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September 24, 2016

Sixers Mailbag: Ranking the roster by trade value

We’ve made it through the dead period of the NBA calendar, as the Sixers begin training camp next week down the shore at Stockton University. We will be there to provide you with coverage as Brett Brown’s team kicks off what promises to be an interesting season.

New seasons mean trying new things, so we’re going to give the mailbag format a shot here in the preseason. I’d like to thank everybody that sent questions in this week. If I didn’t get to yours, just know that there is a decent chance I will be exploring that subject more in-depth once training camp starts. Anyway, here we go…

I wrote a 23-man roster prediction a few weeks ago, and after thinking about it some more, Elton Brand likely wouldn’t have signed up if he isn’t making the team. Even if Brand isn’t active on most nights, I could see the Sixers valuing Old School Chevy playing the Obi-Wan to Ben Simmons’ Luke.

Balancing the leadership is a tricky subject, but you would think that Gerald Henderson, Jerryd Bayless, and Sergio Rodriguez know the deal: If the Sixers eventually become contenders, it’s going to be because the kids lead them there. The 2008-09 Oklahoma City Thunder is a decent comparison, and for those guys, Nick Collison is generally what you want to shoot for: Play hard, lead by example, and maybe then you’ll stick around for the long run.

These two questions are somewhat related, so I’ll take them at the same time.

There are a lot of five-man units that should be fun, but I’m really curious to see Simmons and Dario Saric on the floor at the same time, specifically at the 3 and 4. We’re pretty sure they won’t work at the 4 and 5 defensively, but that type of size and skill at the forward spots is intriguing. And with that level of passing, there’s a chance the combination could work against specific lineups.

Joel Embiid is the most interesting man in the world, so let’s stick him at the 5. And let’s go with Bayless and Henderson at the two guard spots, since they’re both comfortable playing off the ball. So, there you have it: Bayless-Henderson-Saric-Simmons-Embiid.

In general, I believe that Saric and Simmons could work together offensively in the long run. In the NBA, your position is primarily about who you can guard defensively. That is what makes Draymond Green so valuable for the Warriors in their “Death Lineup”: He might not play offense like a center, but even at 6’7”, Green guards the opposition’s big guy extremely well.

So regardless of what position Simmons plays, he’ll function as a point guard offensively. Even if Saric lines up at the 4, he’ll play as a stretch big who can attack a closeout. Considering Saric’s lack of lateral quickness, my guess is that Simmons (if he buys in defensively, gets into a stance, and all of that good stuff) has the better chance of sticking at the 3 due to his physical tools.

You would start with the guards and wings, and in that case, the answer is probably Robert Covington. We took some heat for slotting RoCo 25th in #PhillyRank this summer, but I truly think he’s in for a breakout year. As our good pal Derek Bodner wrote about a few weeks ago, the guy couldn’t buy an open look as defenses loaded up against him.

With the addition of Simmons and Saric’s passing, other veteran guards, Embiid, and another year of development for Jahlil Okafor/Nerlens Noel, I wouldn’t be surprised if RoCo shoots close to 40 percent from three on a ton of attempts. Covington only has one more year left on that absurdly cheap contract after the 2016-17 season, but at 25, he’s a player that the young core pieces can grow with.

I’ll end here, because it’s a fun question that certainly has some subjectivity to it. When it comes to trade value, I try look at the contracts as much as the players. Here is my best guess as how the league as a whole (again, not me) views the Sixers:

1. Simmons: No. 1 pick on a rookie contract for four more years.
2. Embiid: His trade value isn’t as high as it should be due to the injuries, but still an incredible talent. He almost should be off the board, because he’s more valuable to the Sixers than anyone else.
3. Okafor: Rare low-post ability, and just as importantly, three more years on a rookie deal.
4. Noel: Rim protection, but only one more year on a rookie deal.
5. Covington: Proven NBA wing, making pennies for two more years.
6. Saric: Could jump up to No. 2 or 3 depending on how his game translates, locked in at rookie scale for four years.

(For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t have much of an argument if 3-6 were grouped in any order. Different teams have different needs.)

7.  Henderson: Excellent value on a two-year contract for a wing that helped Portland reach the second round of the playoffs.
8. Richaun Holmes: Young, talented big guy with with three years left on a Hinkie Special.
9. Jerami Grant: Same as Holmes, with two years left on his deal.
T10. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot/Furkan Korkmaz

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann