Philadelphia 76ers: Collin Sexton is the perfect trade exception target

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

On July 6th, 2021, Terry Pluto broke down the potential of a Ben Simmons trade to the Cavaliers for and let it slip that his NBA sources have informed him that the Philadelphia 76ers have little interest in a package of Collin Sexton, Kevin Love, and draft picks.

Now, to be fair, this sort of wild “Simmons-to-X” sort of scenario has been discussed by pretty much everyone in the NBA oeuvre. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the Dallas Mavericks, the New York Knicks, or even the Brooklyn Nets; you’ve surely seen some speculation as to whether or not Simmons is a fit with your favorite team and whether or not a hypothetical trade would even make sense.

If you hate such content, I’m truly sorry, but until Simmons is shipped out of town, it’ll continue to penetrate the soil of Sixers content for months to come, maybe even longer, if Daryl Morey opts to keep number 25 around until the trade deadline or beyond.

But hey, just because there’s a massive elephant in the room that will surely drive the conversation indefinitely doesn’t mean that there aren’t still deals to be made that could make the 76ers better both now and moving forward. If anything, the Sixers’ potent combination of tradeable draft picks, moveable contracts, a $5.7 million mid-level exception, and a pair of trade exceptions from the acquisitions of Danny Green and Seth Curry should all but guarantee that Morey pulls off some additional moves to further rebuild the roster in his desired image.

Who knows, maybe a player like Collin Sexton, who isn’t quite valuable enough to headline a trade for Ben Simmons, could still be had via a separate deal and vault the Philadelphia 76ers to the moon regardless of who he lines up next to in the backcourt.

Collin Sexton is a player built to play for the Philadelphia 76ers.

More from Section 215

If you look up effort in the NBA dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Collin Sexton.

Measuring in at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Sexton is almost always the smallest player on the court any time he takes it – including his backcourtmate Darius Garland, who is the same height and only two pounds heavier – but that doesn’t stop him from attacking the basket with ruthless aggression, launching an open 3 with his not quite ideal form, and most importantly of all, embracing contact like a player a full foot taller.

Is he a perfect, complete player? No. Sexton could use some fine-tuning as a shooter, a bit more willingness as a passer, and, most crucially of all, a technical overhaul on the defensive end, as his Defensive RAPTOR rating ranks in the bottom quartile according to FiveThirtyEight, but when you’re averaging 24.3 points per game as a third-year pro, those areas can be worked on.

So why, dare I ask, is Sexton “very available” according to The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd?

Two words: Contractual optionality.

Despite their lack of wins over the past few seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers are very much an expensive team still dealing with the decisions they made around the departure of LeBron James. They extended Kevin Love a very questionable max contract in 2018, Larry Nance, and Cedi Osman to expensive extensions in 2018 and 2019 respectfully, and landed the 2021-22 right to Taurean Prince in the James Harden trade at $13 million.

Factor that all together, and the Cavs won’t be able to sign free agents with salary-cap space until 2023, assuming, of course, they retain all of the rights to their players currently on rookie contracts.

While retaining a player of Sexton’s caliber should be a no brainer because, again, he’s a darn good scorer who tries very hard whenever he’s on the court, signing him to a max contract would further sink the Cavs into debt for the foreseeable future and would severely limit their ability to build a contender outside of trading and/or drafting a legit superstar.

If Cleveland was consistently improving with each passing season, maybe keeping Sexton around would make more sense, but with Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro looking like a viable backcourt moving forward, especially considering the latter has the versatility to kick it to the three if need be, retaining a 6-foot-1 positionless guard who may just be better suited as a sixth man is a tough ask for a GM looking to dig out from a massive debt.

Fortunately for fans in the 215, Daryl Morey is far more focused on the right now than the deep down the line and may be willing to cash out of some long-term assets to secure an immediate upgrade right now.

Now, to be fair (again), it’s hard to predict exactly how any player will project onto the 2021-22 iteration of the Philadelphia 76ers when we have such little idea of what exactly said team would look like. Philly could run it back with the same starting five, trade their entire Big 3 sans Joel Embiid, or do something in between. With that in mind, it’s not too hard to imagine Sexton fixing one of the Sixers’ three-biggest issues from the 2020-21 NBA season: Sixth man sparkplug coming off the bench.

Could Sexton, theoretically speaking, continue to start in Philly and serve as a top offensive option alongside Embiid in the starting five? Most definitely. He could be a starting two guard alongside Ben Simmons if such an opportunity presents itself or even form a small, defensively challenged backcourt alongside Seth Curry – if you, for some reason, want to go that route? Sure, but his absolute floor is a 20-plus points per game scorer coming off the bench a la Jordan Clarkson in Utah or Lou Williams during his firecracker tenure under Rivers in LA.

Is such a player worth, say, a 2021 first-round pick, an unprotected future second-round pick(s), and the contract of a player like Shake Milton? I guess that depends on how highly you value a pick in the 20s, another second-round pick(s) down the line – one, two, maybe even three – and a player like Milton, who is still under contract for two more years on the cheap, but right now, landing a consistent scorer who can provide serious pop off the bench would be an absolute blessing for a team that often receiver 70-plus percent of their points from their starting five.

Sidebar: Just for context, Sexton scored 20-plus points in 48 of the 60 contests he appeared in last season versus only eight for Shake Milton in three more games. Considering neither player is particularly good defensively, I’d take the killer’s mentality of Sexton over Milton’s streaking scoring any day.

Factor in the Sixers’ willingness to reach over the cap in the pursuit of greatness, and the idea of landing a 22-year-old scorer on the precipice of his prime is the sort of opportunity that doesn’t come around too often, especially if the Sixers can keep their top-two young assets – Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle – would be an A-Plus move in the same vein of Morey signing Eric Gordon back in 2016.

If you didn’t catch the Rockets back in Gordon’s prime, let’s just say having another scorer coming off the bench to replace James Harden made the team a whole lot more offensively effective than in seasons prior.

Next. Doug McDermott is the ideal MLE signee. dark

Trading Ben Simmons is a huge deal; maybe one of the five biggest trades in Philadelphia 76ers history. How Daryl Morey decides to wade through these waters, survey the market, and secure a return of picks, players, or a certified superstar as part of a massive package will either vault the team to heights they haven’t reached since the 80s, take their future for years to come a la the post-LeBron Cleveland Cavs, or worst of all, keep the team right around where they are now, perennial second round outs with only so many ways to get better. While such a trade will surely define the offseason for better or worse, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still smaller moves that could help to get Doc Rivers’ squad over the top. Trading for Collin Sexton, even if it costs a decent bit to acquire, is one of those moves and should very much be on the table moving forward.