Coming into NBA Trade Deadline 2018, most of the speculation around major moves seemed quiet.
But most fans of the Association know its purely chaotic nature, and that delivered completely before the clock struck 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
The Cleveland Cavaliers treated their roster like a college kid treats his franchise mode in NBA 2k. Complete overhaul, just mashing away at the trade button.
While the reigning Eastern Conference champions provided enough deadline drama for the entire league, a few players that didn’t get moved flew under the radar. As a result, a player perfect for the Philadelphia 76ers and their playoff push is now available without needing to relinquish any future assets.
Despite being on the market for a reasonable second-round pick, the Atlanta Hawks were unable to move Marco Belinelli. Instead, the two parties reached a buyout agreement and Belinelli is now free to sign wherever he pleases.
Marco Belinelli is finalizing a buyout agreement with the Atlanta Hawks, league sources tell ESPN. Several contenders are interested.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2018
As Adrian Wojnarowski points out, several “contenders” are interested in Belinelli’s services. Rightfully so. At this point in the season, being able to acquire a player who can space the floor and score off the dribble like Belinelli’s shown capable of doing, without trading draft capital to get him, is an attractive option.
At 31 years old, Belinelli could fit places like Golden State or Cleveland more suitable for his career path right now if those teams came to the table with an offer. But the word “contender” is vague, and more than a few teams outside of that general mold could be interested in signing the veteran shooting guard.
Before his buyout, Belinelli’s contract for the season in Atlanta was $6,606,061. Given his price point, and the market set for half-season buyout contracts like the $5 million Greg Monroe got from the Boston Celtics, Belinelli could see a similar number should he decide to sign with a team for just the remainder of the season, addressing his long-term plans in the summer.
The Sixers, who are over the cap limit, have $4,328,000 in room exception to play with. Coincidentally, that’s right in Belinelli’s probable price range.
While Belinelli isn’t a home run addition or a championship winning signing, he fits a glaring hole on the Sixers’ roster while the team is in the midst of a hotly contested playoff race for the first time in more than a half decade. A playoff appearance, even to just be bounced in the first round, is incredibly significant for the future of the team’s core players like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Lights don’t get much brighter than playoff lights, and getting that initial glare out of the way to set up future runs is an important part of the championship contending process.
That’s where Belinelli’s potential contribution can come in. Everyone by this point understands the Markelle Fultz saga to be not only incredibly confusing, but also increasingly dim. President of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo admitted to reporters on Friday that the top overall pick from last June’s draft may not play this season (raise your hand if you’ve seen this Sixers movie before).
Fultz was acquired to provide a scoring punch alongside Embiid and help space the floor for the jump shooting challenged Simmons. It seems now that he won’t provide either of those things for a team charging toward the postseason. And while Belinelli is obviously not the caliber of player Fultz is expected to be one day, he is effective in the present.
So far this season, Belinelli attempts 24.8 percent of his shots from 16 feet to the three-point line. He attempts 51 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Belinelli’s percentages from those ranges (41.7 and 37.2, respectively) are more than effective enough to add another weapon off of the bench in Philadelphia to draw attention to the perimeter while Embiid and Simmons attack the paint.
Philadelphia currently has three players who attempt five three’s a game: Dario Saric, J.J. Redick, and Robert Covington. All three connect on at least 37 percent of those attempts. When any, or all, are off of the floor, the Sixers’ offense enters a weird stage of slashing and kicking out to a player who isn’t nearly confident or equipped enough to hit the open shot provided to them by a collapsed defense.
That’s where the extra option of Belinelli comes in.
Attempting a tick shy of five deep balls per game (4.8), Belinelli would slide perfectly into the rotation as the stop-gap weapon. While he fills in the minutes of a Jerryd Bayless or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Sixers have a more capable shooter and scorer on the floor biding time until one of the other marksmen comes back off the bench to either join or replace him.
It’s no guarantee that the Sixers are even considering Belinelli or even the other way around. But given the team needs and the player’s skill set, this could be a match made in heaven for Philadelphia and their postseason goal.
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