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

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

BOX SCORE

The Phillies have scored just two runs in 13 innings against a pair of rookie starting pitchers and the eventual outcome has been two losses to the Colorado Rockies the last couple of nights. The latest was an 8-2 setback on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). That followed an 8-1 loss on Monday night.

What's happening right now at Citizens Bank Park is ugly. The Phillies are in the midst of a freefall that has seen them lose 19 of their last 23 games. They have been outscored 134-91 over that span.

Now, before we completely lose perspective here, the Phillies remain a building team and they were not expected to contend this season. But they weren't supposed to be this bad, either, and right now they are embarrassingly bad at 15-28.

John Middleton, the team's fiery managing partner, watched several innings of Tuesday night's debacle sitting beside Andy MacPhail in the club president's box. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall. Middleton is committed to a patient rebuild from the ground up, but he's also a man who has made it no secret that he likes to win a little. The show that the Phillies are putting on out on the field these days can't sit well with him. Surely it's not sitting well with the fans. Tuesday night's attendance was just 17,109, the lowest of the season, and many in that group headed home after Gerardo Parra's sixth-inning homer gave the Rockies an 8-1 lead.

"We're just in a big rut right now," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Shortstop Freddy Galvis added that he couldn't remember going through anything this bad.

"We have to keep grinding," he said. "Keep grinding, man. It's pretty tough right now."

Tuesday night's loss offered a tale of two young pitchers. Zach Eflin, the Phillies' 23-year-old right-hander and a veteran of just 18 big-league starts, was hit hard. Meanwhile, German Marquez, the Rockies' 22-year-old rookie, was impressive. He held the Phillies to one run over six innings. He twice faced bases-loaded jams and gave up just one run when he walked a batter.

On Monday night, the Phils were held to one run over seven innings by another rookie, Jeff Hoffman.

Rookie pitchers are often good medicine for struggling teams.

"That's the way I look at it," Mackanin said. "Unfortunately it hasn't happened.

"I know we're better than this. I think the team knows they're better than this. I can't fault the hustle. Someone might say there's no energy. Well, when you don't get any hits, there's no energy."

The Phillies have scored just three runs in the last three games.

The scarcity of runs gives the pitching very little room for error. But in this game, Eflin simply did not keep it close. He gave up 10 hits and eight runs over six innings of work. Phillies killer Charlie Blackmon torched Eflin for a pair of two-run homers and Parra got him for a solo shot.

"A poor outing," Mackanin said of Eflin's work. "He couldn't locate. The ball was up in the zone. He's struggling to keep the ball down.

"When he struck out Blackmon in the first inning, it was a two-seamer with great movement, I thought we're in for a good outing here. But then he couldn't keep the ball down. You have to pitch down or you're going to get hurt."

Eflin has given up 21 hits and 15 runs in his last two starts.

"It's frustrating, but it happens. It's baseball," he said. "There are going to be a lot of times in my career where I give up a lot of hits and a lot of runs. But I'm really not worried about it right now. I know that I'm going to continue to work hard and go out every fifth day and, you know, put up a line of winning baseball."

Blackmon has seven home runs in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park. He has three multi-homer games in Philadelphia.

"He seems to like hitting here," Eflin said. "But I just have to execute pitches. There's no excuse. I just have to be on top of my game."

Right now, the Phillies are at the bottom of their game.

"We have to stay together as a team and keep fighting, try to get out of what's happening right now," Galvis said. "It's a really tough situation, but we have keep playing hard."

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators bounced back nicely two days after a blowout loss put them on the brink of elimination.

Anderson stopped 45 shots, Mike Hoffman scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the Senators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night to force a decisive Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 36-year-old Anderson was coming off a pair of rough outings, including Sunday when he was pulled after yielding four goals in Ottawa's 7-0 loss in Game 5 at Pittsburgh.

"You can't change what happens in the past," said Anderson, who has credited work with a sports psychologist early in his career for helping him manage the mental side of the game. "From that moment on you have to look forward and get ready for the next one."

Hoffman fired a slap shot through traffic off a pass from Fredrik Claesson to put the Senators ahead at 1:34 of the third. Bobby Ryan also scored a rare power-play goal for Ottawa.

It was quite a response after the drubbing in the previous game.

"I think the biggest message for us was if somebody told us back in training camp in September that we'd have an opportunity to win Game 6 in the Eastern Conference final at home in front of our fans we would've taken it," Ryan said. "So let's not dwell, let's not kick ourselves and put our heads down. Let's embrace this opportunity to extend this for two more days together and go from there."

Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh, vying for its second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the lead early in the second period and Matt Murray finished with 28 saves.

"I thought we played a real good game," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought we dominated zone time. We had lots of chances. We didn't score tonight. The puck didn't go in the net, but if we continue to play the game that way, then I believe we'll get the result."

Game 7 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators for the championship.

Ottawa was primarily looking for a return to structure in Game 6, beginning with a smoother start -- which they got. Notable in a scoreless opening period were two effective penalty kills, one of which saw Viktor Stalberg get the best opportunity short-handed.

Pittsburgh had four shots with the man advantage, but Anderson stopped them all. It was evident early that he had his game back in this one. He stopped Nick Bonino off a rebound in transition, Scott Wilson off a deflected shot by Phil Kessel, and Bonino again when Kyle Turris gave the puck away.

Anderson then stopped 22 of 23 shots in the second period.

"I think Anderson was the reason that they got this one, he played big for them," Murray said. "But in our room we just focus on what we need to do. We played really well, we just didn't get the bounces and weren't able to put one home."

Anderson's performance was a reminder for Senators coach Guy Boucher of why he took the job with Ottawa in the first place last May.

"I'll be honest with you, if I didn't have a No. 1 goalie, I didn't want the job," Boucher said. "I've lived it for quite a few years, and it's hell when you don't have it because everything you do turns to darkness, and there's nothing that really matters when you don't have a real No. 1 goaltender.

"It's like a quarterback in football and a pitcher in baseball, and we have it," Boucher added.

Murray was also sharp. The 22-year-old, who replaced Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 3, made maybe his finest save of the first on Derick Brassard, who found an open lane down the middle of the ice following a pass from Ryan.

The Penguins appeared to have opened the scoring just over three minutes into the second, but Trevor Daley was deemed to have interfered with Anderson following an Ottawa challenge.

Less than two minutes later though, Pittsburgh took the 1-0 lead anyway off a few moments of brilliance from Malkin. The playoff scoring leading (24 points) bounced off a check from Zack Smith behind the goal and after being stopped on his drive to the net, followed up with a nifty backhand rebound to beat Anderson.

It was the 153rd career playoff point in 142 games for Malkin -- three back of Sidney Crosby for second among active players behind Jaromir Jagr -- who had been jarring with Hoffman a few minutes earlier.

The Senators had little going until a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage for 1:24 just past the midway point of the period. The Ottawa power play, which had gone 0 for 29 in the previous 10 games, came through with Ryan ultimately wiring a one-timer short-side to tie the score.

It was the sixth goal and 15th point of the playoffs for Ryan, who is second on the Senators behind captain Erik Karlsson (16 points).