Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers' Off-Season: #6. What Players Are Worth Trying to Trade For?

Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers' Off-Season: #6. What Players Are Worth Trying to Trade For?

When I talked a couple columns ago about how Thaddeus Young should probably considered tradeable by Sixers management, and potentially included in prospective off-season deals, I didn't mean that he should be traded for just anybody. Indeed, the Sixers are in a place right now where they're not in any particular rush to either improve the roster or break it up entirely, so they should only come to the table for potential difference-making trades if the return is something really worth going after.

So who are some of those players, who the Sixers should or would go after this season--ones they have at least a small chance of actually getting? Well, time will tell, but I have some thoughts.

Eric Gordon (SG, New Orleans Hornets):

Pro: Gordon looked like he was on the righteous path to being the league's third-best shooting guard and a cornerstone of one of the league's most exciting young teams in 2011, his last year with the Clippers and first year alongside Blake Griffin. He averaged 22 points a game on respectable 45% shooting (36% from deep), while getting to the line six times and chipping in four dimes a game as well. Then the blockbuster Chris Paul trade sent Gordon to New Orleans, injuries robbed him of most of his last two seasons, and his stock is currently at an all-time low. If healthy, Gordon would potentially give the Sixers the best go-to perimeter scorer they've had since Iverson left, and a partner for Jrue Holiday that would give the Sixers the league's best young backcourt.

Con: "If healthy." Gordon has played just 51 games in the last two seasons, and when he played last year, his shooting stroke (40% FG, 32% 3PT) was far diminished from where he was in '11. You'd hope that Gordon's injury woes are finally behind him, but the Sixers know all too well about how knee issues can end up being recurring, and to invest so much in Gordon after the Bynum disaster--especially since Gordon still has three years and about $45 million left on his deal--would be pretty damn risky.

Can We Get Him?: I think so, probably with some deal based around Thad (who is kind of a rich man's version of their current small forward, Al-Farouq Aminu) and either Evan Turner or Jason Richardson, depending if the Hornets prefer upside and youth or stability and experience. That would be a pretty decent haul for a player everyone in the league knows the Hornets are looking to unload, the team having expressed willingness to deal Gordon just a season after inking him to a four-year, $58 million max contract, due to frustration with his missed playing time and poor communication with coach Monty Williams (and Gordon's own dissatisfactions with the franchise).

Is He Worth It?: I'd say yes. Gordon was an absolutely electric talent for those '11 Clippers, and seemed to really just be scratching the surface of his potential. He's lost a lot of time recently and picked up a good deal of rust in the process, but he's still only 24, and even at his worst, he still attacked the basket and got to the line enough to be a decently effective offensive player. You don't get players of Gordon's upside without a couple of qualifications, and if they can pick up a core-worthy big man elsewhere, they'd be in pretty good shape for a long time with Holiday and Gordon. I'd roll the dice on it.

Marcin Gortat (C, Phoenix Suns):

Pro: Two years ago, Marcin Gortat had a near-All-Star-caliber campaign for the Suns, averaging 15 points and ten rebounds a game on sparkling 56% shooting for a Phoenix team that surprised everyone by nearly sneaking into the playoffs. Those numbers all sagged dramatically last year for a number of reasons--the biggest one likely being that he was no longer playing with Steve Nash, one of the greatest pick-and-roll point guards of all-time, who had instant chemistry with Gortat that his successor, Goran Dragic, never quite developed with the Polish Hammer.

The Sixers have a pretty good point guard of their own, obviously, and it's easy to envision Gortat reclaiming something close to his '11-'12 form getting open jumpers and easy layups from the Damaja. Not to mention that at just $7.7 million for next year, Gortat wouldn't cap out the Sixers, and probably wouldn't cost them a ton to get him.

Con: Though Gortat has only been a starter for a couple seasons, he's been in the league for a while already, and will be 30 years old by the start of next season--not exactly the age of a player you look to rebuild around. Also, his contract is up at the end of next season, and if the Sixers want to retain Gortat's services long term, they might have to give him a significant raise for the privilege--one which Philly might not want to commit to if they don't want to be potentially paying Gortat $13 million a year for his age 34 season (which they probably don't). Also, despite his offensive prowess, Gortat has never been considered an elite defender--though he would still be an upgrade over Spencer Hawes, naturally.

Can We Get Him?: Probably. The West-worst Suns are likely in full rebuilding mode, which means Gortat likely won't be in their long-term plans, so they'll probably give him up for some decent combination of young players or draft picks. The Sixers might even be able to get him for a deal based around some "youth and upside" combination of Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Arnett Moultrie, without having to give up Thad in the process.

Is He Worth It?: Depends on the deal, but I'd be at least a little intrigued. Going into next year with Jrue, Thad and Gortat might make the Sixers a playoff team in the East. If the Sixers can get a year of Gortat for Hawes and Turner--neither of which they might have beyond this season anyway--then re-evaluate his worth the next off-season, that could be pretty cool for them. Not a home run deal, but could be a solid single/double.

Derrick Favors / Enes Kanter (PF/C, Utah Jazz):

Pro: The two young big men for the Jazz--both taken with the #3 overall pick, in back-to-back drafts--have both shown flashes of huge potential in bench minutes for the Jazz over the last few seasons. Both particularly came on near the end of the season, with Favors averaging a near double-double (about 10/9) on over 50% shooting with over two blocks a game for the month of April, and Kanter averaging over ten a game with six rebounds on almost 59% shooting over 14 games in March, before going down for the season with a shoulder injury. Favors will be 22 next season and Kanter 21, meaning both are still young, under rookie deals and with plenty of room still to grow into a franchise-type big man.

Con: Though we've seen what they can do with bench minutes, we've yet to see either producing as starters, and Kanter in particular is still very raw, without the polished offensive game to make either player really a go-to post option just yet. Also, though Favors is under team control for another season, he enters restricted free agency next summer, and thus will become rather expensive rather soon.

Can We Get Them? If the Jazz go full Youth Movement in the off-season, letting current starting big men Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson walk in free agency, it's entirely possible that both will be deemed off-limits in off-season dealing. But they haven't done that yet, retaining Millsap and Jefferson past the trade deadline when many thought one or both would be dealt, so it's hardly inconceivable that one or both will be resigned by the Jazz, thus making the younger big men redundant once more. In that case, one of the players might be available in exchange for wing help--though Evan Turner alone probably won't get either.

Are They Worth It? Probably, though neither is close to a sure thing and both would come with a hefty price tag. For a team badly missing a big man anchor, though, it's likely worth the risk to bet on their upside.

Omer Asik (C, Houston Rockets):

Pro: Asik has quickly blossomed into one of the league's best centers, finishing third in the league in rebounding in his first season as a starter, and also showing an improved touch around the basket, scoring ten points a game on 54% shooting and proving a capable catcher-and-finisher. His defensive reputation is impeccable, as Rockets opponents had an offensive rating six points lower with him off the court than on, and his contract is reasonable, paying him an average of about ten million a year for the next two years.

Con: None really, except that...

Can We Get Him? ...he probably won't be available. As currently constituted, the Rockets could not withstand the loss of Asik without receiving at least an average stating big man in return, which the Sixers do not really have to offer. However, there's a contingency here--with cap space and an attractive young roster at their disposal, the Rockets are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of marquee free agents this off-season, including big men like the Lakers' Dwight Howard and (gulp) the Sixers' Andrew Bynum. Should the Rockets land one of those, Asik would become an overpaid backup center, and the Rockets might be much more willing to discuss dealing their defensive anchor.

Meanwhile, Houston currently has a void at power forward as they wait for young prospect Thomas Robinson to grow into the role, meaning they might be interested in a package including Thaddeus Young, who would fit the team's run-and-gun offense fairly beautifully. The Rockets would probably rather have Thad playing starters' minutes at the four than Asik playing 15 a game at center, so a deal would then be fairly plausible.

Is It Worth It? If it plays out as previously described, then I would think so. The team's offense would take a step back, for sure, but Asik is still improving and has shown some capability in the pick-and-roll, so it might not be a total loss, and his impact on the defensive end for the Sixers would be enormous. It probably won't work out this way, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Jeff Green (SF, Boston Celtics):

Pro: If you catch him on a good night, Green's potential seems virtually limitless. A long, oversized small forward with athleticism to spare and an improving outside jumper, Green can be deadly both inside and out, and in certain matchups, he can be a lockdown wing defender as well. Flashes of his ceiling could be seen in two Celtics games against the Heat this year, the first of which featured Green shutting down LeBron James in the fourth quarter and overtime, helping propel Boston to the win, and the second of which featured Green exploding for a career-high 43 points on 14-21 shooting, nearly snapping Miami's 22-game win streak single-handedly.

Jeff Green also enters the off-season coming off his best post-season series in three tries, having led the Celtics in scoring for he playoffs with his 20.3 points per game, shooting 44% and 45% from deep, also getting to the line an impressive 7.5 times a contest.

Con: Despite the brilliant moments, Green has struggled to perform consistently over the course of his NBA career, and last year only averaged 13.2 points a game for a near-.500 team--although he did so while posting the best shooting numbers of his career. He's also been a largely inefficient scorer for his career, only this year breaking a PER of 15.0 (roughly league average), since he doesn't have a great assist to turnover ratio (about 1:1 last year) and hasn't ever gotten to the line four times a game for a whole season.

