The Philadelphia 76ers recently gave Haywood Highsmith a two-way contract to split time with the NBA and G-League. While Highsmith is an intriguing prospect, the signing also symbolizes a new direction for the team.
The story of Haywood Highsmith is truly inspirational, to say the least. The young forward went from a Divison 2 school to being in the NBA within a year. Something that you don’t see much of nowadays.
Highsmith is a perfect project for the Sixers. He has a high basketball IQ and the potential to be a solid NBA player, even being compared to the likes of Robert Covington. However, if you look beyond Highsmith, you can’t help but note that the team is going a different direction than in previous year and a half.
As soon as Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were healthy (at the same time) the team instantly went into “win-now” mode. When teams are typically trying to win, they prioritize veteran player production over development.
The Sixers elected to either trade for veteran players or to simply not play their younger players. After all, younger players are more prone to mistakes.
While this is common and not shocking, the approach has hurt the team to an extent. Amir Johnson had a steep decline from last season and can’t be a full-time backup in today’s NBA.
While the other veterans on the team have provided varying levels of productivity, we can’t expect them to do so over a long period of time. JJ Redick has been great, but he’s 34 years old. How well he will age remains to be seen.
As of late, we’ve seen Brett Brown involve and adapt more towards a different approach. The team has begun to go back to the approach that built it in the first place – in player development.
The Sixers have an incredibly thin bench, and the veterans haven’t been producing incredibly well from there. In fact, one can argue that rookie Landry Shamet has been the most valuable bench player this year.
As of late, we’ve seen the likes of Jonah Bolden and Shake Milton slowly work their ways into the regular rotation. While it hasn’t been completely smooth, each has shown flashes of the player he can become.
Jonah Bolden has provided some much needed defensive energy for the Sixers. Having Bolden in the lineup helps take the massive amount of defensive pressure off Joel Embiid. His offense has been streaky but should become more consistent over time.
Shake Milton is a great shooter and overall playmaker. We’ve seen the team use him mainly off the ball, but he is more than capable of becoming a backup point guard with more time.
Developing players is a very important aspect. The Sixers have stated multiple times that they are trying to copy the San Antonio Spurs, in terms of player development.
By the sounds of it, Haywood Highsmith is someone the Sixers’ front office looks upon highly. His signing not only signifies a major accomplishment for the young player, but a new approach to the Sixers’ future.