July 10, 2019
NBA free agency is a disorienting experience in a "normal" year and the speed of this year's signings made it almost impossible for the average person on the street to catch up. I can definitely relate — sometimes it's hard to wrap one's mind around the fact that the Sixers signed Al Horford, one of their chief rivals over the last few seasons, to a monster contract in the opening hours of free agency.
(Or at least, they had plans to. It took the Sixers until Wednesday afternoon to finally announce Horford signed his contract.)
Slowly but surely, the Sixers have filled out their roster. Here's where it stands at the time of this writing, with the caveat that not all of these deals have gone official yet, and some of these positional labels are blurring lines.
PG: Ben Simmons, Raul Neto
SG/SF: Josh Richardson, James Ennis, Zhaire Smith, Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton
PF: Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, Jonah Bolden
C: Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Kyle O'Quinn
Two-way players: Norvel Pelle, Marial Shayok
That leaves the Sixers with 13/15 roster spots filled, as the two-way players do not count toward that limit. My assumption is they will leave at least one of those spots open, either for flexibility to absorb a player in a trade or to hunt potential buyout candidates down the road. Since there are only 13 players who can dress every night, anyway, it's not like these final signings are big needle movers.
But there are still some players out there who can help. Let's look at a few archetypes while keeping in mind the Sixers can only offer the veteran minimum.
Korver is the name Sixers fans probably know best, and though it has been a long time since he suited up for Philadelphia, the skills remain the same as they were during his 4.5 seasons here. In short, he can shoot the hell out of the ball.
Unless you consider Tobias Harris an elite shooter — his numbers were there in L.A., but haven't shown up here yet — the Sixers have a lot of guys you'd consider decent or pretty good shooters but no one that teams actively fear. Korver would change that in a heartbeat. After 16 seasons and 5,478 attempts from deep, Korver has knocked down nearly 43 percent of his looks there, sitting fourth on the league's all-time leaderboard for made threes.
At 38 years old, Korver would be a situational player for the Sixers, as he doesn't have much (if anything) to offer on the defensive end of the floor at this point. But in a way, that's okay. He's not going to be locked into the rotation (or even the active list) on any given night, which gives them plenty of breathing room to prioritize development of young players and keep a shooter waiting to go if they need him to step in and space the floor on a given night.
As a general rule, I think the Sixers should be after some guard depth at this stage of the game, though I think if you can get someone who brings an elite skill you need, that takes precedent. Korver is really the only guy left on the market who brings elite shooting pedigree, and he will clear waivers at some point on Wednesday, 48 hours after Phoenix let him go. Concerns about playoff viability for the 14th man on the roster take a backseat here.
If the Sixers can't get Korver, that's when things get interesting. Let's all agree in advance they don't need another center.
Scoring options: Trey Burke, Jeremy Lin
The Sixers are lacking some offensive juice on their second unit, so looking for a guard who can fill it up a little bit wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
You're not exactly picking between world-beaters at this stage of the game, but I think I would lean Burke of the options that are available. He has pretty consistently been at least an average shooter from deep, and he's actually better at shooting off-the-dribble vs. on catch-and-shoot opportunities. For a deep bench guy, I'd argue the Sixers need the former more, as it would potentially give them another player who could run pick-and-roll more.
Most of the guards left who can create their own shots are going to be defensive trainwrecks, so the case against signing one of this archetype would be avoiding that.
The big, veteran option: Shaun Livingston
Just waived on Tuesday afternoon, Livingston was a key bench figure for the Warriors all throughout their spectacular run over the last half-decade. At his peak, it felt like he shot a billion percent (all numbers approximate) on mid-range jumpers, and his length was part of what allowed Golden State to maintain their switchy identity on the defensive end even as they went to the bench.
Here's the problem with Livington — he might be close to cooked as a player. His total aversion to the three-point line would not benefit Philadelphia's interior-heavy team, and I don't think he has the juice left in his legs to make up for it on the other end.
You might be able to talk me into him as sort of a player-coach figure and a locker-room presence above all else. If he's willing to just be inactive on most nights and step into action as an emergency player, there are probably worse ways to use a roster spot. I think if you're asking him to be a member of this team's rotation, however, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
Stay away from: Jamal Crawford, Lance Stephenson
Crawford is familiar to many NBA fans who will advocate for him here, but he has been a tire fire on defense for years and his age has only made that worse. He seems like a great guy from all accounts, but he's a black hole who no longer produces enough to justify it.
I should not have to explain on Stephenson.
Switchable defenders: David Nwaba, Justin Holiday, Thabo Sefolosha
If it wasn't for the fact that they just drafted two young wings with questionable shot profiles, Nwaba would be a runaway winner in this category for me. He's a tenacious defender who has consistently made his teams better during his three seasons in the league, and that's more than you can say about a lot of guys left on the market at this point.
But while he has proven more willing to shoot in recent seasons, he's still not a great bet to knock down shots. Since the Sixers already have young, developing players who fit a similar mold, it would seem to be redundant to bring a guy like Nwaba in, defensive chops aside. Justin Holiday has a shooting pedigree that's a bit better, and though he's not as good as Nwaba defensively, Holiday isn't a total stiff there.
Sefolosha has a lot more tread on the tires, but he has been a very good spot-up shooter on low volume over the last two years. If you're making a bet on someone who might hold up on both ends enough to play spot minutes in a playoff series, he's probably the best option. The only concern with him would be health, and he's not getting any younger.
Shooters: Vince Carter
Bringing in one of Allen Iverson's old rivals to be an elite clubhouse guy and an occasional shooter off of the bench would be pretty fun, and he's the sort of ego-less vet you may need to ultimately take a spot at the end of the bench.
The market is pretty dreadful here otherwise. Jodie Meeks? Ian Clark? Jonas Jerebko? It's not pretty.
Stay away from: Carmelo Anthony
Don't even think about it, Elton.
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