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July 06, 2016

So far, Colangelo getting it right in free agency

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On draft night a few weeks ago, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo warned against the team trying for the type of “big splash” in free agency that it was rumored he was desperately looking to make happen.

“We don’t perhaps don’t have the right story to sell this year with respect to the key, top-flight free agents,” Colangelo said. “But we certainly have improved that storyline immensely going forward with the addition of Ben Simmons.”

There were a couple of reasons why the Sixers were better off sitting out the top tier of free agency:

1.    Crowded market: With the cap jumping $24 million this season and then again possibly another $14 million next year, everybody has cap space with the new TV money. That is how you see players such as Evan Turner getting four years and $70 million. It’s simply the cost of doing business in free agency.

2.    Abundance of youth: The Sixers are still a very unfinished product. We don’t know what exactly Ben Simmons is as a player. Joel Embiid is the wild card of all wild cards. With a team this young and so many moving pieces, the Sixers need to figure out who they are before committing long-term money to outside players.

That is why the outcome so far (Jerryd Bayless, Sergio Rodriguez, and Gerald Henderson) is perfectly acceptable. If these are the type of players that Colangelo is targeting, it shows that he isn’t necessarily hell-bent on winning now or trying to speed up The Process. The Sixers will almost assuredly be a bad team again next year, but they’ll definitely more closely resemble an actual NBA team.

With a player of Simmons’ caliber in the fold, this very well could have been the next step even if Sam Hinkie was still running things. The Sixers were the worst offense in the NBA by over two points per 100 possessions last season, and the addition of these three players will give them a fighting chance.

Bayless and Rodriguez will likely be defensive liabilities, and Henderson has trouble shooting the three. With the Sixers still focused on developing their young guys, those warts are fine as long as they fit in with Simmons and the young bigs on the offensive end. Bayless is comfortable spotting up off the ball, Rodriguez can run an expert pick-and-roll, and Henderson has been figuring out crafty ways to deal with spacing issues his whole career.

And as I wrote in the free agency primer, the years are more important than dollars:

Go ahead, try to improve the team’s talent level with some vets. Comically overpay if you have to, but only on a shorter contract. It just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to commit long-term money until we know more about what the Sixers have in the young core.

Try to hit singles and doubles. If you're confident in how you drafted, the opportunities for home runs will come.

Besides the Bayless contract running a year too long for my taste, the Sixers have stayed away from committing long-term money. Free agency isn’t over, and there’s still likely a major domino (a trade involving Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor) yet to drop, but this period was mostly about avoiding mistakes.

For Colangelo, so far, so good.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann