Philadelphia 76ers: There’s still time to trade for Darius Garland

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

Welp, it’s officially official: Collin Sexton and the Cleveland Cavaliers have failed to reach a contract extension.

Now to some, this news didn’t come as too much of a surprise. A steady stream of anti-Sexton propaganda has been funneling out of “Believeland” for the better part of the summer, and he was reportedly available via trade for any team willing to deal. But still, after averaging 24.3 points in 35.3 minutes and increasing his totals in each of his previous seasons, it felt somewhat confusing to not just hand him a deal both sides felt comfortable with.

Should the Philadelphia 76ers be interested in a deal for Sexton? If the price is right? Most definitely. Even if Sexton pads his averages by playing on a bad team, he still has the sort of tireless work ethic that fans in the City of Brotherly Love will surely love and is the sort of relentless driver Philly hasn’t seen in some time.

But do you know who the Philadelphia 76ers should really be calling the Cleveland Cavaliers about? Well, that’d be none other than Collin Sexton’s backcourt partner in crime Darius Garland, which would be a fantastic centerpiece of a Ben Simmons trade.

Darius Garland would be a perfect lead guard for the Philadelphia 76ers.

If the Philadelphia 76ers are going to trade Ben Simmons for a non-MVP candidate, they really need to bring back a viable point guard in whatever package they procure.

I know, I know, that seems fairly obvious, right? You don’t just swap out a player who averages 14.3 points and 6.9 assists per game without having some sort of play to replace that production on the offensive end of the court.

And yet, how many times have you seen the Sixers linked to a player like OG Anunoby, Andrew Wiggins, or Minnesota’s non-D’Angelo Russell package?

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

While the Sixers did prove that they can be a pretty darn impressive offensive unit when they surround Joel Embiid with four shooters, as evidenced by their third of four preseason games, neither Shake Milton nor Tyrese Maxey showed enough on the court to give fans solace in their ability to run an offense at a championship level.

*sigh* if only the team could land a guard capable of running the show, passing the ball at a super high level, and draining 3s well above the NBA average clip. Then they would truly have the sort of offensive upside to hang with the best team’s the East has to offer.

Well, that very much is a possibility; they just need to trade for Darius Garland.

Measuring in at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, Garland is an ideal modern NBA point guard. He’s a good finisher with an impressive layup package, a limitless marksman who can hit from the logo, and has the rare distinction of being one of only two point guards in the NBA who averaged at least 6.1 assists and shot 3 pointers at a 39.5 percent clip in 2020-21.

Fun fact: The only other player who accomplished that feat in 2020-21 was Chris Paul, who led the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals. When you’re being spoken about in the same breath as Chris Paul as a 21-year-old point guard, you must be doing something right.

Garland is also fast, like De’Aaron Fox fast. When he got the ball off a fast break, which happened a lot, considering his 1.2 steals per game average, he was a borderline lock to outrun any would-be defenders for a layup, hook, or even dunk in the paint.

Yes, you read that correctly; Garland can dunk at 6-foot-1.

Despite his lack of defensive versatility, Garland has the athleticism needed to stick with opposing players as best he could, even if he doesn’t always lock said player down. With a few more years to get his body right,  Garland may eventually become a good positional defender still, even if he needs to pair up with a player like Matisse Thybulle to fully field a plus NBA defense long-term.

But do you know what? Give me a guard who can hit from anywhere, pass among the best of them, and at least try on defense over a player unwilling to expand his game out of a fear of being embarrassed – I think you know the guy.

I mean, you don’t land first overall on Zach Lowe’s “Five most intriguing players list” without being a pretty darn intriguing player.

So, you may ask, how would Garland fit next to Embiid, Thybulle, and company on the Philadelphia 76ers both now and moving forward? Like a darn glove.

Garland could run pick-and-rolls effectively with both Embiid and Andre Drummond, play effortlessly next to Maxey and the team’s other defense-first guards, and ultimately fade back onto the wings when the team’s big men were cooking to serve as a knockdown shooter on the wings.

And the best part? Garland is just going to get better.

Are you one of those people who worry every day about Embiid’s career ending early and the Sixers being left without a star in a post-Simmons world? Well, considering Garland won’t even be entering his traditional NBA prime until the 2025-26 season, his presence on the roster could set the team up for a long and happy contention window moving forward.

If Cleveland really has made none of their players untouchable in a trade for Ben Simmons, centering a package around Garland is about as good of a deal as Philly will find.

Though the Sixers can’t trade Simmons for Garland straight up for financial purposes, the two sides could easily swing a deal of Simmons and Jaden Springer for Garland and Kevin Love today with additional draft compensation to sweeten the deal, or wait a few weeks and try to expand the deal out with more players like Ricky Rubio once the moratorium on trading free agents lifts.

Heck, maybe Collin Sexton could even find his way into the deal and help the Sixers bring back another player they like more than those currently on the Cavs’ roster. Either way, if Garland is part of the deal, it is unquestionably a win for Philly.

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Daryl Morey has never been one to care too much about what others think. He traded for James Harden before he really became James Harden and came a Chris Paul injury away from the NBA Finals a few years back. If he wants to land a very high upside point guard who could both help the team moving forward and remain a viable trade chip if a player like Damian Lillard becomes available, Morey won’t find a better option than Darius Garland. Trust me, Philadelphia 76ers fans, this kid is special and could be special playing alongside Joel Embiid for a very long time.