Dario Saric

Latest On Kawhi Leonard

The Sixers have “consistently remained atop the list of teams expected to land” Kawhi Leonard in a trade, Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post writes in his latest look at the Leonard situation. In Bontemps’ view, Philadelphia’s ability to acquire Leonard may hinge on the team’s willingness to add Markelle Fultz to an offer. If Fultz is on the table, it’ll be hard for another team to top the 76ers’ offer, says Bontemps.

Keith Pompey of Philly.com also revisits the Sixers’ interest in Leonard, writing that the team is confident it could convince the star forward to stay in Philadelphia for longer than one year if he’s traded. However, the 76ers are willing to walk away from the Kawhi sweepstakes if the Spurs‘ asking price remains high, as principal owner Josh Harris hinted on Monday.

“If the right situation comes where we can acquire someone that can really add value to our program and the cost of it isn’t prohibitive, then we’ll move forward and do that,” Harris said, per Pompey. “But if that doesn’t come along for whatever reason, then we’ll keep moving forward with our program.”

As Pompey details, the Spurs keep trying to “raise the ante” in Leonard talks, telling clubs that another team is offering more for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Pompey suggests that Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Miami’s 2021 first-round pick would be a realistic package from the Sixers’ side, but notes that the Spurs are believed to be seeking three first-round picks in addition to those two players.

Here’s more on Leonard:

  • Within his look at the Leonard situation, Bontemps writes that the Raptors have “generated buzz” as a potential destination for the Spurs star. ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote last week about the possibility of Toronto being a wild-card team in the Kawhi sweepstakes, suggesting that they could offer a package centered around one of their All-Star guards, a young player, and a first-round pick.
  • One aspect of the Leonard saga that frustrated the Spurs during the 2017/18 season was repeatedly believing he was on the verge of returning to the court, only to be informed he wasn’t coming back after all, per Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com. Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays Wright’s comments on that subject from an appearance on the Back to Back podcast.
  • Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports rounds up several of the Leonard rumors from the last week or so in an informative article.

Sixers Weighing Trade Packages For Kawhi Leonard

The Lakers and Celtics are in talks with the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, but they’re not the only teams interested in making a play for the star forward. According to Jake Fischer of SI.com, the Sixers have held “serious internal discussions” about trading for Leonard within the last couple days, and the front office has taken several trade scenarios to team ownership for consideration.

Fischer reports that the Sixers have yet to present the Spurs with a formal offer for Leonard, but their internal discussions have revolved around various young players and future draft picks.

One team source tells Fischer that, based on preliminary discussions between the Sixers and Spurs, San Antonio appears to have “strong interest” in a package that includes Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and a future first-round pick — perhaps the Heat’s 2021 first-rounder, which the 76ers acquired last Thursday from the Suns.

Markelle Fultz isn’t mentioned in the SI.com report and Fischer confirms in a follow-up tweet that last year’s No. 1 pick isn’t part of any of the proposed packages that team management has brought to Sixers ownership.

According to Fischer, the 76ers showed little interest in parting with either Saric or Covington in pre-draft trade talks when they explored moving up from No. 10. That doesn’t mean that either player would be off-limits in an offer for Leonard, but Philadelphia appears to strongly value the on- and off-court contributions it gets from Saric and Covington.

Interestingly, the Spurs have informed teams that Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is their preferred target in Leonard talks, sources tell Fischer. Other clubs believe this is a negotiating tactic though, since Boston is unlikely to surrender Tatum. Per Fischer, it’s “widely believed in league circles” that the C’s would propose a deal centered around Kyrie Irving and draft picks. We heard earlier today that Boston had yet to discuss Jaylen Brown in talks with the Spurs.

While Los Angeles is Leonard’s preferred landing spot, a source close to the situation suggests to Fischer that the star forward is open to other major markets. That could bode well for teams based in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, though the Nets and Knicks are unlikely to be players for Leonard.

The Sixers’ offseason will be fascinating to watch, particularly if the team takes a major swing on a player like Leonard. The franchise currently doesn’t have a permanent general manager in place, with head coach Brett Brown holding the position on an interim basis after Bryan Colangelo‘s dismissal. For what it’s worth, Fischer notes that Leonard and Brown are believed to have a good relationship, dating back to their time together in San Antonio.

