Philadelphia is trying to get Harrison Barnes, who could be a big piece towards 76er relevence

Per ESPN’s Marc Stein.

This does make some sense. The 76ers are in desperate need of a little bit of experience. And although it seems ridiculous to say Harrison Barnes (age 24) is a beacon of maturity, that is the reality in today’s NBA. Two NBA Finals matter, as well.

Right now, the 76ers starting lineup looks something like this:

PG: Ish Smith

SG: ????

SF: Ben Simmons

PF: Nerlens Noel

C: Jahlil Okafor

Bench: Joel Embiid

(Would you look at that..Sam Hinkie’s insufferable “process” has actually yielded a starting five with a startling amount of potential)

Let’s enter the NBA GM machine.

First off, new GM Bryan Colangelo would sign Harrison Barnes to a four year max-deal worth about $90 million. We’ll discuss the repercussions of that much money so soon in a player’s career later on. But for now, Barnes would round out that starting five. Also, with the cap jumping from 70 to $94 million, that deal could look like a relative bargain in a few years.

Smith, Barnes, Simmons, Noel, Okafor. Not bad, right? 

The obvious weird fit there is Smith, a fun to watch but completely marginal and replaceable NBA point guard. The other strange thing is the three big men. This is 2016, where Steph Curry just hit 400 three-pointers in a season. You can’t have three big men starting. Or on the floor at the same time at any point.

Assuming Embiid is actually as healthy as the 76ers PR says he is, this will create a very interesting/somewhat favorable problem for Colangelo.

There is no way you can keep all three of them. That is why they were desperately trying to pry that no. 3 pick from Boston by offering a trove of mediocre assets + Nerlens Noel.

So you have three young and promising NBA big man (all three fall under that category, most obviously Okafor), and you desperately need a point guard to split ball handling duties with Ben Simmons for the next ten years.

A few options:

Noel to the Timberwolves for Ricky Rubio and a future first round draft pick

The Wolves get a second big man/shot blocker to help KAT develop his outside game, and get rid of the whole Dunn/Rubio inconvenience.

That’s a starting five of Dunn/Wiggins/LaVine/Noel/Towns. There is no reason to think that team won’t win a title in five years.

The 76ers fix the big man problem, stash another draft asset and obtain a point guard who is still only 25 years old. The only problem with this for Philly is a potential spacing nightmare. Rubio can’t shoot. Simmons can’t shoot. But Barnes can, and the Rubio/Simmons combo could become the best guard/forward passing duo in the league.

Noel and Smith to the Hawks for Dennis Schroeder 

Who says no to that? The Hawks get a cheap and better long term replacement for Horford (assuming he leaves) and a plug for Schroeder at point guard in Smith.

The 76ers would be giving up a lot for a player who has never been a starter, but when you have an excess of players that is a forgivable offense. Schroeder is right there with most of the 76ers in terms of raw talent without much proof. But he has a good foundation of playoff experience and would be allowed to grow at his own pace, rather than take on too much responsibility with the Hawks.

Bring back Jrue Holiday in the same exact deal that happened in 2013

Why not? After drafting Buddy Hield, New Orleans has an influx of guards (Hield, Evans, Gordon, Holiday), all of which have the potential to completely self destruct.

In doing a second version of the Noel-Holiday swap, the 76ers would bring back a quality veteran and the Pelicans would have a twin tower lineup in Noel and Anthony Davis, plus a killer shooting front court of Hield, Gordon (if healthy) and Ryan Anderson.

Holiday’s contract (about $10 million a year through 2017) would also be incredibly team friendly for the 76ers, who would avoid any sort of long term commitment. In two years, they will be worrying about locking up whichever players in this group become really good, and not having to worry about Holiday’s expiring will be a big plus. If he plays well, they may be able to sell him on a low salary and the chance to play with a good young team. If he plays horribly and continues his injury brigade, they can wave him away.

Out of the GM machine. All of these hypothetical situations will likely rest on Barnes’ free agency decision.

But the bottom line for a guy like Barnes (athletic, proven secondary scorer, young) in today’s NBA is an eventual big contract. The cap is going up. Teams are freaking out. Sans Durant, Barnes may be the biggest attraction in this summer’s free agency. He will get paid.

And when he gets paid, he will be expected to perform. But the reality is that Barnes’ ceiling is most likely close to what we saw in Golden State. A really solid second, third, or fourth option, not a no. 1 type of guy.

If he signs for big bucks with say, the Lakers, he will immediately be expected to go to Los Angeles and score 25 a game. That’s probably not going to happen. He is probably going to be forced into lots of tough shots without the Thompson-Curry blanket, and he is probably going to max out at 18 a game without making his teammates better. If he is forced into the no. 1 option, that is.

That’s why the 76ers could be actually be a great option. Sure, he will be expected to score, but within a few years, he could turn in a nice puzzle piece, not the expected savior.

Image via USA Today Sports

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