Sports

The Trade That Will Save the Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers ownership would need to agree to absorb nearly $23 million next year for someone who perfectly complements their big three, but hurts their depth and might present some defensive issues in the playoffs.

by Michael Pina
Jan 18 2019, 2:30pm

Photo by CJ Gunther/EPA-EFE

The below has been excerpted from this week's Outlet Pass, to get caught up on everything else you need to know in the NBA this week read the rest of the column here.

One of the most surprising delights of Los Angeles’s season has been Danilo Gallinari’s transformation into Cal Ripken, Jr. Gallo has been everything good health promises he should be: a potent outside shooter, relentless mismatch, frequent vacationer at the free-throw line, and a generally bad defender. The team is promoting his All-Star candidacy and even though he almost definitely won’t make it, right on! Gallo is seventh in Offensive Real Plus-Minus, making a laughable 56 percent of his wide-open threes, averaging more points than he ever has, with career highs in points, rebounds, and PER.

He’s due $22.6 million next season, which is fair if he stays healthy and continues to produce at this level. But that’s no small “if” for someone who’s played in at least 63 games only twice this decade. And that brings us to an interesting thought exercise. I don’t think the Clippers will (or necessarily should) sell high on his contract, but doing so may then give them the borderline-impossible-but-technically-achievable chance to sign two marquee free agents without losing Tobias Harris, who’s four years younger than Gallo.

It’s complicated, but maybe the Clippers should consider offloading Gallinari for a cheap man’s version of himself in an effort to replace his salary with Harris’s cap hold this summer? Moving Gallo also may mean they can keep their lottery-protected draft pick, pending what they actually get back. Not a lot of teams that have expiring contracts will be motivated to take on that much salary next season and hypothetical trade partners aren’t easy to come by, but here are a few.

Let’s start with fireworks: What about Gallinari to the Philadelphia 76ers for Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, and Justin Patton? Would Sixers ownership agree to absorb that 2019-2020 money for someone who perfectly complements their big three but hurts their depth and doesn’t solve some defensive issues that may crop up during the playoffs? Gallo would all but shut the door on their financial flexibility, too, but imagine him on the floor in a tight playoff game with Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, and JJ Redick. Then ask yourself what Philly will do in the event Butler flees as a free agent? Can they sign anyone better than Gallinari? The Sixers have been extremely good with Chandler in that starting unit, but Gallo opens up a completely different dimension. It’s interesting to think about.

Now let’s go rapid fire: Gallo to the Sacramento Kings for Iman Shumpert and Nemanja Bjelica? Or the Minnesota Timberwolves for Taj Gibson and Anthony Tolliver? Or the Utah Jazz for Derrick Favors and Georges Niang? Or the Charlotte Hornets for Frank Kaminsky, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Devonte Graham? (The Clippers don’t do that unless they know MKG will opt out of his $13 million option.)

These are semi-realistic deals that would do really interesting things to L.A.’s cap situation this summer. Signing two max stars is a possibility either way, but if only one feels certain, they can shop around without losing Harris and still have plenty leftover for another useful role player (like Danny Green?!). It’s fun to think about.