Can We Get Him? It's not terribly likely, since the Celtics will likely begin at least a partial rebuild after enduring their worst season of the Kevin Garnett era, with KG possibly retiring and Paul Pierce--the C's franchise player who has blocked Green for much of his time in Boston--possibly being put on the trading block this year. But if the team chooses to move forward with Pierce, and seeks instead to improve their shallow big man situation in a possibly post-Garnett world, Green and his $10-mil-per-year contract could be available. Possible, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Is He Worth It? I definitely believe so. Green has long been a polarizing player in the NBA, but I think that once the Celtics got hit with injuries and he was forced into a bigger role, this was a real breakout season for him, one that showed that when given room to do what he can do, he can be an absolutely terrifying matchup in this league. Flaws and all, I'd trade anyone on the team besides Jrue for him.

Amar'e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer (PF/C, Knicks/Lakers/Bulls):

Pro: All three of these guys--perennial All-Stars at the peaks of their careers--would represent the best post scoring option the Sixers have had since...Charles Barkley, maybe? Clarence Weatherspoon, at least. These are guys who you can dump the ball in to, say "get me a basket," and about half the time, they'll either get you one or draw a foul doing so--something you certainly can't say about anyone on the Sixers roster (not counting the Funny-Looking Kid with the Big Hair) as currently constructed.

Con: All three of these guys also have huge contracts--Boozer makes $15 mil next year, Pau makes $19 and Amar'e makes a whopping $21--and none of them are particularly young, all having spent over a decade in the league, with Amar'e the youngest at 30 (turning 31 before season's start). All are also relative defensive liabilities, with Amar'e particularly being singled out by many as one of the league's worst overall defenders.

Could We Get Them? All can probably be had at the right price, with Pau seen as redundant alongside Dwight Howard for the Lakers, Amar'e not fitting well with Carmelo Anthony and the three-point-shooting barrage in New York, and Boozer getting too expensive for the luxury-tax-fearing Bulls. Thad would probably be a necessary inclusion to get Pau or Boozer, but any appropriate combination of young players and expirings could probably land the Sixers Amar'e.

Are They Worth It? Probably not. I'll admit to being intrigued by Pau Gasol, since he's still a top 15 offensive talent in the league when he's healthy and in his element, but the age and contracts of all three probably make them non-starters for a quasi-rebuilding team like the Sixers. The one thing you could say for Gasol is that at least he's an expiring contract, so dealing for him could essentially be an instant rebuild for Philly if they decide not to re-sign him. In thee end, though, it's probably just not worth it.

In the end, I'd really like to see the team going after Eric Gordon, while keeping an eye on the Celtics, Rockets and Jazz situations to see if personnel moves make the previously mentioned players partially expendable. None of these deals might end up being particularly plausible, but again, the Sixers have no urgency to make a deal for the sake of making a deal, so they can afford to put out feelers on these and other trades, and not have to make any kind of panic moves if none of them pan out. It's a good thing.

All photos by USA Today Sports

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Best of MLB: Yankees stay hot with win over sloppy Giants

Best of MLB: Yankees stay hot with win over sloppy Giants

NEW YORK -- Giants Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford made three errors for the first time in his career, with his wild throw in the eighth inning giving the New York Yankees a 3-2 win Friday night that sent San Francisco to its season-worst sixth straight loss.

The Giants held the best record in the majors at the All-Star break, but haven't won since. They also lost catcher Buster Posey, who fouled a ball off his right foot and left with a bruise. X-rays were negative and he was listed as day to day.

Masahiro Tanaka shut out San Francisco for six innings, giving up four singles. Giants ace Madison Bumgarner went seven innings, allowing two runs.

The Giants nicked Dellin Betances in the seventh, pulling within 2-1 on a walk, a double by Denard Span and a wild pitch. That ended a streak of 31 scoreless innings by Yankees relievers.

A double by Giants pinch-hitter Mac Williamson off Andrew Miller (6-1) tied it in the eighth.

But the Yankees bounced back for the fifth win in six games, and didn't need to hit the ball hard to do it (see full recap).

Kemp homers twice in Padres' victory
WASHINGTON -- Matt Kemp homered twice and drove in four runs, rookie Luis Perdomo pitched seven solid innings and the San Diego Padres beat the Washington Nationals 5-3 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak.

Kemp hit a solo shot in the first inning and gave San Diego the lead for good with a three-run homer in the fifth. He has six homers in his last six games and the Padres have homered in 20 straight, the longest streak in the National League this season.

Perdomo (4-4) gave up two first-inning runs, then limited the National to two hits over the final six innings of his longest outing. Brandon Maurer pitched 1 1/3 innings for his fourth save.

Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy homered for Washington. The Nationals have lost four of five.

Tanner Roark (9-6) turned in his shortest outing since June 5, lasting just five innings. He allowed five runs on four hits and surrendered two homers in a game for the first time this season (see full recap).

