I still say that the best-case scenario for the
Sixers is for banged-up center Andrew Bynum to get healthy, return to his All-Star form and prove he can stay on the court.
If the Sixers can be relatively sure Bynum can play 65 to 70 games in the regular season and playoffs, I'd roll the dice again and sign him long term.
It would be worth the risk. Under those parameters, the Sixers would have a solid, 5-year window in which to win an NBA championship.
But if the Bynum's murky status doesn't clear up soon, the Sixers must make a proactive move instead becoming trapped to a reactive one. They'll need stop looking at Bynum as a player and instead view him as a $16.3 million expiring contract.
A proactive trade might be better than waiting until free agency at the end of the season.
Quality big men in the NBA are a rare commodity not easily let go by teams. Having salary-cap flexibility for free agency is good only if quality players are entering free agency.
Going strictly by unrestricted free agency, the best available big men for the summer of 2013 will be Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers All-Star Dwight Howard, Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson and Atlanta Hawks power forward Josh Smith.
But more than a few teams don't have enough salary-cap space to make a run at them. The Sixers could get shut out in a big-money sweepstakes. So rather than wait for free agency, the Sixers' best move might be an in-season deal involving Bynum's expiring contract.
For entertainment only, here are few possibilities that might or might not be available to the Sixers. And remember, deals have to make sense for both teams:
* Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love.
What's to like? Everything. They guy can get 20 and 10 by falling out of bed, plus he's only 24 and signed through 2015-16.
Why would Minnesota do this? The Wolves wouldn't, unless Love keeps criticizing management. Minnesota seems to have decided point guard Ricky Rubio is its future and might not want a disgruntled and outspoken Love in the mix.
How do the Sixers do it? A straight salary swap won't be enough. It probably also will cost either Evan Turner or Thaddeus Young, while taking back Andrei Kirilenko at $10 million through 2013-14.
Can it happen? I don't see Minnesota letting Love go. A developing player such as Turner or Young, plus $10 million or more in cap space, would be nice, but Love would have to be Charles Barkleyesque in his snipes to talk his way out of Minneapolis.
* Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, 6-11, 240.
What's to like? Aldridge is on pace for his third consecutive season averaging 20 points and eight rebounds.
Why would Portland do this? Having the 10th-highest payroll is a losing proposition for a team that entered the weekend 10th in the Western Conference. The payroll is bad for the next two seasons, unless a big number is removed. It will be hard to get anyone to take Nicolas Batum at $11 million through 2015-16.
How do the Sixers do it? Hope Portland is in ground-zero mode for rebuilding. Moving Aldridge's money ($29.5 million for 2013-14 through 2014-15) is the only way to accomplish that.
Can this happen? Moving Aldridge makes sense. Moving him just for an expiring contract doesn't. Portland could get way get more value for Aldridge.
* Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao, 6-11, 260.
What's to like? Varejao, has improved each season since being drafted in 2004 and is now averaging a career-high 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds. The tenacious Brazilian likes to mix it up and is one of the toughest players in the league.
Why would Cleveland do this? Varejao is 30. The Cavaliers are building for the future. Varejao's salary jumps to $9.1 million next season with a team option at $9.8 million in 2014-15. Those numbers don't make sense for where Cleveland is.
How do the Sixers do it? Also taking the expiring $6.1 million contract of Luke Walton should meet the money parameters for a deal.
Can this happen? Yes. Varejao has been a good soldier. Trading him to a contender for massive salary-cap relief is a win-win for the Cavaliers.
But the best move would be to offer Bynum and his expiring contract straight up to Utah for Jefferson and his expiring contract.
Jefferson, who is 6-10, 289 pounds, is only a year older than Bynum and actually has better career numbers (16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds vs. 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds).
He's in his third season without missing significant time since tearing the ACL in his right knee.
Jefferson is averaging 17.4 points and 10.4 rebounds. He would be the man in the middle the Sixers crave.
That Utah let Jefferson reach unrestricted free agency means it is willing to move him.
Having Jefferson's "Larry Bird rights" would give the Sixers a huge advantage for re-signing him.
That's the issue. The Sixers won't be the only team looking at Jefferson, and others might offer talented bodies instead of just slightly more cap space.
Realistically, there is little benefit for Utah, which entered the weekend ninth in the Western Conference, to trade a contributing Jefferson for a gimpy-kneed Bynum.
Sooner or later, the Sixers must make a decision on Bynum. They need to dictate what happens next and not have it dictated to them.