How the Sixers and Pelicans can strike the perfect trade

Al Horford on court for the Sixers
Would the Pelicans be interested in Al Horford? Photo from CBS.

The Sixers and Pelicans are two teams expected to be active this offseason. A trade featuring Jrue Holiday and Al Horford has been mooted.

These are two franchises who disappointed last season and responded by changing their head coaches. Alvin Gentry and Brett Brown are gone, being replaced by Stan Van Gundy and Doc Rivers respectively.

Philadelphia overhauled their coaching staff, bringing in a string of new assistants including former Kings coach Dave Joerger and a lot of new voices into the front office. On Wednesday, it was reported that Daryl Morey will take over as President of Basketball Operations.

Morey will be desperate to reshape this roster. While Horford can stretch the floor, he’s proven to be a grotesque fit alongside Joel Embiid. Barring a shock Embiid deal, Morey will be looking to move Horford.

The former Atlanta Hawk struggled last season, and it’s an awful contract. A lot of criticism was fired Horford’s way, but he’s still a useful player.

Why should New Orleans want Horford?

Heading into his age-34 season and owed over $75 million over the next three campaigns, front offices will not be queueing up for Horford. He’s a player that could help the young Pelicans, though.

New Orleans were among the worst teams in the league on the defensive end last season. Horford is still a good defensive player, and his veteran leadership could prove invaluable on a New Orleans team short of experience if Holiday leaves.

Horford shot a career high 4.2 threes per game last season, hitting 35%. He was a 43% three-point shooter just two years ago. If Zion Williamson is playing most of his minutes at the four, the Pels need a five who can shoot. Horford ticks that box.


Passing is an underrated part of Horford’s game. Popping to the arc out of screens and picking out teammates or playmaking from the post, Horford is one of the better passing bigs in the league – he’s averaged four or more assists per game each of the last four years.

How does Holiday help Philly?

Holiday is clearly the better player of the two. His fit with the Sixers isn’t perfect, however. He’s not the long-range gunner they crave. The veteran guard sits around 35% from three for his career on over five attempts per game – that’s still more than any Sixer took last season.

The desire to slot a point guard alongside Embiid and Ben Simmons is inevitable. The prospect of a lob-thrower is tantalising, but a pure ball handler might be over-the-top given how much Simmons will have the rock. More playmaking is a necessity. A combo guard like Holiday is a good alternative.

Holiday averaged 7.7 assists per game as recently as 2018-19. It’s unlikely he’ll hit such heights on this Sixers team, but it shows how good a passer he can be, and he’s got experience of working alongside an elite post scorer in Anthony Davis. Crucially, he’s a smart off-ball player, too. Well-timed cuts will get picked out by Simmons – there will be easy points to be had as defences focus on the two stars.

It’s remarkable we’ve got this far into this section without mentioning Holiday’s headline skill: defence.

Philly is going to be a good defensive team with Embiid and Simmons on the floor, but they have had their troubles against guards. Holiday is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, twice earning All-Defense honours.

A line-up featuring Holiday, Simmons and Embiid is a serious defensive force. Slot Josh Richardson or Matisse Thybulle in there and it’s a terrifying prospect for opposing offences. Tobias Harris’ defensive weaknesses will be exposed much less frequently.

Potential trades

New Orleans are hanging up the phone on a straight-up Horford for Holiday swap. The Sixers, at the very least, need to throw in the upcoming 21st overall pick and probably a couple of their second-rounders (they have four in the 2020 Draft).

This all depends on how David Griffin views Horford, a player who’s timeline doesn’t necessarily fit with the young core of Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.

The Pels have to like Horford for there to be a chance of this deal working.

A future Philly first, this year’s 21st overall pick and Horford for Holiday could be a workable deal for both teams, though it puts pressure on the Sixers to re-sign Holiday if he opts out next offseason.

If the Sixers are reuniting with Holiday, maybe they look to bring back another former player in JJ Redick. New Orleans will be reluctant to let Redick leave after he played a big part in the hiring of Van Gundy, but they’ll have their price.

Mike Scott could be included to make the salary work. His defence and shooting would fit for New Orleans, though the Pels will likely ask for one or two of Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton or Furkan Korkmaz.

How much do the Sixers have to give away to get Holiday and Redick? Is there a way they could lure the Pelicans to include Josh Hart?

The basis of a Holiday for Horford deal can work for both teams. New Orleans get a veteran, floor-spacing big man to help Zion and add more picks to the haul they got from the Lakers. Philadelphia land a guard who can help them at both ends in 2021.

Throwing another perimeter player in the deal might be asking too much for Philly. Morey would definitely try it.

The Sixers won’t be short of competition for Holiday. They are unlikely to win a bidding war, but this is a trade concept they should investigate.

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About Sam Cox 697 Articles
Sam is a widely published freelance writer, covering basketball, baseball and a range of other sports. He's still trying to decide if he prefers a rundown shot block or a smooth double play.

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