Yesterday's Philadelphia 76ers trade probably isn't the splashy one that Philly fans hoped. Acquiring Wilson Chandler isn't quite the same as landing Kawhi Leonard, a top five NBA talent. However, it could help bolster the roster for a Kawhi Leonard Sixers trade.
The most common current NBA players cited as pieces for a Kawhi deal are wings Dario Saric and Robert Covington. Markelle Fultz has also been floated due to his potential, but he's a pretty big question mark.
The deal would also likely include a number of picks. The Sixers recently picked up an unprotected 2021 first round pick from its draft night Zhaire Smith-Mikal Bridges trade.
By signing Chandler, losing a Saric and/or Covington in a Leonard deal is not as big a deal for the team's depth.
Bleacher Report's Dan Favale wrote about the Chandler deal's impact on a potential Kawhi Leonard Sixers trade:
Except, what if Chandler's arrival is a nod toward something more? Specifically: What if he signals a mushrooming interest in trading for Leonard?
The Sixers are among the teams who've spoken with the San Antonio Spurs about their disenchanted superstar, per Woj. Chandler himself doesn't do anything to beef up their best offer. They didn't need his expiring contract ($12.8 million) for salary-cap ballast. They had more than $13 million in space before the trade, with the capacity to rise above $18 million if they stretched Jerryd Bayless.
That flexibility would played better than including Chandler. But having him on the roster does, in theory, make it easier for the Sixers to flip one or both of Robert Covington and Dario Saric in a potential Leonard blockbuster. Chandler can be moved around the perimeter in a similar fashion on defense, and his career 34.1 percent clip from downtown figures to improve beside the right mix of other floor-spacers.
Any Leonard trade is a major risk for the Sixers. He can walk next season, and has long been connected to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers as a potential destination. The Lakers are in line to have room to sign him when next year's free agency rolls around.
However, there have been rumblings that Leonard might not be dying to play with LeBron James, and that he may be more open to heading elsewhere, like the Clippers. If the Sixers get him for the year, they seal their spot as one of the top two NBA Finals contenders in the East.
The hope would be that, like with Paul George in Oklahoma City, Leonard falls in love with the basketball situation and stays long term. It may be a long shot, but for the right price, landing a player like Leonard could be worth the risk.