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

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

The Eagles released Rueben Randle and Chris Givens on Sunday, ending the brief and disappointing Eagles careers of both veteran wide receivers.

The two receivers were among eight players released by the team on Sunday evening.

Randle caught five passes for 26 yards in the preseason and Givens caught one for 19 yards.

The Eagles tried to bolster their receiver corps by adding the two receivers this offseason, signing Randle to a one-year, $1,025,000 contract and Givens to a one-year $760,000 deal.

Randle got $500,000 guaranteed and Givens $180,000 guaranteed, so the two moves will count $680,000 against the Eagles’ 2016 adjusted salary cap of $161,570,362.

The moves leave the Eagles with eight wide receivers: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Paul Turner, Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones and David Watford.

Barring any other personnel moves, Matthews, Agholor, Green-Beckham, Huff and Turner appear headed for the final 53-man roster.

Randle’s decline is fairly astonishing.

Two years ago with the Giants, he caught 71 passes for 938 yards, and last year he caught 57 passes for 797 yards and eight touchdowns. He had four catches of 40 yards or more in 2015, fourth-most in the NFL. In four seasons in New York, he caught 188 passes for 2,644 yards and 20 TDs.

Yet the Giants had no interest in re-signing him. Now the former second-round pick’s career is in jeopardy at the age of 25.

Givens, a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2012, was with his third team in two years this summer. His once-promising career could be over at the age of 26.

Most notable among the six other players released was offensive tackle Andrew Gardner, who started 11 games in an Eagles uniform.

Gardner, who had also spent time with the Dolphins and Texans, started eight games at right guard and right tackle for the Eagles in 2014 and was the Eagles’ opening-day starter last year at right guard. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot during a Week 3 game against the Jets at the Meadowlands and missed the rest of the season.

Also released was a member of last year’s draft class, sixth-round pick Randall Evans out of Kansas State. Evans spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad but was activated for the Pat Shurmur season finale against the Giants at the Meadowlands and got into the game on special teams.

The Eagles also released veteran defensive tackle Mike Martin, who played in 46 games for the Titans the last four years, including five starts. Also released were long snapper John DePalma and cornerback Denzel Rice, the latter of who played in five games last year and got 20 defensive snaps in the season finale against the Giants last year.

The Eagles also placed linebacker Joe Walker (knee) and defensive end Alex McCalister (calf), two rookie seventh-round picks, on season-ending Injured Reserve.

Teams have until Tuesday to reduce rosters to 75. The Eagles’ roster is currently at 73, and they have to reduce it to 53 by 4 p.m. next Sunday.

The Eagles finish the preseason on Thursday night at the Linc against the Jets.

Best of MLB: Donaldson hits three HRs, Blue Jays beat Twins 9-6

Best of MLB: Donaldson hits three HRs, Blue Jays beat Twins 9-6

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson had his first career three-homer game, Troy Tulowitzki also went deep and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 9-6 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Donaldson hit a solo homer off Kyle Gibson in the second, then delivered a go-ahead, two-run blast off Pat Light (0-1) in the seventh.

Dozens of fans tossed hats onto the field to celebrate the home run hat trick after Donaldson, the AL MVP in 2015, hit a solo shot off Alex Wimmers in the eighth. Groundskeepers and even the Blue Jays mascot helped clear the hats away.

Donaldson's fourth multi-homer game this season and the 10th of his career also marked the 17th three-homer game in the majors this season.

Jose Bautista had his first three-hit game of the season for the AL East-leading Blue Jays.

Minnesota lost its season-worst 10th straight. The Twins have lost seven straight in Toronto.

Scott Feldman (7-4) earned the win by getting two outs in the seventh. Jason Grilli worked the eighth and Roberto Osuna finished (see full recap). 

Pirates win 8th straight on road, sweep Brewers 3-1
MILWAUKEE -- Ivan Nova threw six sharp innings before leaving early because of a hurting left hamstring and the Pittsburgh Pirates hit three solo homers to rally past the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 on Sunday for their eighth straight road victory.

John Jaso and Gregory Polanco each homered in the sixth off Brewers starter Chase Anderson (7-11) to complete Pittsburgh's first sweep at Miller Park since 2004. Starling Marte added a solo shot in the eighth.

Nova (4-0) retired 10 of his final 11 batters after allowing Jonathan Villar's solo homer in the third. He scattered three hits and struck out four before being pinch hit for in the seventh.

Tony Watson pitched a clean ninth for his 10th save in 13 opportunities (see full recap).

Archer strikes out 10, Rays hit 3 HRs in 10-4 win vs Astros
HOUSTON -- Chris Archer struck out 10 in seven innings, Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Houston Astros 10-4 on Sunday.

Matt Duffy and Nick Franklin also went deep for the last-place Rays, who have homered in 21 of their last 24 games.

Houston, in the hunt for an AL wild card, had won three straight.

Archer (8-17) gave up three runs and four hits with two walks. With his strikeout of A.J. Reed in the sixth, the right-hander joined David Price and James Shields as the only Tampa Bay pitchers with multiple 200-strikeout seasons.

The Rays jumped out early against Doug Fister.

Fister (12-9) allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, the fourth time in his past seven starts he has permitted four or more runs (see full recap). 

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- A.J. Ellis’ first game as a Phillie certainly went a lot better than Carlos Ruiz’s first game as a Dodger.

Ellis’ first hit with his new club helped the Phils salvage one game of a weekend series with the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon. The Phillies won it, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), behind a solid start from Vince Velasquez, excellent bullpen work and Ellis’ big hit, a tie-breaking, two-run double in the top of the seventh.

The Phillies had lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 21-5. Their pitchers gave up eight homers in the first two games.

On Sunday, Velasquez and a quartet of relievers held the Mets to seven hits, all singles.

Ellis joined the Phillies just 24 hours earlier after being traded from the Dodgers on Thursday. He had been with that club his whole career.

Ruiz, of course, had been with the Phillies his whole career.

Ruiz’s first game with the Dodgers did not go nearly as smooth. The veteran catcher had trouble handling the pitches of closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning Friday night and that contributed to the Dodgers blowing a one-run lead and losing to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings.

Leaving the Dodgers was difficult and emotional for Ellis. He was able to bury himself in the game Sunday and came away feeling pretty good.

“It’s just great to be playing baseball again,” he said, standing in front of his locker, a blue Dodgers equipment bag (that will soon be swapped out for a Phillies bag) at his feet. “You kind of lose yourself in the competition and then just play again.

“Regardless of what’s happened in the last four days, it feels good to drive in runs, feels good to help put your team ahead and help contribute to a team win.”

During his 24 or so hours with the Phillies, Ellis has immersed himself in learning a new staff of pitchers. He caught starters Jerad Eickhoff and Jake Thompson in the bullpen before Saturday’s game and warmed up several relievers during that game.

On Sunday morning, he arrived at Citi Field, saw his name in the lineup and immediately began prepping to catch Velasquez, the hardest-thrower on the Phillies’ starting staff.

Velasquez bounced back from three poor outings in which he gave up 19 runs in 17 1/3 innings and held a hot Mets lineup to a run over five innings. The only negative was that Velasquez could not pitch deeper into the game because his command was poor and needed 103 pitches to complete the five innings.

Nonetheless, Ellis, who was the personal catcher for Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles, liked what he saw of Velasquez.

“His pitch count got elevated the first two innings and he was able to grind through the last three,” Ellis said. “The stuff is electric. He has so many weapons, so many options. When he keeps growing and keeps polishing that gift up, it’s going to be really, really special.

“So I’m excited to be able to continue to work with him, excited to work with him and (pitching coach) Bob McClure and (No. 1 catcher) Cameron Rupp, kind of talk to them about things, things he sees, things we see, and together we can build a plan for him going forward in his career.”

Two things are going to help the 24-year-old Velasquez reach his potential.

First is good health. He’s had arm problems in the past and there remain concerns about his long-term durability. That’s why the Phillies are closely monitoring his workload as this season winds down.

Second is command, control, economy of pitches – whatever you want to call it. Velasquez needs to be more efficient. Too many times he’s left games in the middle innings because of a high pitch count.

“Definitely,” he responded when asked if lowering his pitch counts and working deeper into games was the key to his improvement. “It’s going to help the longevity, it saves the bullpen, it helps out everybody. Not just on my end, but the whole team in general.

“And,” he joked, “then I can also work on my swing by getting some more at-bats.”

Despite the high pitch count, Velasquez walked just one. He struck out seven. He is up to 129 innings for the season. That includes five innings in a rehab game at Double A Reading. The Phillies will look to keep him at about 150 innings for the season. That could be three, four or five more starts, depending on how long the right-hander lasts. He’s averaged just over five innings in his starts this season.

“I think that would be the right move,” Velasquez said of the 150-inning target.