By Mark Gallagher
As we sift the bleached bones of the Sixers failed season, there are lots of rumors of change.
Let us hope.
And on an episode of ESPN’s Hoop Collective podcast, Brian Windhorst and Royce Young chewed over Chris Paul and the NBA’s trade market.
“WINDHORST: Where would Chris Paul be traded to?
“YOUNG: I look at three teams … as the most likely destinations: Philly, the Knicks, and Milwaukee. Those are the three teams that I think are logical places.”
You have my attention! With the offseason quickly approaching, we’ll obviously hear more rumblings about what the Sixers want to do in order to fix their broken roster. But hearing from Young, in particular, makes me very intrigued, because he’s about as plugged-in to the Thunder organization as you can be.
So, yes, it would seem “Chris Paul as a Sixer” is more than just a fan musing.
Paul would, of course, also be a great fit, a guy who averaged 17.6 points and 6.7 assists on 48.9% shooting this year, and who is deadly from the free throw line. He also seems to be ageless.
Now, how do the Sixers make that move? The pod touched on a potential swap later in the episode:
“WINDHORST: Would the Thunder like Al Horford? I know they tried to sign him a few years ago when Billy Donovan first got there, and he went to Boston instead. They’ve got Steven Adams, who is extension eligible this summer, but […] would they take Al Horford? Because, can you imagine Chris Paul ordering Joel Embiid around? Ordering Ben Simmons around? It might actually work.
“YOUNG: Look, the Thunder are going to have to take salary back, in some regard, it’s just the nature of the deal. I think the years would be a concern. … If you attach a pick, or a young player … I think the Thunder would probably view somebody like Al Horford as a good cultural fit within the organization.”
Trading Al Horford, a bad basketball fit, for Chris Paul, a good basketball fit, would be a home run deal for the Sixers’ win-now inclinations. Pairing Paul with Embiid, Simmons, and Harris would quickly turn the Sixers’ starting five back into one of the best in the league, adding a Hall of Fame playmaker to a team in desperate need of a ball-handler able to get his own offense.
The 76ers own five picks this year, three in 2021, and two in 2022 and 2023, so they can part with one or two and not sweat it, big-picture. Perhaps the idea of fixing Zhaire Smith would be appealing to the Thunder? He’s still just 21 years old.
The main hangup on a Chris Paul trade is his deal. Paul has two years left on his contract, in which he counts for $41 million and $44 million against the cap, respectively. The Sixers would have to carve out some space – shedding Horford helps, but isn’t a complete fix – to accommodate Paul’s deal.
Still, Elton Brand and the front office need to make a move (or two, or three) this offseason to fix what was a staggeringly disappointing team in 2019-20. This would certainly be a good first step.