantage. And the downside? Assuming they aren't able to attract that extra someone, Gasol is off the books in another two years and the Sixers have another $$22 million to play with in 2014.

This franchise needs to make a bold move to escape mediocrity.

Pick up the phone. Call Mitch Kupchak. If he says no, you offered. If he says yes, then at worst, at absolute worst, the Sixers become relevant again in the National Basketball Association.

And, if he makes a counter-offer, well, now at least we're talking.

I'm sold.

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks, 1-0, in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).