The Philadelphia 76ers have looked the part of a bonafide Finals contender for much of the last three weeks. Since New Year’s Eve, Philly is 10-2, having climbed all the way to the second spot in the Eastern Conference.
But if anyone knows just how fragile playoff hopes are, it’s the Joel Embiid-led Philadelphia 76ers. Fans have watched as one promising playoff run after another has slipped away after an injury to its star big man. This is why it’s imperative that Philadelphia, perhaps more than any other team, have quality and reliability in its backup center. After all, Embiid has missed considerable time this season already with a lingering foot injury.
Montrezl Harrell, the team’s current backup option, hasn’t yet offered that comfort. As such, the Sixers are exploring the trade market for frontcourt upgrades. According to Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney, one of those upgrades could come in Clippers big Richaun Holmes.
“Robert Covington is out of favor with the Clippers, he could have a role in Philadelphia, though,” an Eastern Conference executive told Deveney. “He came up with Joel (Embiid) and Daryl loves him. They would hope he gets a buyout, but the Clippers would not have much incentive to do that unless they have another deal and need the roster spot.”
“The Sixers could give up Korkmaz and Thybulle there, but you’re giving up two young guys for Covington, who looks older than his age (32) at this point. That is not the big move a lot of people in Philly want but it is a realistic target,” the executive concluded.
Sixers Buy Low on Covington?
Covington, who played for Philadelphia for three seasons between 2015-2017, is at a low point in his career. Prior to this season, he was a career 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game player.
This year, however, those numbers have dipped considerably, mainly due to a lack of playing time. Last year, Holmes was up to 23 minutes per game; this campaign, he’s only seeing nine minutes of action on the floor.
This makes Holmes an excellent buy-low candidate for the Sixers ahead of the trade deadline. For Philadelphia, however, moving for Holmes runs slightly counter to what we’ve heard their priorities are in terms of trades.
While Philadelphia indeed may want frontcourt upgrades, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports detailed how the Sixers’ salary cap situation may affect the team’s mindset as well.
“There is also a financial aspect that may underscore the Sixers’ trade deadline efforts if the right upgrades don’t materialize,” Fischer said. “This season currently marks Philadelphia’s third straight year as a taxpayer, which would subject the Sixers to pay repeater tax rates on every dollar over the 2023-24 tax threshold.”
Holmes’ $11 million this season necessitates that Philadelphia includes both Korkmaz and Thybulle in a trade, to get in the ballpark of that tax spot. But if Holmes could be the snap-difference maker come playoff time, it would be worth it.
Sixers Face Big Test from Brooklyn Nets
With the team’s five-game West Coast trip in the books (a trip that saw the team skate through unblemished), the Sixers will welcome the Brooklyn Nets to Philadelphia.
The Nets and Sixers have written several pages of history recently, most notably in the Ben Simmons-James Harden swap from a year ago.
But despite that background, Nets superstar Kevin Durant declined to say that a “rivalry” existed between Philly and Brooklyn.
“Rivalries in the NBA are not really a thing, in my opinion,” he told reporters, per The Boston Herald. “It’s going to be a battle amongst each fan base on social media, but as far as the players, it’s another game on the schedule, and each team is trying to get better and improve.”
The Nets currently sit fourth in the East, one game back of the Sixers.