The Philadelphia 76ers finally have hope.
Philadelphia has dropped two straight games to begin the season, extending its losing streak to six straight dating back to last year. Still, the 76ers (0-2) look much improved compared to the last few years as Joel Embiid has been fabulous in limited action. And Jahlil Okafor has demonstrated that he is among the best scoring big men despite being a little rusty after missing all of the preseason.
With that being said, the 76ers will not win many games this year if they don’t find any perimeter shooters according to Bob Connelly of the Philadelphia Daily News. In their 32-point loss to Atlanta on Saturday, the Sixers shot 35 percent (28-of-80) from the floor and 27.8 percent (5-of-18) on three-point attempts. Robert Covington (0-of-5), Dario Saric (2-of-9), Gerald Henderson (0-of-5), Hollis Thompson (1-of-4), and Nik Stauskas (2-of-7) combined to shoot 20 percent (6-of-30) from the floor. Those five players are considered the Sixers’ best shooters.
Though it has only been two games, Philadelphia is averaging a league-low 84.5 points a game after their 72-point debacle against the Hawks. The 76ers are shooting a paltry 39.0 percent from the floor, and just 28.6 percent from beyond the arc. More telling of the Sixers’ lack of shooters is that they have taken only 21.0 three-point attempts, which ranks 29th in the league.
Embiid leads the team with 17.0 points a game even though he has been limited to 19.0 minutes a contest. Point guard Sergio Rodriguez is the only other player in double-figures, putting up 13.5 points a game. Rodriguez is not a three-point shooter though he has hoisted up four treys a game. The Spanish point guard is at his best at creating off the dribble, and getting to the hole.
Covington, Saric, and Henderson are all shooting under 34 percent from the floor. However, Stauskas is off to a nice start in year number three, averaging 9.5 points as he is shooting 53.5 percent from the floor and 50 percent from long distance. Point guard Jerryd Bayless is expected to return from a torn ligament in his left wrist by the beginning of December. The six-foot-three point guard has been inconsistent from beyond the arc, but did make nearly 1.5 triples a game last year while shooting a career-best 43.7 percent from that distance.
The reality is that the Sixers will likely need to make a trade in order to improve their shooting. Covington is way too streaky and is a catch-and-shoot guy who rarely wonders off the three-point line. Henderson is more of a scorer than shooter, and it is going to take time for Saric to adjust to the speed and athleticism of the NBA.
Philadelphia should be able to obtain a very good shooter this year as the 76ers hold a great trade chip in Nerlens Noel. The Sixers are apparently ready to move on from Noel as they decided against extending him prior to the October 31 deadline, meaning that the six-foot-11 defensive stalwart will become a restricted free agent after the season, per Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia. Noel has been rumored to be on the trade block for months.
No trade will likely take place until Noel is cleared to play though. Noel is currently out of action at least until the middle of November after undergoing left knee surgery 10 days ago. The 22-year-old suffered a groin injury in the Sixers’ first preseason game, and he has been out since.
Noel showed significant improvement on the offensive end last year, producing 11.1 points a game as he shot 52.1 percent from the field. The major concern going forward is his health. Noel missed his entire rookie campaign after getting selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. He has missed 20 games the past two seasons as well.
One trade that makes sense for both teams is the 76ers sending Noel to the Chicago Bulls for SF Doug McDermott and PF Cristiano Felicio. It has to be a two-for-one deal as Noel is making almost double what McDermott is owed. The 76ers would likely want more for Noel then just McDermott anyways.
McDermott is off to a great start to the season. He has added a little more offensive versatility to his repertoire this year. But what the 24-year-old does best is shooting the basketball, and he can light up a scoreboard in a matter of minutes when he is feeling it — like he was on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers. In 27 minutes of action against the Pacers, McDermott tallied 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting overall and 5-of-6 from beyond the arc. Overall, he is averaging 13.3 points a game on 51.7 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent from long distance. McDermott does struggle on defense.
Felicio is an athletic big man who thrives as a rebounder, and finishing at the rim. The 24-year-old is still relatively inexperienced, so there is room for him to grow especially on the defensive end. Felicio has contributed 11 points and 15 boards in 43 minutes of action in his last two games. For the season, he is averaging 5.0 points along with 5.3 caroms while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor in 16.7 minutes of action.
Why does the trade work for both teams?
Philadelphia is still building for the future, and they desperately need a shooter as discussed above. McDermott could be that missing piece. He is under contract for the 2017-18 campaign as well.
Felicio would give the Sixers another big body off the bench to go along with Richaun Holmes and Saric when rookie Ben Simmons returns.
Chicago has gotten off to a quick 3-0 start after splurging on a few veterans in the offseason. The Bulls are good enough to challenge for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls, led by Jimmy Butler, is averaging a league-high 113.7 points a game. They also possess the sixth best defensive rating (97.0).
The thing is, Chicago doesn’t really have a rim protector outside center Robin Lopez, and he doesn’t play enough minutes to be wholly effective. Lopez (1.3 blocks) and Nikola Mirotic (1.3) currently lead the team in blocks. In the meantime, the Bulls are surrendering 48.7 points in the paint — which is the seventh most in the league. They are also permitting the 15th most shot opportunities at the rim (31.0), while allowing opponents to convert 62.4 percent of those shots — which ranks as the 10th worst.
If the Bulls do trade McDermott, Michael Carter-Williams would likely step into his role. While Carter-Williams is not the shooter that McDermott is, the 25-year-old is more athletic and is better on the defensive end. Plus, Carter-Williams is a better passer as well as rebounder.
Carter-Williams is expected to be out until the end of the month or the beginning of December with a bone bruise on his left knee. Noel would also give the Bulls someone besides Butler to build around for the future.
[Featured Image by Michael Perez/AP Images]