The Philadelphia 76ers' season is teetering on the brink after Joel Embiid's meniscus surgery, which is expected to sideline the reigning MVP for six-to-eight weeks. At 30-19, the Sixers are currently No. 5 in the East, but injuries are starting to infect the lineup. Plus, let's be frank. This team is simply not built to win games without Embiid. In the worst way, these next few weeks could be a strong testament to Embiid's value.
That said, Daryl Morey is operating aggressively ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline. The Sixers plan to operate as buyers, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The official prediction from Brian Windhorst on the 'Hoop Collective' podcast was "one-to-three trades" for Philadelphia. You can say that about most teams honestly, but the general point remains. The Sixers are going to make something happen.
Most early signs point to Embiid returning before the playoffs, so Philadelphia needs to both stay afloat and build a roster that can amplify Embiid once he's back. Every trade should keep the short and long-term goals in mind.
While there are several easily movable expiring contracts on the Sixers' books right now — Marcus Morris Sr. ($17.1 million), Nic Batum ($11.7 million), Robert Covington ($11.6 million), De'Anthony Melton ($8 million), Furkan Korkmaz ($5.3 million) — one stands above the rest in terms of immediate value. That is Tobias Harris, who is slated to incur a whopping $39.3 million before hitting free agency in the summer.
Teams have registered interest in Harris. The Sixers won't deal him unless there are legitimate upgrades available, but Morey has a real opportunity to reshape and improve Nick Nurse's rotation with the right big swing.
3. 76ers trade Tobias Harris for Pistons' Bojan Bogdanovic
Last season, Bojan Bogdanovic was objectively more valuable than Tobias Harris — both contractually and on the court. The perception has flipped this season, in large part due to the Detroit Pistons' pervasive incompetence as a unit. It's a tough spot for Bogey, but he is also three years older than Harris with less defensive equity. Detroit is the one team with firm reported interest in Harris. One has to imagine any deal will involve a swap of those forwards.
The Sixers can view Bogdanovic as a slightly more dynamic 3-point shooter, but in essence, this is a lateral move. The Pistons can more easily justify a major offseason extension for Harris. The Sixers can get off of Bogdanovic's partially guaranteed 2024-25 contract in the summer if opportunities arise in free agency.
In addition to Bogdanovic, the Sixers address their limited shot creation in the backcourt with an Alec Burks reunion. His first tenure in Philadelphia was a mixed bag, but Burks has developed into one of the NBA's most productive bench scorers in Detroit. He can bomb 3s, isolate in the mid-range, and facilitate off drives.
Killian Hayes is more or less a toss-in for salary purposes, but he's a true point guard. The Sixers need more ball-handling to ease the burden on Tyrese Maxey and elevate the second unit, especially with Embiid out. Betting on Hayes finally realizing his potential is probably a fool's errand, but the Sixers can at least see if a change of scenery catapults the 22-year-old to more productive minutes.
In terms of adding important depth in the backcourt and more shooting dynamism once Embiid returns, this is a victory for the Sixers. It's probably a victory for the Pistons, too, as Harris' professionalism is well suited to an inexperienced locker room. He would earn Monty Williams' trust and serve as a mentor for Detroit's young talent.