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June 19, 2024

Sixers mailbag: Would paying OG Anunoby be too risky?

Evaluating the pros and cons of an OG Anunoby deal, who else the Sixers could add this summer and more.

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OG Anunoby 6.18.24 Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

OG Anunoby was a major factor in the Sixers' first-round elimination in the 2024 NBA Playoffs. Should the Sixers try to pry the unrestricted free agent away from the New York Knicks this summer?

We are just one week away from the 2024 NBA Draft, with fireworks sure to go off league-wide, and soon after that free agency will commence, a period which often ends up being even more chaotic. As the Sixers prepare for many crucial decisions as they handle a roster in transition, it's time to once again answer your questions:

From @SixersPy: Would you be confident in the Sixers' chances to compete if they offer the max to OG Anunoby, or is there a greater chance this can become an Elton Brand 2.0 situation considering Anunoby's health history?

Elton Brand -- who, of course, now serves as the Sixers' General Manager -- turned 30 before the end of his first season with the Sixers, whereas Anunoby turns 27 years old in July, so it is not a perfect comparison. But as far as availability and durability, Anunoby is far from a bankable player. He has missed a jarring amount of time over the last four seasons due to a host of injuries:


If the Sixers were to pay Anunoby -- most expect that the seven-year veteran will sign a four-year deal; his maximum deal over that length is $181.9 million -- they would be cementing a belief that he can be the third-best player on a championship team spearheaded by Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

NBA free agency: Would OG Anunoby be worth the price for the Sixers?

There is no question that Anunoby is a wonderful on-court fit with the Sixers due to his three-point shooting, excellent and versatile defense and ability to scale up his scoring load from time to time. His unique skillset gave the Sixers fits for the entirety of their six-game series against the New York Knicks in last season's playoffs, a series the Sixers lost thanks in large part to Anunoby's excellence.

But in order to feel comfortable pushing all of the chips in on one player, I would need to have more faith in their ability to stay on the floor and their potential scoring volume than I do with Anunoby right now.

From @nwiley529: If the Sixers do land Paul George, what other wing would you like to see them land that can fit in between Embiid and George?

George would be a strong fit with Embiid and Maxey, but while he stands at 6-foot-8, his optimal defensive role is not against more traditional bigs. So, if the Sixers do land the player who is supposedly their top free agency target, it would behoove them to add a wing whose defensive acumen includes handling bigs. 

A return for Nic Batum would be particularly beneficial here; Batum guarded all kinds of players this year, from Trae Young to Victor Wembanyama. Batum's three-point shooting, quick trigger and excellent connective passing would also accentuate a Sixers offense featuring the trio of Maxey, George and Embiid.

Kelly Oubre Jr.'s scoring and rim pressure would be less helpful on a team with George than one without a star wing, but they are two things a team can never have enough of. If the Sixers managed to add George and retain Oubre, they would ask Oubre to focus even more than he did last season on realizing his fullest potential on the defensive end of the floor. In that case, I believe Oubre might be optimized coming off the bench in order to stagger the Sixers' more ball-dominant players, though it remains unclear if that is something he would sign off on doing.

It is a shame that Robert Covington's career has been derailed by injuries to such an extreme extent in recent seasons, because the player he was just a few years ago would be the perfect piece to slot in between George and Embiid.

KJ Martin could theoretically be useful here, but the Sixers will likely never trust him with significant minutes on a healthy roster unless he makes significant strides as a three-point shooter.

From @Jack_Michael17: From a team-building perspective, do you think it makes more sense for the Sixers to target a "third star" (like George) or build out the roster with a very strong bench, assuming those situations are mutually exclusive?

For many years, nearly every NBA team and executive would pursue star-power before depth without hesitation. But in recent years, the league has attempted to swing the pendulum away from top-heavy roster construction, and it has worked: more and more teams are prioritizing financial flexibility, thanks in large part to the new "second apron" rule which makes life extremely difficult for teams with multiple massive contracts on the books.

Among many other penalties, teams who exceed the second apron cannot access any forms of the mid-level exception and are forbidden from adding salary in any trades or combining salaries in a trade to acquire a player with a larger contract.

But, for what it's worth, not all max contracts are created equal. For example, the five-year deal Maxey is expected to agree to in the coming weeks will start at just 25 percent of the salary cap -- and the annual raises in the deal will not be as significant as the year-to-year increases in the league's total salary cap coming as a result of the league's soon-to-be-finalized television deal. Max contracts are rarely thought of in these terms, but if Maxey makes another leap from where he is now, the deal he is about to sign could become one of the league's more team-friendly non-rookie scale contracts.

Ultimately, though, it is a fool's errand to view these decisions through a black-and-white lens: context matters, as does the actual identities of these potential star acquisitions. 

It appears as if the Sixers believe George's on-court fit alongside Embiid and Maxey is enticing enough that it would be worth giving a pricey four-year deal to someone who turned 34 years old last month and risking having shaky depth. If George fits in as well as the Sixers expect and rises to the occasion in a postseason setting, there will be no question that they were right: role players matter as much as ever, but the best teams remain the ones with the best top-end talent.

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