We are just a few hours out from the start of free agency. There are a lot of prominent storylines on the front page of the offseason. Where will LeBron sign? Do LeBron and PG team up? Does everyone stay at home? Do the Sixers have any shot? The future of the NBA could (will?) be altered in the next few months, and the Sixers will be in the center of it. I’m going to touch on the two big fish and a bunch of other potential free agent targets the Sixers should have their eyes on.
It’s obvious who the top two free agents are in this class. With Kevin Durant opting-out and likely to re-sign in Golden State, the focus goes to LeBron James and Paul George.
News broke on Friday 6/29 that LeBron James was not going to exercise his player option for the 2018/19 season. That move effectively removed the Rockets, Celtics, and Spurs from the picture. With those teams brushed aside, the Lakers, Cavs, and Sixers are left, with the Lakers being the heavy favorite. While I think the basketball fit in Philly is just fine, all of the tea leaves point to LeBron signing in LA and continuing his illustrious career in Hollywood. It remains to be seen if the Sixers will even get a meeting at this point.
Everyone expected that Paul George was a lock to go to the Lakers this offseason. The Thunder took a chance and look primed to cash in. PG has the Lakers and Sixers, among a few others, as his main suitors. While Philly might be his best fit basketball-wise, it doesn’t seem like he’ll leave OKC. I think he’ll take a 2+1 and do this again in 2 years, after he hits 10 years of service, making him eligible for the 35% max.
Rodney Hood presents an interesting dilemma. He struggled mightily in the playoffs with Cleveland and was up and down overall after his trade from Utah. If LeBron leaves, the Cavs will likely want to match any offer to keep Hood. If the price is right, I wouldn’t hate getting him on a short and cheap deal. He can get his own shot, is a good shooter, but his defense isn’t anything to write home about. He would be a scoring option off the bench.
Aaron Gordon had a break out year as the number one option on the Orlando Magic. He’s an outstanding athlete who plays well above the rim. He took a career high number of 3s this season but still shot below average. His free throws were still low in attempts and around 70%. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a great shooter. He’s an okay defender who is able to switch. He presents an interesting option if the Sixers were to miss out on all of their top targets. He might be able to slide into the 4 next to Embiid and make a big impact. However, it might take a 4-year max to get him, which I wouldn’t do. Orlando likely matches anything and everything, though.
Marcus Smart played a pivotal role, after returning from injury, in the Celtics playoff run. He’s a tenacious defender and rebounder who can’t shoot a lick. He would be a great addition to the Sixers due to his defensive ability. He’s able to defend the point of attack and also switch. I’m not sure I’d make an offer that the Celtics can’t match but I’d definitely see what his market is as free agency unfolds.
Nemanja Bjelica is a playmaking big man. He’s not much of a defender but he can really shoot it. He would be a solid backup to Dario Saric, in the same vein as an Ersan Ilyasova. Minnesota shouldn’t let him go, but it doesn’t seem like they value him all that highly.
Patrick McCaw has always been someone that I’ve liked. He was largely buried on the bench with the Warriors but did show some flashes. He still has some development left in him, especially offensively. He’s a solid defensive player who is able to switch. The Warriors are cap-strapped and likely can’t match most offers. His market will be interesting to watch.
David Nwaba isn’t much of an offensive threat but defense is his calling card. He’s a solid defender that should be able to be had on a very reasonable deal. Problem is, I think the Bulls match pretty much any non-outrageous offer.
JJ Redick had a stellar season with the Sixers last year. I think he has to be brought back, hopefully on a longer term for less money per season. If they strike out on all of their top targets, he could get another 1-year deal for high money.
Tyreke Evans had a very good season with Memphis before it was cut short due to injury and tanking. He’s a scorer, plain and simple. His shooting has been up and down during his career but has been better of late. He can also handle the ball and facilitate. I think he’d be a good target on a 1-year deal to be a 6th man.
Avery Bradley wasn’t able to really do much last year after his trade to the Clippers. He got off to a nice start with the Pistons before being dealt. We know who he is. He can defend and shoot. The Sixers need more players that can do both. He’s not super-switchable because of his size but he can cover the point of attack, which the Sixers don’t have many guys that can do that well.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signed a similar deal with the Lakers that Redick did with the Sixers. He’s not as good of a shooter as Redick is but he’s a much, much better defender. He’s able to switch more than Bradley but can also guard the point of attack. I would look to steal him away on cheap deal.
Michael Carter-Williams is a big guard who can stay far away from Philadelphia. GOTCHA.
Trevor Ariza is the exact type of player the Sixers need. He’s an outstanding defender that can switch and knock down open 3s. His age and the lack of money available could make him more likely to be stolen away from the Rockets with a big offer. Every contender will be after him.
Will Barton is a scoring wing that would give the Sixers a big boost off the bench. He’s a so-so defender but his offensive game would be a huge upgrade to the team’s depth. I wouldn’t go too crazy with an offer on him, though.
Nerlens Noel is someone we all know well. If he’s right, he’s a great defensive center. If he’s not, he’s someone that you don’t want in your locker room. I’d stay away.
Wayne Ellington is a pure shooter and a Philly native. He’d bring a nice element to the Sixers bench on a cheap deal. I’d rather have him than Marco Belinelli.
Jamal Crawford is another pure scorer. He’d give the Sixers a veteran scorer off the bench, which is valuable.
Lance Stephenson is a mighty interesting player. I have no idea if he’d fit in behind the scenes, but on the court he can do some helpful things. He’s not much of a shooter, which hurts, but he can facilitate, rebound, and defend. He also seems to have a good impact on his team in big games. I’d take a flier.
Joe Harris is a very good shooter but can’t really defend. His size makes him more passable than others but he doesn’t move around at an above average level. I’d love to get him as a bench shooter.
Jerami Grant is another guy we’re familiar with. He’s a switchable defender that would really help the Sixers off the bench. He can even play some small-ball 5 in that scenario. He’s still not much of a shooter, but that’s not what you’re signing him for.
Rudy Gay isn’t the sexy name it once was but he still can provide value. He does a bit of everything. Might be worth a flier.
Mike Scott is a bulky 4-man who can score. He could be a nice scoring option off the bench, in lieu of Ilyasova.
Mario Hezonja is, and will always be, my guy. I would take a flier on him.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a former Sixer who should get a look. He’s a very switchable defender that would fill a big need off the bench. Every contender will be after him.
Kyle O’Quinn is a big dude who can rebound and defend. I think he’s better than Amir Johnson and would be my ideal backup 5. He declined his option with the Knicks, which could mean he wants a big deal. However, there isn’t much money out there. I’d pursue him hard.
Kevon Looney has shown that he’s able to defend a lot of different positions. I’m not sure you can steal him away from the Warriors, but I’d like to try.
Glenn Robinson III
The Sixers will be front and center this offseason. There are many free agents available that can help this team get better on the margins, which is something they really need to do, if they strikeout on the big fish. This next month or so should be really fun.