The Philadelphia Sixers have been a day late and a dollar short all season long, but even with Andrew Bynum's health in doubt the Sixers were apparently attempting to trade Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith before the NBA trade deadline.
Sources close to both the Hawks and Sixers have confirmed that the teams "were close to a deal" that would have sent Turner and Hawes to Atlanta in exchange for Josh Smith, according to John N. Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Not only is the timing of the rumor odd, the offer itself is a bit strange as well.
Josh Smith will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he will be looking for a new contract that could push $80 million to $90 million. Turner is a young prospect on his rookie deal who doesn't fit perfectly with Jrue Holiday, but the former No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft is signed through next season at $6.68 million. Hawes has under-performed against the two-year, $13 million deal he signed in the summer, so he's more salary filler than anything else. The pieces don't quite fit into a coherent vision for either team.
The Sixers are 14 games under .500 and a quality playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is out of reach. In essence, they would have been adding more uncertainty to their future by dealing for a rental of Josh Smith. They made a bold trade for Andrew Bynum in August to break the cycle of mediocrity, but the 25-year-old big man hasn't played a single minute for the team this season. They may have been more optimistic about Bynum's return near the deadline, but it's unclear why they would make a bold move to chase a bad bet on Bynum's health from the summer.
It's also unclear whether the Hawks simply considered the offer for Turner as leverage in their negotiations with the Milwaukee Bucks. Altanta negotiated with the Bucks up to the final minutes before the trade deadline, and pulled out of a deal that would have landed them Luc Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh, Beno Udrih, and a protected first-round pick. The Hawks wanted Monta Ellis included in the deal, so maybe they saw Turner as the next best thing that could get the Bucks moving on a bigger package. How Turner would fit next to Jeff Teague is anyone's guess.
The rumor does present an interesting story line for the Sixers this offseason. If it is determined that Turner is not the optimal back-court player to pair with Holiday, Philadelphia could be aggressive with a sign-and-trade offer for Smith during the summer. With Andrew Bynum's future up in the air, maybe Philadelphia is targeting Josh Smith as its long-term answer to pair with Jrue Holiday. Philly certainly has a lot of big decisions to make this offseason.
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