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Philadelphia 76ers should make strong push for Justin Holiday

If the Chicago Bulls shop Justin Holiday, the Philadelphia 76ers should jump on the phone.

The Philadelphia 76ers are painfully thin when it comes to the second unit. While Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons anchor an elite starting five, the bench often leaves the Sixers at a disadvantage against other contenders.

Elton Brand should work the trade and free agency markets hard over the next couple months, looking for ways to upgrade the second unit without sacrificing long-term financial flexibility. As Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova showed last season, minor additions can drastically change the outlook for a team.

One potential trade target is Justin Holiday, who played nine games for the Sixers as a rookie in 2012-13. Now with the Chicago Bulls, Holiday is enjoying a strong season at age 29. The Bulls, who are rebuilding, might be inclined to flip him for assets.

Averaging 11.9 points per game, Holiday is a source of scoring off the bench. His 38.6 field goal percentage isn’t great, but he’s capable of getting buckets at all three levels. He’s also shooting 36.5 percent from deep, which lies above the league average.

The Sixers need more players who can create off the dribble and space the floor, which Holiday provides. As the Celtics series made evident last season, dribble penetration will go a long way in helping the Sixers remain competitive.

Where Holiday brings the most value — at least to the Sixers — is defense. With Landry Shamet, Furkan Korkmaz and T.J. McConnell currently holding down the second unit, the Sixers rely on three negative defenders behind the starting five. J.J. Redick isn’t exactly an upgrade either.

Holiday gives the Sixers someone who can take minutes from all three, providing Brett Brown with a more reliable source of wing defense. At 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan, Holiday has the tools to defend multiple positions.

In a vacuum, Holiday doesn’t push the Sixers over Boston or Toronto in the Eastern Conference hierarchy. He does, however, improve the bench and make the margin smaller. If the Sixers can add Holiday and another bench piece (or two), things look much better.

Holiday is due $4.4 million this season before hitting unrestricted free agency next summer, so the financial obligations are minimal. The Sixers will have around $20 million in cap space in free agency, a number that could grow to near-max capacity with a Markelle Fultz trade.

Next: Is Brett Brown the issue in Philadelphia?

As for the makeup of a potential deal, the Bulls would likely pursue draft capital in return. A couple second-round picks, which the Sixers have in plentiful supply, could make sense. Justin Patton or Furkan Korkmaz are young players on expiring contracts.

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