Atlantic Rumors: Saric, Sixers, Celtics, Knicks

The Sixers didn’t move up in the lottery in large part because they refused to trade Dario Saric, Ian Begley of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia tried to get into the top five of the draft but multiple teams indicated the Sixers had no interest in giving up a forward who averaged 14.6 PPG 6.7 RPG and 2.6 APG last season, Begley adds. Philadelphia wound up staying put at No. 10 and drafted Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, then dealt his draft rights to the Suns for Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith and a future first-rounder.

In other draft news involving Atlantic Division teams:

  • With coach and GM Brett Brown running the show, the Sixers were very active in the second round. They traded the No. 38 pick to the Pistons and the No. 39 pick to the Lakers, then parlayed two late picks to move into the Mavericks’ No. 54 spot, where they drafted SMU guard Shake Milton. The Sixers picked up three future second-rounders and cash in the first two second-round deals. “I feel like the trades that we made to acquire future picks and to move up closer to somebody that we really like like Shake Milton, I think that the room was fantastic in organizing and allowing us to do that,” Brown said during a press conference.
  • The Celtics decided against trading for a second-round pick after drafting enigmatic Texas A&M big man Robert Williams with the No. 27 pick, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports. “We don’t need more young players, really,” GM Danny Ainge told Bulpett and other media members. “We feel good about adding one positional player that has something that we don’t have, that does something that we don’t have.”
  • Knicks GM Scott Perry doesn’t expect the team to be “highly active” in free agency, Begley reports in a separate tweet. That’s not surprising, considering the team’s salary commitments for next season. Kyle O’Quinn gave them a little more breathing room by deciding to decline his option but unless Enes Kanter also chooses to decline his $18.62MM option, they’ll be operating over the cap.

Sixers Exploring Move Into Top Five

The Sixers have been making calls about the possibility of moving into the top five of this week’s draft, according to Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Sources tell Fischer that Philadelphia has offered packages of picks, but hasn’t been willing to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric in its offers.

Fischer’s report comes on the heels from a similar note from his fellow SI.com scribe Jeremy Woo, whose latest mock draft mentions talk of the Sixers considering a trade into the top five. As Woo observes, it would be a surprise to see the 76ers make such a drastic move without a permanent head of basketball operations in place. Head coach Brett Brown has been running the department on an interim basis since Bryan Colangelo‘s departure earlier this month.

It’s also not clear which player the Sixers might be targeting at the top of the draft. Many of this year’s top prospects are big men whose fit alongside Joel Embiid would be questionable, and Luka Doncic probably doesn’t make sense for a team that has used the last two No. 1 overall picks on point guards. Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr., and Mikal Bridges are possibilities, though Philadelphia likely wouldn’t have to move up that high for Bridges.

If the Sixers are only willing to offer draft picks in a package for a top-five selection, their odds of making a deal probably aren’t high, but they could put together an interesting offer. Between 2018 and 2021, the Sixers hold seven extra second-round picks. The team also has the 10th and 26th overall selections this year, along with all its own future first-rounders.

As we relayed this morning, the Kings (No. 2), Hawks (No. 3), and Grizzlies (No. 4) have all continued to explore the possibility of moving down in the draft.

Atlantic Notes: Harris, Celtics, Saric, Prokhorov

Re-signing Joe Harris is one of Nets GM Sean Marks’ offseason priorities, he told Alex Labidou of the team’s website and other reporters during a press conference. Harris averaged 10.8 PPG and shot 41.9% from long range in 25.3 MPG this season. “I think Joe made it pretty clear from statements he made that he’d love to be back here. That’s how the organization feels about him, too,” Marks said. Harris made just over $1.5MM and will likely receive a significant salary bump.

In other Atlantic Division developments:

  • The Celtics might regret not trading their own first-round pick for Grizzlies swingman Tyreke Evans to fortify their bench, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News opines. It’s possible but certainly no slam dunk that the Celtics will get a useful player with the No. 27 overall pick, Deveney continues. Boston didn’t know at the time it would lose Kyrie Irving for the postseason but Game 1 against the Bucks showed how badly the team could use a playmaker off the bench, Deveney adds.
  • Dario Saric‘s 3-point shooting is a key component in the Sixers’ playoff run, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Saric had 20 points and went 4-for-6 from long range in Game 1 against the Heat. “It’s the future of our sport,” coach Brett Brown said. “If you don’t have a four-man that can stretch the floor you aren’t going to play very long in the playoffs.”
  • Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s stake in the team in 2015 may have been purchased at an artificially low price, according to Josh Kosman of the New York Post. Prokhorov did not make it easy for Forest City Enterprises to find an outside buyer when it tried to sell its 20 percent share of the franchise, withholding financial information from prospective buyers, sources told Kosman. Prokhorov would up buying that stake at a $875MM valuation and that valuation increased 270% in three years when he sold 49% of the team last week.

Details On Tyreke Evans Trade Offers

Tyreke Evans was considered one of the most players most likely to change teams by today’s NBA trade deadline, but when the dust settled, the standout guard remained in Memphis.

In the hour leading up to the deadline, we heard from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Grizzlies still hadn’t been able to secure a first-round pick in exchange for Evans, and were considering trying to re-sign him with their mid-level exception this summer if they couldn’t work out a deal.

So what did the offers for Evans look like? ESPN’s Zach Lowe and HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy have some details….

  • The Nuggets gave the Grizzlies their choice of two offers, according to Lowe — one offer included Emmanuel Mudiay and a second-round pick, while the other featured an expiring contract and multiple second-round picks. However, Memphis was seeking more, and didn’t want to take on any 2018/19 salary, says Lowe (Twitter link).
  • The Wizards were in on Evans and likely would’ve parted with two second-round picks, but the Grizzlies once again made it clear they were looking for more, per Lowe (Twitter link).
  • As we noted earlier this afternoon, Kennedy passed along details on the Celtics‘ offer for Evans, tweeting that Boston offered two second-round picks and young big man Guerschon Yabusele.
  • Kennedy didn’t have specifics on the Sixers‘ offer for Evans, but said the Grizzlies asked for Dario Saric at one point during those talks (Twitter link). Philadelphia, understandably, wasn’t interested in surrendering the young forward for a rental.

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, LeVert, Saric, Bayless

Knicks lottery pick Frank Ntilikina has played 20 or more minutes in 13 of the last 15 games, as coach Jeff Hornacek continues to gain trust in the French point guard, Roger Rubin of Newsday writes. Ntilikina had a 9-point, 11-assist outing late last month against the Spurs. He’s not posting big numbers like some other rookie guards around the league but the Knicks are pleased with hiss progress. “I think I’m making a step moving forward. The coach gives me more trust, more minutes,” Ntilikina told Rubin and other media members. “I think I’m getting more comfortable on the court. He sees that. I think I can help more than I was doing before. I just have to keep going, keep working on it.”

In other developments around the Atlantic Division:

  • Swingman Caris LeVert is justifying the Nets’ 2016 draft-night trade to snag him with No. 20 pick, according to Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily.com. Brooklyn dealt veteran forward Thaddeus Young to the Pacers for LeVert, even though he underwent three foot surgeries during his collegiate career at Michigan. Last month, LeVert averaged 14.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.3 APG and 1.2 SPG in 28 MPG. “He’s been coming in with that second unit and he’s really been our spark right now and doing a great job,” coach Kenny Atkinson said.
  • Forward Dario Saric can step into a starring role if needed, as he showed during the final three games of the Sixers’ recent road trip, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes. He averaged 24 PPG and 7.3 RPG while making two-thirds of his 3-point tries. “I need to stay focused and believing in myself, believing in what I’m doing on the court,” Saric told Pompey.
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown considers guard Jerryd Bayless as the team’s hardest worker, as he relayed to Brian Seltzer of the team’s website“His day starts when mine does. You go in at like 6:00 a.m., 6:30, and shortly thereafter you hear the tom toms, and he’s in a gym with a ball. That could be after a game,” Brown said. “He’s just a maniacal worker. … When he doesn’t perform like he wants to perform, he doesn’t shoot like he wants to shoot, he wakes up early and tries to fix it quick.”

Sixers Pick Up Four Options; Okafor In Limbo

The Sixers have exercised their 2018/19 rookie scale team options on four players, according to RealGM’s log of official NBA transactions. Philadelphia has picked up third-year options for Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, along with the fourth-year option for Justin Anderson.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2018/19 Rookie Scale Team Options]

That leaves Jahlil Okafor as the only player with a 2018/19 team option that has yet to be exercised. The Sixers could still pick up Okafor’s fourth-year option – which has a cap hit of about $6.3MM – at some point today. However, the club continues to explore potential trades involving the former third overall pick, and those trade talks could determine whether or not Okafor’s option gets exercised, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Outside of Simmons’ option, which will count for about $6.4MM against the 76ers’ cap, the 2018/19 options picked up by the team so far are modest. Saric and and Anderson will have cap charges of about $2.5MM apiece, while Luwawu-Cabarrot’s will be a little over $1.5MM.

