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July 07, 2024

4 free agents the Sixers could sign to veteran's minimum contracts

The Sixers will likely fill out the remainder of their roster with veteran's minimum deals. Which available free agents could make sense?

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Gordon Hayward 7.6.24 Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Could Gordon Hayward sign with the Sixers and rebound from his disastrous Oklahoma City tenure?

After the Sixers waived Paul Reed and used the vast majority of their ensuing cap space to sign Caleb Martin to a four-year deal, the team has embraced an identity based around small ball. But it still has six roster spots to fill, and it is exceedingly likely that at least five of the players they sign will be inked to veteran's minimum deals now that the team has nearly exhausted all of its cap space and the entirety of its Mid-Level Exception.

The Sixers have a few remaining free agents who could return to Philadelphia -- Kyle Lowry coming back would be a godsend for a team in need of stability at backup point guard and plus passers; Cam Payne's shot creation makes him an appealing option as well. But we are going to focus on external targets here:

Sixers free agency primer: Literally everything you need to know

Gordon Hayward

Hayward played 31.9 minutes per game across 25 contests (all starts) for the Charlotte Hornets last season, and averaged 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists, following his reputation as a do-it-all wing on the offensive end of the floor whose ability to score and create for others makes him a useful piece.

Then Hayward was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder as the Western Conference's top seed attempted to bolster its rotation, and disaster ensued. Hayward averaged just 5.3 points per game with Oklahoma City in the regular season, and by the time their playoff run had ended he was out of the rotation.

The Sixers' current rotation is very impressive, but it lacks high-level passing. Hayward would be able to serve as the team's backup point guard or as a member of the wing rotation who enables Tyrese Maxey and Paul George to spend more time as off-ball weapons, depending on what head coach Nick Nurse needed at a particular juncture.

Hayward signing a minimum contract would have seemed far-fetched in February. But after his stint with the Thunder, it seems very likely.

Jae Crowder

Even with Martin now under contract for at least three years (the final year of his deal reportedly contains a player option), the Sixers could use at least one more player who can credibly play the four, particularly on defense. There was a time when Crowder was considered a small ball option at that position, but at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, but power forward is his home at this point in his career.

Crowder played in 50 games (25 starts) for the Milwaukee Bucks last season, averaging 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest and shooting 34.9 percent from beyond the arc on 3.3 long-range attempts per game. He is at 35 percent from beyond the arc over the last decade on significant volume (4.9 three-point attempts per game).

Crowder's best days are surely behind him, but even as he enters his age-34 season, he is at least a viable stopgap at the four to begin the season. The Sixers could bring him off the bench to begin the season in an attempt to add some muscle and three-point volume to their second unit lineups, and if he fails to impact winning, they can look for some kind of midseason upgrade -- whether that is an internal development (Ricky Council IV?) or via trade.

Patrick Beverley

The Sixers' aforementioned hole at backup point guard has shifted attention to Lowry and Payne, but should those elect to not return to Philadelphia, could Beverley do so instead?

Beverley spoke on the record about how he felt as if the team misled him before trading him to Milwaukee, indicating he did not have to worry about being moved. But Beverley appeared to enjoy the time he spent with the team, and one could argue that his skillset fits what the team needs at this juncture, as a tough-minded, defensive-oriented player who is not ball-dominant.

Beverley is known for his pestering work on the defensive end of the floor, but after a dreadful start to 2023-24 on the offensive end, he was able to get in a groove on that end of the floor. He began connecting from three on a regular basis and even provided doses of scoring juice, particularly as a driver, where he loved to head to the basket before turning around and putting up a jump hook.

In 73 games (13 starts) last season between the Sixers and Bucks, Beverley played 20 minutes per game and averaged 6.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest. He shot just 10.5 percent from beyond the arc over his first 15 games -- yes, you read that right -- but made a very respectable 36.4 percent of his triples over the course of the remainder of the season.

Beverley will not be eligible for the first four games of the 2024-25 regular season -- regardless of which team he signs with -- as a result of a league-mandated suspension after Beverley repeatedly threw a basketball at fans near the end of the Bucks' playoff elimination in Indiana.

Daniel Theis

With the signing of Andre Drummond and second-round pick Adem Bona reportedly expected to eventually ink a standard NBA contract -- rather than a two-way contract -- the Sixers should have three centers under contract soon enough. For many teams, that would be enough, especially when the team's starter is as good as Embiid.

But given the frequency with which Embiid misses time and the fact that Bona is just a second-round rookie, it would make a lot of sense for the Sixers to add a fourth center to the mix, even as just an insurance policy. 

Theis, entering his age-32 season, could be an option for the Sixers. He logged 60 appearances last year between the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers and played 16.9 minutes per game, posting averages of 6.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks.

Theis is listed at just 6-foot-8, but makes up for suboptimal height at the center position with strength, toughness and explosiveness. He has good touch, is a strong presence on the glass and can even step out and knock down a jumper: over the last two seasons, Theis has made 52 out of 141 three-point tries, good for a 36.8 percent clip.

Theis may be seeking a clear pathway to minutes at this stage of his career, and unless the Sixers feel strongly that Bona is ready to contribute to a team competing for a championship right away, it would make sense for them to offer him a role as their third-string center who will be featured in the rotation when Embiid is sidelined.

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