The championship-aspiring Philadelphia 76ers saw their 2019-20 campaign come to an abrupt, embarrassing end with a first-round playoff exit at the hands of rivals Boston Celtics. This wasn’t the plan when they acquired Josh Richardson and Al Horford last offseason, on top of extending Tobias Harris‘ contract.
But even before Ben Simmons underwent the knee surgery that forced him to sit out the bubble games, the Sixers’ experiment of putting Horford alongside Joel Embiid on the frontcourt wasn’t working. It resulted in Horford being demoted to a sixth man role, with Shake Milton assuming the starting job to provide more outside shooting and defensive mobility.
Team general manager Elton Brand recently made it known that they don’t have any plans of trading either Simmons or Embiid, obviously hinting that they will continue to build around that young star duo and move some pieces around. With Horford flunking his first year in Philly, there’s no doubt that he will find his name placed on the trading block. Let’s look at some intriguing teams who could take in Horford’s contract, and give the Sixers a surefire fitting piece to complement Simmons and Embiid.
The Sixers brought in Horford primarily for the defensive versatility he provides, but obviously the 34-year-old vet has declined in that facet of his game. While Simmons has grown into one of the most versatile defenders we have in the league, Philly can’t just force their All-Star playmaker to also be their primary defender every game.
That’s why bringing back a 3-and-D wing in Robert Covington should be a priority for the Sixers. Since arriving in Houston via a mid-season trade, Covington has been averaging 11.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 2.2 blocks per contest. The 6-foot-7 forward can guard positions 1-4, haul in the boards, and space out the floor on offense with his three-point shooting.
If the Rockets fail to make a deeper postseason run with their “micro-ball” line-up, they might scratch that strategy for a more traditional one. Horford can be the Rockets’ presence in the paint, and Covington should provide defense and long-range firepower to the Sixers.
Both the Kings and the Sixers are on the top of the list of the top teams that underperformed this season. With promising power forward Marvin Bagley going down with a major injury, the Kings failed to build on the momentum they have from last season’s surprisingly good run.
Having said that, bringing in a solid veteran presence like Horford should be beneficial for the Kings. Horford can certainly co-exist with Bagley on the frontcourt as they both have decent outside shooting skills. In return, the Sixers could ask for the disgruntled Buddy Hield, who has since been demoted to a bench role in favor of shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Kevin Love may not be the defender that they need, but the Cavaliers star has already proven that he can thrive in a supporting role and excel in it.
He also brings in a successful championship experience, stellar shooting from the outside, and excellent rebounding on both ends of the floor. The Sixers may need to also package a first-round draft pick or a couple of second-rounders so as to entice the Cavaliers front office to do a Love-Horford swap.