In the aftermath of the Jimmy Butler trade, I was listening to the Ringer NBA Show, one of the twenty-seven podcasts I’m subscribed to (sad, I know), when an interesting hypothetical popped up: what if Sixers’ GM Elton Brand decides it’s time to go all-in? I’m not talking a marginal move like trading for Kyle Korver or waiting until December 15th – the day the trade restriction is lifted on free agents who signed in the summer of 2018 – for guys like Trevor Ariza, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marco Belinelli to become available. For the record, I’m not advocating for the latter two. Ariza would be interesting, but depending on outgoing salary, the $15 million salary is a bit much.

Despite Kyle’s incessant request for me to put together a post on the Sixers acquiring Carmelo Anthony, it’s worth noting that he should be officially hitting waivers soon per Woj:

In the case of Melo, you’d be getting a guy who’s well past his prime, hasn’t settled into a catch-and-shoot role with his last two teams, and sounds like a guy who still believes he’s a top-15 talent in the league. Guys like Tracy McGrady and Chauncey Billups have detailed how hard it can be to face that reality, but players like Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, and Shawn Marion have extended their careers – the latter two having won an NBA title – simply by coming to that realization and embracing it.

This brings me back to the focus at hand. If Elton Brand and the Sixers’ collaborative front office crew see this next 2-3 year window as the prime moment to strike, they need to go all-in. The looming threat is obviously the Golden State Warriors, but if Houston’s precipitous fall from grace has shown us anything, it’s that losing a few key role players can lead a team to bottom out in a way that once seemed inconceivable. With Draymond Green prepared to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2019-20 season and, more importantly, Kevin Durant set to explore free agency following the 2018-19 season, tensions are running high after a verbal spat between Draymond and Durant. Klay Thompson is also set to be a free agent following this season, but he’s reiterated his intent to re-sign with Golden state on numerous occasions. What once appeared to be a well-oiled machine devoid of ego has been plummeted into a dark void of NBA cynicism.

The two targets whose names will most likely be linked to the Sixers are Charlotte’s Kemba Walker and Washington’s Bradley Beal. Walker could very well be moved prior to the trade deadline, and his cost would be considerably less in terms of assets and salary. Walker ($12m) costs less than half of Beal ($25m). While Beal has two years remaining beyond this season as part of a 5-year, $127M extension he signed with Washington, Walker is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Beal is a better fit as a guy who can play off-ball, doesn’t eat up much oxygen handling the rock, and can hit in catch and shoot situations. According to Cleaning the Glass, he’s in the 86th percentile among wings in 2PT% at 58.3%, and the 71st percentile in eFG% at 55%. His three-point shooting is a bit troublesome in a small sample size this season, at 34.2%, a career worst. That said, Beal is only 25 years old and has plenty of growth ahead of him. You might recognize the name of his trainer: Drew Hanlen. Why would Washington want to move on from Beal? They currently sport the fifth-highest payroll in the entire league, due in part to the massive contracts they’ve given out to Otto Porter Jr. and John Wall. Porter is in the midst of a 4-year, $106m deal, while Wall is set to earn over $40m annually towards the end of a 4-year, $169m extension that isn’t going to kick in until after the 2019-20 season.

Walker is a point guard who could theoretically move into an off-ball guard/de facto point guard with Ben Simmons off the court. The biggest issue is the ball dominance he’s demonstrated throughout his career. If you thought the fit between Simmons and Fultz was rough, imagine replacing the latter with an All-Star who might not agree with the move from his natural position.

The Sixers’ most valuable assets at this point are: 2021 Miami first round pick, Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet and perhaps some combination of their own future first round picks. Prior to Free Throw Gate, I would’ve argued that Markelle Fultz had done a decent enough job of salvaging some trade value to make him a marketable commodity to small market teams where the lights might not be quite as bright nor the scrutiny quite as tough. If Fultz were to gain confidence in his jumper and anchor the Sixers’ second unit on both ends of the court, some combination of the aforementioned players could work in a trade for Walker. I’m skeptical if the Sixers have anything that would truly move the Wizards to deal Beal, but the Sixers’ ability to offer a combination of cheap, young, athletic shooters and playmakers could be attractive closer to the deadline. If there’s a deal to be made for Beal, the Sixers would be doing a disservice to themselves if they failed to capitalize.

Assuming there are no takers for the Sixers’ assets, they could be in play for another star via free agency. As Bobby Marks of ESPN pointed out in the aftermath of the Jimmy Butler trade:

“Including the $30.7M Jimmy Butler free agent hold, Philadelphia will have roughly $21M in cap space for 2019-20. The room includes renouncing all free agents except for Butler and TJ McConnell. The 76ers would be close to adding another max slot if they find a home for former first overall pick Markelle Fultz.”

As for this season, there will be plenty of guys hitting the waiver wire this season would could very well help to solidify a playoff rotation, much like Ilyasova and Belinelli did a year ago. If the Sixers go all-in, the addition of such vets would become a necessity. We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it. With a lineup of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, and Joel Embiid the Sixers would have the best starting lineup in the East and one that could legitimately propel them into the NBA Finals.