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Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Chris Paul
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica, 2020 second-round pick (from NYK or BRK via PHI)
Sacramento Kings Receive: Al Horford, Mike Scott, Zhaire Smith, 2020 first-round pick (top-20 protected, from OKC via PHI)
The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t sit out the deadline, but the major shakeup it seems they need never happened. No disrespect, but when “internal” problems reach the public and players-only meetings are needed, your problems aren’t the kind Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III can solve.
The Sixers—the Cleveland Browns of the NBA, as Charles Barkley sees it—need a much bigger spark, so they should have spent large on fire-starting floor general Chris Paul. Maybe his grating leadership style puts the wrong kind of fuel on the fire and the locker room goes up in flames, but if the situation is combustible anyway, why not try to solve the tricky on-court puzzle at least?
“There’s an open window for the Sixers to make a Finals run if they take a calculated risk this season,” The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote in January. “Paul could be the answer to opening the floor for both [Ben] Simmons and [Joel] Embiid.”
Paul could run pick-and-rolls with either one (94th percentile finisher as a ball-handler), set the table (third-highest assist average in NBA history), space the floor (career 36.9 percent from three) and handle crunch-time possessions. Even at 34, he has the savvy and hand speed you’d expect from a seven-time All-Defensive honoree.
The hang-up is the contract ($41.4 million next season, $44.2 million player option for 2021-22), but Philly has made clear it will spend big for a contender.
The Thunder clear the runway for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to take flight, and they gift him a 27-year-old offensive costar in Harrison Barnes. He isn’t cheap, but the contract declines annually if OKC wants to shed it later. The team also has another path to frontcourt spacing with Nemanja Bjelica if Danilo Gallinari bolts. A second-rounder from the Knicks functions like a late first and adds to OKC’s absurd asset collection.
The Kings thin the wing rotation to accommodate Bogdan Bogdanovic, and they take another try at finding the right veteran to accelerate their rebuild. Al Horford’s ability to play inside and out makes him a frontcourt fit with any partner, and he has the wisdom to help grease the gears on Marvin Bagley III’s development.
Sacramento, which still needs more to compete at a high level, opens doors to a pair of potential assets in the pick (which is the Thunder’s but belongs to the Sixers) and bouncy sophomore Zhaire Smith.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.