5 Potential Buyout Center Options for The Sixers
With the NBA trade deadline passing Thursday, Daryl Morey's focus now shifts to the buy-out market to make the final tweaks to a roster with championship aspirations. The team was quite active at the trade deadline Thursday. They acquired George Hill, a veteran combo guard who brings shooting and capable ball handling to the lineup. This addressed an area of need. Guard play often dictates post-season success as the teams get more disciplined defensively. Daryl Morey traded away two of his bench Centers to acquire Hill, leaving just Joel Embiid and Dwight Howard on the roster at the center position.
Embiid and Howard are both traditional Centers, defensively especially. In a league that is trending more and more to "5 out" offensive sets, where all 5 players begin the possession outside of the three-point line, it seems Morey may be willing to entertain the notion of having a quicker, more "switchy" big as the deep bench piece.
Thursday evening, Morey hedged when asked directly, but his long-form answer provides some insight. Here the exchange:
Blevins: Hey Darryl, so for that, that you talked about the traditional big versus the creative lineups, As you look at that buyout market. What is your risk tolerance this late into a season to bring on a guy that defends in space against five-out lineups versus your traditional drop coverage big?
Morey: Yeah, that's a really good [question]; I know you guys are pros. I would say. It really depends on the quality. It's gonna sound like a dodge. It really isn't. It really depends on the quality of the player.
So, I think you'd get over fixated on, you know, it has to be a switchy big or has to be more of a guy who can clean up our rebounding, because that's been one of our not as strong areas, you know, with Dwight, Dwight cleans that up, but that's, you know for top defense we need to be stronger there. So I would say we're gonna go with the best player relative to what's available.
Blevins: And a quick follow-up is your long-term ideal scenario where you have optionality behind Joel to be able to throw out a more switchy space defend in space lineup?
Morey: I like having the optionality just to give the coaching staff different options because I think in the playoffs, that can be important. But, again, you can't force it. It's perfectly well, and good to say, oh, you should play X/Y, but if you can't put the three-four or five, you know, good players that can execute that strategy like it's better to play more traditional. So I would say right now, I mean we feel good about our optionality. We feel like we have 12 guys you can put on the floor in a playoff series, which is obviously one of them we're gonna play. So we have some injury protection, there are some optionality, different ways we can play. So, you know, I feel, you know, we feel pretty good about where we are ready for the playoffs and the rest of the season.
5 Potential Replacements
Aldridge was reported to negotiate a buyout with the San Antonio Spurs. Aldridge is a 6'11" big who, at 35, has become less efficient in recent years. He is an offensive option, with the ability to create shots for himself in roughly the same floor areas that Joel Embiid operates. But his defensive liabilities might be problematic. Aldridge tends to need more time and freedom to get into his offense, so it might not be a great fit on either end of the floor.
Drummond is a dominant rebounder, a point that Morey brought up Thursday. But Drummond and Embiid have a years-long history of not getting along well. Early in his career, Embiid abused Drummond and got him into quick foul trouble routinely as the 76ers ascended during the Pistons' long slow decline. Drummond was moved to Cleveland last season and bought out this season. Boston, the Knicks, and the Lakers all seem to offer a more significant role for Drummond than the 76ers, with less potential conflict in the locker room.
Gorgui Dieng -
Dieng is currently a Memphis Grizzly, but according to reports out of Memphis, the 6'11", 31yo center may be bought out. Dieng would be a low usage big to grab rebounds and provide competent defense in a traditional big type role. Dieng averages just under 14 points per 100 possessions for his career.
Before there was Christian Wood, there was Hassan Whiteside, the mercurial personality who bounced in and out of the league before getting a chance to play regularly in Miami and put up eye-popping counting stats. When allowed to freelance, Whiteside gets a lot of blocks and rebounds. The issue is discipline and playing within a scheme. Non-superstar players must be predictable and reliable in a role, and Whiteside has never proven to be either.
Cousins is an intriguing option because of his ability to space the floor, get his own offense and bring some sheer star power, energy, and emotion to a game. Once thought to be on a hall of fame trajectory, his career has been tragically derailed by injury. His personality is mercurial, but some players love him as a teammate. Rajon Rondo, one of the smartest players to ever play the game, raved about Cousins in the past. Embiid and Cousins seem to have a friendly rivalry. If he has stayed in playing shape and continued his recovery, he makes an intriguing low-risk gamble for the 76ers.