3 early predictions for 76ers at the NBA Trade Deadline

Following a hot start, what will the Philadelphia 76ers do at the NBA Trade Deadline?

Philadelphia 76ers forward Nicolas Batum (33) reacts.
Philadelphia 76ers forward Nicolas Batum (33) reacts. / Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
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The Philadelphia 76ers entered the 2023-24 regular season shrouded in uncertainty. 10-time All-Star and reigning assist champion James Harden was away from the team, and his relationship with general manager Daryl Morey was "beyond repair". With their star guard out of the lineup and no resolution in sight, the Sixers appeared to be at risk of falling behind in the Eastern Conference standings.

However, the Sixers weathered the storm, leaping out to a 8-1 start. In the absence of Harden, fourth-year guard Tyrese Maxey has stepped up, averaging 26.3 points, 7.1 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in a league-high 38.4 minutes per game.

On Halloween, the front office finally dealt Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers. Yes, they did not get any elite players in the deal, but Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington have injected energy into the rotation with their 3-and-D ability.

At 10-5, the Sixers are competitive, but their roster still lacks the high-end talent of their biggest competitors (Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics). Additionally, Morey is known for coveting star players. As the trade deadline approaches, the Sixers should be one of the most active teams on the market. Here are three early predictions.

3. The Sixers trade for a star player

This one is the most obvious. During the summer, Morey discussed potential Harden trades with Anthony Gargano on 97.5 The Fanatic (h/t Liberty Ballers):

"The reality is, if we do look at a trade, it’s going to be for one of two things," Morey said. "It’s either going to be for a player who continues to help us be right there like we were last year ... or we’re going to do it for something where we get enough draft picks and things like that in a deal that we could turn those into a player who can be a running mate with Joel [Embiid] as well."

The Sixers ended up going the draft pick route, acquiring two first-round picks and a pick swap from the Clippers. If Morey sticks to his original plan, he will reroute those assets to another team in exchange for a star to pair with Embiid and Maxey.

Two potential targets are Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls. On November 14, The Athletic's Darnell Mayberry and Shams Charania reported that a league source believes change is "imminent" in Chicago.

According to the report, the front office has shown an "increased openness" in LaVine trade talks. Meanwhile, they are interested in bringing back DeRozan, who is on an expiring contract, but the two sides remain "apart" in extension talks. The Bulls have limped to a 5-11 start. If they remain out of the playoff hunt, it makes little sense to hang on to the two former All-Stars.

LaVine has been a popular trade candidate for the Sixers, but DeRozan could be the smarter option. The 34-year-old should not command a king's ransom on the trade market, and he only has one year worth $28.6 million remaining on his contract. That is far more appealing than LaVine's four-year, $178 million deal. If the Sixers want to shake things up again in the offseason, a DeRozan trade would preserve the cap space to do so.

On the court, DeRozan would be a better fit, as well. According to Basketball Reference, the veteran has a lower usage rate than LaVine, while outpacing him in PER (19.0), box plus/minus (+1.9), and win shares (0.9). DeRozan is also shooting a career-high 36.1 percent from 3, which is startling for the "Master of the Mid-range". If that number declines, spacing should still not be an issue, as a potential lineup of Maxey, De'Anthony Melton, DeRozan, Tobias Harris, and Embiid is still equipped with plenty of shooting.

Hypothetically, the Sixers could offer the Bulls the expiring contracts of Marcus Morris Sr. ($17.1 million), Furkan Korkmaz ($5.3 million), Danuel House Jr. ($4.3 million), and KJ Martin ($1.9 million) and draft compensation. This would allow the Bulls to get assets for a potential rebuild without taking on any long-term salary.