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June 07, 2016

Sixers free agency preview: Thin point guard market, Ben Simmons could create tough decisions

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At the very least, Jeff Teague is better than any point guard the Sixers can land in free agency this summer. That fact wouldn’t justify parting with Nerlens Noel in my eyes, but the Sixers won’t have the opportunity to bid for even an average starting point guard in July. After a season in which the backcourt was such a glaring weakness, Bryan Colangelo and co. are presented with an unappealing set of 2016-17 options.

How bad does the front office, sitting on $50 million in cap space, need a veteran point guard and what are they looking for from the position?

Burning question: With Ben Simmons likely joining the fold, what do the Sixers need from a point guard?

In the NBA, your position is generally considered to be who you guard. In Simmons’ case, that will be the 4. That said, if you’re drafting Ben Simmons, he’s likely going to function as your point guard on offense to best take advantage of his elite court vision. Kris Dunn, who had the ball in his hands the entire game at Providence, is a shaky fit next to Simmons even if he might be the best player available at 3 or wherever the Sixers would pick after a fictional Jahlil Okafor trade. 

The type of point guard that the Sixers are realistically looking for is someone like Patrick Beverley, who can hit catch-and-shoot threes and defend like crazy. You’re never going to run away from playmaking, but there is an argument to be made that drafting Simmons means targeting players who can thrive without the ball should become a priority.

Will the Sixers try and get creative in the backcourt and bring in more of a 2? Could they sign a backup type to reasonable money, and look to draft a lead guard in next year’s lottery?

Sixers free agents

Isaiah Canaan, Ish Smith

Smith was able to stabilize things for a few months, but his lack of shooting and overall style of play seem like a poor fit next to Simmons. Canaan doesn’t guard anyone, but his most glaring offensive weakness (shot creation) theoretically matters less with Simmons in the fold. Making open shots is his one clear NBA skill.

I would guess there won’t be a Smith return, but the point guard market is so bad that maybe bringing him back at a more reasonable price (and fewer years) is the Sixers’ best option. It all depends on how the front office feels about its temporary problem.

Not happening

Mike Conley, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Jordan Clarkson 

Conley is the best free agent point guard on the market, and he’ll have his choice of where to go. Williams is 32, and Rondo, from a stylistic standpoint, is about the polar opposite of what you’d want to pair with Simmons.

Clarkson is a restricted free agent and it sounds like he doesn’t want to leave Los Angeles.

Semi-appealing RFAs

Tyler Johnson, Matthew Dellavedova, Langston Galloway, Seth Curry

Outside of Dellavedova (who plays in a great situation, minus the whole Finals part), none of these guards average a ton of assists. They all make threes though, and besides Curry, are at least adequate defenders. All four players are restricted free agents, and in the case of Delly, the Cavs will have no way to replace him in free agency. He’s likely staying put unless you make an absurd offer that would have damaging long-term effects.

Galloway and Johnson are subject to the Arenas provision, which means that the Sixers can only offer about $5.6 million for the first two years of any contract. The Sixers would run the risk of the other team simply matching an offer sheet, but you could make the argument that all four of these guys are young enough that they could potentially be a part of the team’s core by the time it’s ready to win.

These guys aren't perfect fits or even starter-level players yet, but as Brett Brown likes to say, they check some boxes.

Playing the unrestricted market

Jeremy Lin, D.J. Augustin, Greivis Vasquez, Ramon Sessions

In terms of the UFAs behind Conley, the worry is about years more than money. Lin isn’t a perfect fit with Simmons, but he would almost certainly be an upgrade over last year’s point guards. Could you convince him to take one year and $18 million and then hit free agency again next year with another cap spike? The same idea could apply to Augustin.

Mario Chalmers, coming off an Achilles injury, could be an interesting veteran buy low option that fits the Simmons style of play.


I liked what The Vertical’s Bobby Marks wrote:

With cap space, a treasure chest of draft picks and some young building blocks, 76ers management needs to get in the business of hitting singles and doubles. Pushing chips to the middle of the table and going hunting for big names is not what Philadelphia should do. If that happens, the 76ers could be back to Square One in the rebuilding process.

The previous three seasons showed Philadelphia in asset-acquisition mode and not focused on improving the on-court product. The key for Philadelphia is finding that fine line to improve the basketball talent but not risk its key assets.

After some thought, the idea of renting Teague sounds like a good idea, just not for the price of Noel. The Sixers need better players in the backcourt, but the problem is that there aren’t many appealing options in free agency. This market is sort of like facing Clayton Kershaw: Singles and doubles might be hard to come by, too.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann