As the NBA’s Feb. 6 trade deadline approaches, the Philadelphia 76ers will inevitably sniff around the league for a bench upgrade. Since they’ll have trouble matching salaries for players on hefty contracts, they may have to turn their attention to lower-paid reserves.
While Oklahoma City’s Danilo Gallinari ($22.6 million), Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic ($8.5 million) and Washington’s Davis Bertans ($7 million) would be dream targets, New York Knicks swingman Reggie Bullock may be their top realistic option.
Bullock was originally expected to sign a two-year, $21 million contract with the Knicks in July, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, but a neck injury instead caused him to sign a two-year, $8.2 million deal. Only $1 million of his $4.2 million salary for 2020-21 is guaranteed, and the other $3.2 million won’t become guaranteed until June 28, per Spotrac.
That extra year of relatively inexpensive team control should be appealing to the Sixers, who already project to be above next year’s luxury-tax threshold after signing Ben Simmons, Al Horford and Tobias Harris to $100-plus-million contracts this past offseason. The Sixers could effectively treat Bullock as an expiring contract if they’re afraid of dipping too far into luxury-tax territory next season, or he could be a valuable reserve locked up through 2020-21 at a reasonable price.
Bullock’s low-cost contract isn’t the only thing that should draw the Sixers to him, though. His skill set should be especially enticing to a Sixers team in desperate need of more perimeter creation and conscienceless long-range bombers.
Bullock, who won’t turn 29 until mid-March, is a career 39.2 percent three-point shooter who broke out over the past few seasons with the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers. He had his career-best year with Detroit in 2017-18, during which he averaged 11.3 points on 48.9 percent shooting, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 triples and 1.5 assists in 27.9 minutes per game.
Bullock and Pistons star forward Blake Griffin established strong chemistry on dribble hand-offs, which Sixers head coach Brett Brown routinely ran with J.J. Redick and Joel Embiid over the past few years:
The Sixers are running far fewer DHOs this season given their personnel changes over the summer. Adding Bullock to the mix could allow Brown to install a few more of his pet plays whenever Bullock and Embiid are on the floor with one another.
During his time in Detroit, Bullock also proved adept at creating off the dribble after DHOs, which would give the Sixers’ second unit a much-needed boost:
While a grand majority of Bullock’s three-point attempts in 2017-18 were of the catch-and-shoot variety, he wasn’t a one-trick pony on offense. He shot 18-of-40 on long-range pull-up jumpers (45.0 percent) and 30-of-69 on two-point pull-ups (43.5 percent) that season, and he went 47-of-85 (55.3 percent) on shot attempts after two or more dribbles.
The Sixers couldn’t rely on Bullock as a primary shot creator off the bench, but he could fill a similar role on offense as Furkan Korkmaz, who has cooled off as of late after a scorching start to the season. He would mainly serve as a catch-and-shoot three-point bomber, but his ability to create off the dribble on occasion would make him an invaluable addition to a Sixers bench that averages the fifth-fewest points in the league.
Bullock is by no means a lockdown defender, so he wouldn’t move the needle much for the Sixers on that end of the floor. However, he’s made a concerted effort to improve that aspect of his game in recent years.
“Defense is a thing that can keep you in this league, and I focused on having another skill set so I can be labeled a three-and-D guy,’” he recently told Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Even on nights in which Korkmaz is cooking offensively, his defensive limitations make him a target for opponents. The Sixers should be concerned about whether he’ll get played off the floor in the playoffs, which would further hamper their already-crimped offensive spacing.
Philadelphia couldn’t entrust Bullock with locking down stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kawhi Leonard, but he should at least be able to hold his own defensively against most reserves. Standing at 6’6″ with a 6’9″ wingspan, he could fit into a Sixers defensive scheme that calls for frequent switches.
Health is the biggest concern for Bullock at the moment. He underwent surgery in mid-July for a cervical disc herniation, which caused him to miss the first two-and-a-half months of the 2019-20 season. However, he made his season debut on Jan. 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting (3-of-5 from deep) in 15 minutes.
If the Sixers do pursue Bullock on the trade market, they may struggle to match salaries without including Zhaire Smith ($3.1 million) or Mike Scott ($4.8 million). However, they could instead offer two players on minimum contracts such as Jonah Bolden, Kyle O’Quinn, Trey Burke or Raul Neto, along with future draft considerations. That would also free up a roster spot for them to either convert Norvel Pelle’s two-way contract to a normal NBA deal or sniff around on the buyout market after the trade deadline.
Bullock likely wouldn’t be as impactful as Bogdanovic, Bertans or Gallinari, but the Sixers’ salary-matching limitations will affect their ability to make a huge splash at the trade deadline. Landing a shooter such as Bullock may give them a similar boost to what Marco Belinelli provided late in the 2017-18 season following his buyout with the Atlanta Hawks.
Although Bullock might not be the sexiest name on the trade market, he could be what the Sixers need to bolster their bench and get their season back on track.
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