The decisions lock all four players in for the ’18/19 season, and Anderson will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2019, assuming he’s not extended during the 2018 offseason. Philadelphia will face fourth-year option decisions on Simmons, Saric, and Luwawu-Cabarrot a year from now.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Saric, Bench

Asked on Monday about the possibility of a minutes limit for Joel Embiid to start the season, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said the club doesn’t necessarily have a specific amount in mind. However, as Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes, Brown suggested that the young center would continue to see minutes in the teens, as he had in the preseason. Told later about Brown’s comments, Embiid expressed disappointment, though he insisted he trusts the Sixers and team doctors.

“I got a voice,” Embiid said. “They got to listen to me. … If I feel great and my body feels great and my knee is fine, I should play 30 minutes or more. I definitely have my opinion on that. They are going to hear me. We are going to discuss it.”

As Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia details (via Twitter), Embiid railed against his minutes restriction again on Tuesday, using more colorful language — it’s “f—ing bulls–t,” in Embiid’s view. The fourth-year big man also said he thought he’d be playing at least 24 minutes a night to start the year, adding that he doesn’t believe in the concept of minute restrictions to begin with (Twitter links).

As we wait to see if the Sixers and Embiid can find common ground on his playing time, let’s round up a few more items out of Philadelphia…

  • In his weekly mailbag for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton explored how many games – and minutes – Embiid would need to play for the Sixers to become a probable playoff team. Pelton estimates that 55 games played sounds about right, assuming Embiid averages close to 25 minutes in those contests.
  • Dario Saric was the Sixers’ most productive player down the stretch last season, but will come off the bench to start the 2017/18 campaign. As he tells Sarah Todd of Philly.com, if he can’t start games, Saric hopes to be part of the lineup that finishes them.
  • In a separate article for Philly.com, Todd takes a closer look at the Sixers’ bench, which – led by Saric – features an intriguing mix of depth, upside, and experience.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Saric, Covington, Fultz

Joel Embiid‘s teammates believe the Sixers made the right move by rewarding him with a five-year extension, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid is slated to receive $148MM, but the value could go as high as $178MM if he meets certain criteria. There are also several salary cap protections to guard the organization against further injury for Embiid, who has played just 31 games in three seasons. “Have you seen him play? He’s a beast,” Ben Simmons responded when asked about the extension. “I can’t name one person that can stop him. Honestly, there’s nobody that can compete with him at his position. No one.”

Embiid is still recovering from “minor” surgery in March to fix a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Sixers were hoping to have him ready for the October 18 season opener, but rehab has been going well and Pompey suggests he may play in Friday’s preseason finale. Embiid’s last game before the surgery was January 27.

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Embiid’s cap hit for next summer will be either $25.2MM or $30.3MM, depending on whether he meets the qualifications for the 30% max, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic. If Embiid is only at the 25% max, Philadelphia will have about $53.34MM in committed salary heading into next year’s free agent sweepstakes. That leaves roughly $47.6MM, but that figure will be reduced by draft picks and option decisions. The Sixers may have two first-rounders if they land the Lakers’ pick, and they have to determine whether to extend rookie-scale contracts for Jahlil Okafor ($6.3MM in 2018/19), Dario Saric ($2.5MM) and Justin Anderson ($2.5MM) by the end of October. Bodner writes that the Sixers are certain to pick up Saric’s option, but Okafor and Anderson are less definite. Philadelphia also has team options on T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes valued at $1.6MM each, but those don’t have to be addressed until June 29.
  • The team’s most important remaining salary decision involves Robert Covington, Bodner adds in the same piece. Starting November 15, Covington will be eligible to have his contract renegotiated or extended. He will become a free agent with a $3MM cap hold next summer if nothing is done.
  • Rookie guard Markelle Fultz may still be suffering the effects of a right shoulder injury, Pompey relays in a separate story. The first overall pick had to sit out Friday’s game and is shooting just 29.2% from the floor in the preseason. “I think his shoulder is affecting him more than he lets on,” coach Brett Brown said. “You can tell with his free throw, you know, trying to get that ball up. Its follow from his body. But he’s been working on just trying to get that thing rehabilitated.”