Fowler sparks Cubs' win over Brewers in return
MILWAUKEE -- Dexter Fowler led off the first with a homer and drove in three runs in his first game back from the disabled list, powering the Chicago Cubs to a 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.

Fowler went 3 for 4 with a walk and scored twice after being sidelined more than a month with a strained right hamstring. His two-run double to left with the bases loaded in the second drew rousing cheers from the bevy of Cubs fans visiting Milwaukee.

Jason Hammel (9-5) allowed four hits and two runs over five-plus innings for his second victory since the All-Star break for NL Central-leading Chicago. He never trailed after Fowler slugged a 3-1 pitch from Jimmy Nelson (6-8) over the center-field wall to lead off the game.

Hernan Perez had a run-scoring double for the Brewers, and Ryan Braun hit a solo homer.

There were so many fans in Chicago shirts that their boos drowned out cheers from Brewers backers when Braun stepped to the plate in fourth. Braun went deep to center on the first pitch of the at-bat from Hammel for his 14th homer of the year.

Hammel departed after allowing a leadoff double to Scooter Gennett in the sixth with the Brewers trailing 4-2. Reliever Carl Edwards Jr. then retired the Brewers' 3-4-5 hitters in order, capped by strikeouts of Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter on six pitches total (see full recap).

Zach Eflin tosses 1st shutout in Phillies' win over Pirates

Zach Eflin tosses 1st shutout in Phillies' win over Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — Zach Eflin wasn’t the normal youth pitcher while growing up in Oviedo, Florida.

Though the lanky right-hander had the arm strength to overpower hitters, he concentrated more on pitching inside and keeping the ball low in the strike zone than trying to blow his fastball by everybody.
 
“I didn’t start throwing a slider or curveball until I was 16 or 17,” Eflin said. “I was taught at an early age that establishing the inside part of the plate allows you to throw your changeup effectively and opens things up so you can throw all your pitches. I wanted the changeup to be an effective pitch for me.”
 
The Phillies' rookie is showing in the early part of his major-league career that he learned his lessons well.
 
The 22-year-old had his best outing yet Friday night when he pitched a three-hit shutout — the first of his nascent career — to lead the Phillies to a 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game series at PNC Park (see Instant Replay).
 
Eflin struck out six, had no walks and used an efficient 100 pitches to notch his second complete game. He also went the distance July 5 against the Atlanta Braves when he pitched a six-hitter and threw 92 pitches.
 
“One of the most exciting things about this season has been seeing the improvement of so many of our young pitchers,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “Zach has made such great strides in a short period of time.
 
“I’m happy for him. He’s a hard worker and a personable kid. He’s done a really good job.”
 
Eflin made his sixth straight quality start and is 3-3 with a 3.40 ERA in eight outings since being recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley. The consistency Eflin is showing at such a young age is quite surprising in light of getting rocked for nine runs in 2 2/3 innings in his major-league debut by the Blue Jays on June 14 at Toronto.
 
“What impressed me the most after that debacle in Toronto is that Zach came back the next day and knew exactly what he needed to do in order to be successful and that was keep the ball down,” Mackanin said. “He’s been keeping the ball down ever since.”
 
Mackanin then smiled.
 
“He’s becoming one of my favorite pitchers,” the manager said.
 
Coming off a 2-5 homestand, the Phillies started a stretch in which they play 16 of 19 games on the road. Elfin got them off on the right foot at a venue where the Phillies were a combined 0-6 during the previous two seasons.
 
“It was great to pitch a shutout, a lot of fun,” Elfin said. “Having been out on the mound in the ninth inning before really helped. I knew I could finish the game.”
 
All-Star centerfielder Odubel Herrera broke out of his slump with three hits and two runs scored and catcher Cameron Rupp hit a two-run home run.
 
Herrera had two singles and a double after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games.
 
Herrera singled to lead off the sixth inning and scored the game’s first run on a single by Rupp. Herrera then doubled and scored on Andres Blanco’s single in the seventh to make it 2-0.
 
Rupp’s two-run shot, his 10th of the season, off Jon Niese in the ninth inning capped the scoring. Rupp had two hits and three RBIs.
 
Second baseman Freddy Galvis also had two hits, as did Blanco, who replaced third baseman Maikel Franco in the bottom of the third inning.
 
Franco was hit in the left wrist in the first inning by a pitch from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole (5-6). He then singled in the top of the third before undergoing X-rays that were negative.

Eflin hit Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen in the rear end with a pitch in the bottom of the first inning, causing home plate umpire Tony Randazzo to warn both teams. There were no further incidents.
 
Franco had his hand wrapped after the game and said he did not know if he would be able to play Saturday afternoon. The ball hit Franco in the same spot where he suffered a fracture last August that caused him to miss most of the last six weeks of the season.
 
“I was scared at first because it was sore and was getting puffy,” Franco said. “I felt better [after getting treatment], though. I think everything will be fine.”