Sixers could look to dodge tax at trade deadline

Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sixers are firmly in the championship hunt if you believe in the Joel Embiid-James Harden pairing. But, if no big-swing trades emerge ahead of the February deadline, Philadelphia could look to cut costs instead.

According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, the Sixers will explore avenues to potentially upgrade the roster. Encouraged by the Embiid-Harden partnership and pleased with the team’s success in the wake of several massive injuries, it is clear Daryl Morey and company view the Sixers as contenders.

That said, if the right move doesn’t materialize, according to Fischer, the Sixers could look to save money:

"“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. The Sixers are hovering just above this year’s tax line at present, which could put players such as Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle and Jaden Springer in the trade conversation.”"

Could the Sixers make marginal moves at the trade deadline to save money?

In general, the best front offices and ownership groups don’t trade real assets just to cut costs. The Sixers are owned by multiple billionaires and can no doubt afford the tax if it means fielding a genuine contender. Detrimental cost-cutting moves were a staple of the pre-Morey front offices and it wouldn’t be ideal to see those moves return under Morey’s captaincy (not that Morey would be the one instigating them).

That said, it’s fair to question if Furkan Korkmaz or Jaden Springer are “real pieces,” and the Sixers do have to consider Matisse Thybulle’s upcoming free agency. Korkmaz is nowhere near the healthy rotation and it’s unclear when, if ever, Springer will be ready for real minutes with the big-league team. I’m a firm believer in Springer’s NBA future, but odds are the Sixers’ championship timeline doesn’t involve him.

The Sixers probably wouldn’t be shooting themselves in the foot by dumping Korkmaz for cash, for example. But given his recent performance, I wouldn’t be too fond of simply dumping Matisse Thybulle into cap space. It would take a real asset — a player who can definitely contribute in the playoffs — to pique my interest in the Thybulle trade market, even if the Sixers are justifiably hesitant to extend him beyond 2023.

At the moment, it feels like the most probable Sixers trade deadline will involve one or two small moves and no changes to the nucleus of the roster. There has been plenty of Tobias Harris trade chatter over the last couple months, but his strong play and massive contract make it difficult to see a path to a mutually beneficial trade involving the 30-year-old forward.

That said, never count out Daryl Morey — he’s notoriously fond of big swings when a championship is within reach. And, call me naive, but a championship definitely feels within reach for any team rostering Joel Embiid and James Harden.