Nine games into the season, and Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes have done exactly what we wanted them to do to start the year: They've played their way into potential trade-chip status.
Evan's had a couple rough shooting nights recently--though let's not forget that a rough shooting night for Evan used to mean shooting 3-15 for eight points, now he's just going 9-23 for 23--but he's still averaging 23 a game on 49% shooting with his usual rebounding and distributing. And Spence has been one of the stories of the early season, averaging 16 and 11 on 52% shooting (50% from three!!!), with three assists and two blocks. (Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers had an awesome post today detailing the ways Spence is helping this team that don't show up in the box score today, even.)
For a team that doesn't much want to be good this year, and is unloading all non-essential parts in order to streamline for future rebuilding, this is very good news. Both Spence and Evan's contracts expire at the end of this season, and neither are particularly likely to be re-signed at the rates they will likely command on the open market, so to optimize them as team assets, GM Sam Hinkie will probably look to trade one or both of them before the February deadline--and likely sooner rather than later, to hedge against any possible regression to career averages in their play and to prevent the team from racking up too many W's in the meantime.
So where might they end up going? Let's go over the possibilities for each.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves have let their affinity for Evan be known since the preseason, and now that they've gotten off to one of the league's best starts, it seems even likelier that they'll look to strengthen their weak-link of a bench for a potential playoff run at some point. The problem here is that they don't have a ton of stuff that the Sixers might want--they're not trading Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio or Nikola Pekovic, they don't have a draft pick in next year's first round and nobody else is all that tantalizing.
There's still some thought that maybe the Wolves' own underachieving #2 pick, Derrick Williams, is simply a bad fit in Minnesota, and might just need a change of scenery and system to realize his seemingly sky-high potential. But D-Will's production has slipped so badly this year--6.3 PPG & 2.1 RPG on just 41% shooting in 17 MPG--that it's hard to believe we couldn't get more for Evan at this point than just him. Still, if the Wolves wanted to package a deal around him and former fallen-from-grace young teammate Alexey Shved (shooting just 21% this year) and a long-term pick, it's possible Hinkie would be tempted. But more likely, Minny would need a three-teamer to make this happen.
Trade Machine proposal: Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved & 2016 1st-round pick for Evan Turner and Arnett Moultrie.
Would Hinkie do it?: Probably not.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder recently became the latest Western Conference team to show interest in ET, and Sam Hinkie has a history of working with OKC GM Sam Presti from the infamous James Harden trade from two summers ago. Unlike the Wolves, the Thunder actually have the cheap, young assets that the Sixers would covet--dynamo point guard Reggie Jackson, high-upside two-guard Jeremy Lamb and athletic, high-IQ big man Steven Adams, as well as their own draft pick (and possibly one owed them from the Mavericks) in next year's draft.
Of those players, the one the Sixers would probably want most is Lamb, who's only shown glimpses of greatness thusfar, but who seems to have all the tools to be an elite SG a couple years down the line. However, the Thunder would probably be more likely to want to part with Jackson, who did an impressive job of filling in for injured point Russell Westbrook in last year's postseason, but is now in a state of Eric Bledsoe-like redundancy with Westbrook's return.
Would the Sixers want Jackson that much with their PG slot already occupied with MCW and triple-double machine Tony Wroten? It's possible, since Jackson still seems a good fit for Brett Brown's run-and-gun system and the Sixers aren't nearly complete enough a roster yet to worry about fit, but just as likely is that they'd involve a third team with more of a potential role open for Mr. Late April to fit into.
Trade Machine Proposal: Reggie Jackson, Thabo Sefolosha, Hasheem Thabeet and the Mavs' first-round pick for Evan Turner.
Trade Machine Proposal #2: Ed Davis and Andre Roberson to Sixers, Evan Turner and Nick Calathes to OKC, Reggie Jackson, Thabo Sefolosha and Arnett Moultrie (via Wayne Ellington trade exception) to Memphis.
Would Hinkie do Either?: He might do the first--everyone loves picks, and Reggie Jackson is an asset with real value--though I really think he'd push for Lamb instead. He'd do the second if he loves fallen Grizzlies forward Ed Davis as much as I do, but it's unclear if anyone in the NBA actually does.
3. Chicago Bulls. Could we get Evan Turner back to his hometown? The Bulls could probably use him--they don't have anyone who can really create their own shot on the team aside from Derrick Rose, who could really use a little less pressure release in the half-court. He's not a great fit for the Bulls' defense-oriented identity, perhaps, but Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls have had pretty good success turning offense-first into good system defenders in the past, so it's possible they think they could do it with Evan too.
But do the Bulls have much we would want? Well, they have rookie wing Tony Snell, who I've long been intrigued by and whose shooting stroke, athleticism and defensive upside would seem to make him a logical piece for the team Hinkie and Brown are building. They also have two much-coveted trade chips in a Bobcats-owed first-round pick that becomes totally unprotected in 2016, and the rights to overseas forward Nikola Mirotic, commonly considered the best player not currently in the NBA. (It's probable the Bulls are saving those for a home-run deal for an upgrade at their power forward position, though.)
Trade Machine Proposal: Kirk Hinrich, Tony Snell and their own 2014 pick for Evan Turner
Would Hinkie Do It?: Doubtful--Snell isn't a particularly safe bet just yet, and the Bulls' pick next draft doesn't figure to be very good. He might demand one of the Bulls' more prized assets, potentially as part of a much larger deal that also gives the Bulls another piece or two. If the Bulls continue to struggle in the early season and badly need some kind of roster shake-up, it could happen.
4. Washington Wizards. The Wiz are absolutely desperate to make the playoffs this season, and they could use some scoring punch behind John Wall and Bradley Beal off their bench--Eric Maynor is about all they have, which has resulted in Beal playing nearly 40 minutes a game so far this season. Plus, when was the last time a team has had claim to the top two picks from a draft class at the same time--and within a half-decade of the draft, no less?
It would be interesting to see Hinknie would want kick the tires on Jan Vesely, the athletic Czech forward and one-top Wiz lottery pick who has excelled in pre-season and international play but just can't seem to find any kind of role for the Wiz in the regular season. There's also young shooting guard Glen Rice Jr., who looked awesome in pre-season (and who the Sixers actually drafted last June, before trading down a couple times) and would make a sweet throw-in in any such deal.
And who knows? If the Wiz were really flailing, they might even consider trading injured small forward Otto Porter, their #3 pick in the last draft, who hasn't show much in limited preseason minutes, but who would represent an excellent buy-low opportunity for the Sixers if Washington just didn't have the patience for him. Probably not, but a situation worth monitoring.
Trade Machine proposal: Evan Turner for Jan Vesely, Glen Rice Jr., Chris Singleton and a first-round pick in 2016.
Would Hinkie do it?: Might depend on the protections strapped to the 2016 pick, and he might try to hold out for Porter instead of Vesely. Bet he'd at least listen, though.
1. New York Knicks. The Knicks have long been desperate for size up front--a problem compounded by the recent injury to Tyson Chandler--and have been known to make poor long-term decisions in the pursuit of filling such needs. Nobody will be mistaking Hawes for Chandler anytime soon, but he is averaging two blocks a game so far this year, and the Knicks might be willing to talk themselves into him being something close to a rim protector, or at least a good rebounder. (He'd be an upgrade over Andrea Bargnani, at least.)
The problem, of course, is that the Knicks have virtually nothing to offer the Sixers in return, with no available first or second-round picks for trade until 2018, and very few talented young guys left on their roster. Their one remaining trade chip is 23-year-old Iman Shumpert, whose quick feet, good defensive instincts and improved long-range stroke would certainly make him appealing to Brett Brown. The Knicks have long been understandably reluctant to trade Shump, but he's already been mentioned in trade talks with the Nuggets for their own big man Kenneth Faried, so clearly it's not totally out of the question.
The Sixers could maybe make this work after Dec. 15th, when all the low-salary free agents the Knicks signed in the off-season can be included as cap filler. New York would have to be pretty friggin' desperate to get this done, but again, you can't ever count out James Dolan in such matters.
Trade Machine proposal: Spencer Hawes and a second-round pick for Iman Shumpert, Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway Jr., Cole Aldrich, Chris Smith & Toure Murray.
Would Hinkie do it?: Certainly, for the unintentional comedy if nothing else. The question is if even the Knicks could really be that historically ridiculous and short-sighted. Never say never, kids.
2. Portland Trailblazers. Spence would certainly love to head back to the Northwest, and the Blazers are one of the few Western Conference playoff contenders without much to speak of in the middle--Robin Lopez is their current starting center, but the lesser of the Lopez twins is only averaging about nine points and seven rebounds per game, so you can bet they'd welcome an upgrade of production in the PDX. Hawes would look awesome in a Blazers uni, and would undoubtedly be a fan favorite at the Moda Center.
The Blazers could put together a pretty nice package for him, too. They have a couple trump cards in rookie combo guard C.J. McCollum--taken one spot over MCW in last year's draft--and power forward Thomas Robinson, a top-five pick two summers ago already on his third team due to his inability to get a role or regular minutes on any of his teams so far. Robinson has looked good so far as a Blazer, but they've had trouble finding minutes for him behind All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, so if they decide they're sticking with LaMarcus for the future, they might deal him for the center upgrade.
Trade Machine proposal: Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Allen Crabbe for Spencer Hawes
Would Hinkie do it?: I think and certainly hope so. Robinson could be absolutely awesome on the Sixers, especially if he continues to expand his range to eventually make him playable next to Nerlens Noel. ALL OF THE REBOUNDS.
3. Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks don't have a lot to speak of in terms of frontcourt depth behind Al Horford and Paul Millsap--both of whom are really more comfortable as power forwards anyway. If the Hawks decided to make a run at being more than a fifth or sixth seed for the millionth straight years, Hawes would certainly be an asset off the bench, or even sometimes in a three-big lineup with Millsap and Horford.
The Hawks have an absolute embarrassment of riches to offer the Sixers in return, too. The team's 2013 first-rounders, point guard Dennis Schroeder and center Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira, both looked amazing in Summer League, but Schroeder has had a slow start to his season backing up Jeff Teague for the pro squad, and Nogueira is playing in Spain for at least another year or two. Both would be good long-term plays for the Sixers, and the Hawks have a couple draft picks they could throw in--including the right to swap with Brooklyn from the Joe Johnson deal--to further sweeten the deal for Philly.
Trade Machine Proposal: Gustavo Ayon, Elton Brand (Elton!!!), the rights to Bebe Nogueira and the better of the Nets' and Hawks' first-round picks for Spencer Hawes.
Would Hinkie do it?: Possibly, though I'm not sure which he'd prefer between Nogueira and Schroeder. Bet he covets at least one of 'em tho.
4. Miami Heat. Hey, everybody needs size, and all the Heat have up front at the moment are Udonis Haslem, Chris "Birdman" Andersen and the promise of Greg Oden at some point this season. If the latter doesn't end up working out--and despite the hopes of NBA fans worldwide, the odds are against him--the Heat really may need to shore up their front lines to be able to make a run at a threepeat. Spence isn't traditionally the kind of athletic finisher LeBron likes playing with in the middle, but he's been rebounding well this year, he can hit from range, and he can (usually) find the open man, all of which will certainly make him desirous to MIA.
But like many contending teams, the list of young assets the Heat have to offer the Sixers are few. Norris Cole is a nice young backup point guard, but not enough to be the centerpiece of any blockbuster deal, and the Heat can't offer any of their first-round picks for another couple years, since they're not quite done paying off Cleveland for LeBron James yet. Ironically, the best asset the Heat could send the Sixers is to give back the first-round pick Philly sent to MIA for Arnett Moultire a few drafts ago, though even that is only of consequence if the Sixers plan on making the playoffs the next few years, otherwise it dissolves in 2016.
Trade Machine proposal: N/A
Would Hinkie do it?: Screw the Heat anyway.