The first blockbuster trade of the NBA’s pre-deadline scramble did not involve the 76ers. At least not directly. But the four-team swap featuring Clint Capela, Robert Covington, and Malik Beasley has plenty of implications for Sixers general manager Elton Brand as he spends the next 24 hours looking for ways to upgrade his struggling team.
Both Covington and Beasley had been mentioned as potential targets of the Sixers over the last month. Instead, Covington ended up with the Rockets, and Beasley with the Timberwolves, with the Hawks landing Capela and the Nuggets getting a first-round pick.
On the one hand, the Sixers should be happy that Capela did not end up in Boston, where he would have dramatically improved the Celtics’ rim protection while giving Brad Stevens an athletic rim-running center who would seem to mesh perfectly with Kemba Walker. Likewise, it is probably better that Covington remains out west.
But the biggest takeaway from this four-way deal is what it says about the Sixers’ own ability to make a meaningful addition. In short, they simply might not have the assets.
The trade market is not a grocery store. Your shopping list does not matter. It is the prices that count. And the Covington-Beasley-Capela deal suggests what we probably should have figured all along: You’re going to have to pay to play.
Covington, the former Sixer, and Beasley, a 23-year-old shooting guard who has seen his role diminished with the Nuggets this season, were viewed as the types of players the Sixers would be in the market for ahead of the trade deadline at 3 p.m. Thursday. And for good reason.
For all his faults, Covington would have given Brett Brown a (streaky, less-than-ideal) catch-and-shoot option who does not diminish the team’s defense in the way that Furkan Korkmaz or Shake Milton does. Meanwhile, Beasley is less than a year removed from a breakout season in which he shot 40% from three-point range on 5.0 attempts per game.
Again, though, it's not the Sixers' needs that matter most. It's the price they are willing to pay to fill them. And when you parse through this convoluted deal, you're left with the fact that both Covington and Beasley netted their teams a return that the Sixers would have struggled to match without including Matisse Thybulle in any deal.
For Beasley, who will be a free agent after the season, the Nuggets landed a 2020 first-round pick from the Rockets, in addition to veteran guard Gerald Green and other filler.
The Sixers do not have a guaranteed first-round pick in 2020, which would have complicated their effort to match any deal. They do have the rights to Oklahoma City’s first-round pick if it falls between Nos. 21 and 30, but that still seems just as likely to convey to a couple of second-rounders. (The Thunder project to pick at No. 18. They are within two wins away from picking as low as No. 23.)
Meanwhile, to acquire Covington, the Rockets parted with Capela, the 25-year-old center who has started for Houston throughout its current run of success and is averaging 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds per game with solid rim-protecting defense. The Rockets also landed reserve big man Jordan Bell and a second-round pick, but for all intents and purposes, the deal from their end was Capela for Covington.
From the Timberwolves’ perspective, in return for Covington, they essentially landed two first-round picks. One of them took the form of Beasley. The other has a chance to be as high as No. 15 this year (it is originally from Brooklyn). It’s top-14-protected, and the Nets are just a loss away from sliding into that range. If it does not convey, Minnesota will get their 2021 first-rounder, top-14-protected.
With Kevin Durant on his way back for Brooklyn, the T-Wolves seem likely to get some sort of first-rounder within the next three seasons.
Again, that’s a price that the Sixers simply would not have been able to match even if they were willing, which you should pray that they weren’t.
With the possible exception of Josh Richardson, the Sixers simply do not have a trade chip that would come close to the value of Capela, who at one point was reported to be a trade target of the Celtics. Beyond that, their best asset is Thybulle, and it isn’t really clear who is in second.
Zhaire Smith hasn’t done anything to enhance his value since he was drafted with a non-lottery pick. One would assume that his value is equivalent to nothing more than a second-round pick, given that his original value was a top-14-protected first-rounder and that value now needs to be discounted by at least 40% (because he is two years into his rookie contract).
A rough ranking of their assets outside the starting five:
2022 first-round pick
Protected OKC 2020 first-rounder
Given that both Covington and Beasley netted first-rounders that are (presumably) more valuable than any the Sixers have to offer, it seems unlikely that the Sixers would be able to swing a trade for someone such as Davis Bertans.
The question is whether they should be willing to part with a first-rounder for somebody like Derrick Rose, or if they are better off maximizing their options in the offseason, in case they decide they need to make a significant change.