One of the ironies of this Sixers offseason is that we've spent the vast majority of our time focusing on the scenarios that are least likely to happen. That's understandable, given that the Sixers own preoccupation with landing a max-contract-level superstar this offseason. But as I've written since the end of the season, the Lakers are a big golden wrench that is likely to derail the Sixers' loftiest aspirations, given their combination of cap room, trade assets and star power.
Whatever the case, we should probably take some time to consider the Sixers options should the aforementioned scenario come to pass. If not George, LeBron, or Kawhi Leonard, then who?
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With $32+ million to play with, the Sixers could end up targeting a handful of veterans on one-year deals while preserving their ability to swing a trade in-season or compete for elite free agents next offseason.
TOTAL: 13 roster spots, $66.3 million, including Jerryd Bayless' $2.86 million stretched salary.
The Sixers could have about $35.5 million to spend on four roster spots, each of which will form an important part of their eight-man rotation.
1) At the moment, they have a projected $68.5 million in salary on 13 roster spots and a stretched Jerryd Bayless contract. Those roster spots include nine roster locks (Embiid, Covington, Fultz, Simmons, Saric, Smith, Korkmaz, McConnell, Shamet), two two-way contracts (Shake Milton and TBD) and salaries of $2.52 million and $1.601 million for Justin Anderson and Richaun Holmes.
2) The Sixers could achieve additional savings by replacing Anderson and Holmes with minimum salaries. Anderson would appear to be the most obvious candidate to move, which is why the recent news that he will have surgery to repair shin splints might be a slightly bigger deal than it at first appeared. It simply doesn't make fiscal sense to spend $2.52 million on a player who occupies one of those bottom five spots on the roster. And that's where Anderson was sitting at the end of this past season. You can make a greater argument for Holmes earning his salary as a third-string center, given the relatively slim split between his salary and the minimum. Anderson, though, is eminently replaceable on the minimum salary market, particularly if the Sixers think Zhaire Smith can at least play solid defense at the two or the three.
The fact that Anderson is facing a recovery of at least eight weeks could complicate the Sixers ability to find a team willing to take him. But assuming he is projected to be healthy for the bulk of the regular season, there should be a place for him on a rebuilding team.
3) That leaves us with the depth chart and salary picture above.
1) A two-guard that would compete with Fultz for the starting spot. This is roughly the J.J. Redick role from last season. At the right price, Redick would be an obvious target, although the right price is nowhere near the $23 million he earned last season. If not Redick, the Sixers need a guy who is knock-down three-point shooter, or someone who makes up for the difference with his ability to create his own shot and/or play defense.
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2) A wing capable of coming off the bench the way Marco Belinelli did after joining the team in February. Ideally, this spot would feature a player with a little more D to go with his 3.
3) A reliable rim protector who can come off the bench to spell Joel Embiid. This is Amir Johnson's spot from last year. The Sixers could really use an upgrade defensively, and Richaun Holmes has yet to show himself to be a reliable option in that regard.
4) A stretch-four who backs up Saric. This was Ersan Ilyasova at the end of last season. Ideally, the role would be filled by someone who brings a little more offensive and defensive versatility. Again, though, price factors into ideals.
1) Kyle O'Quinn: He's spent the last several seasons playing behind Joakim Noah and Enes Kanter, but he is a solid defender who makes up for what he lacks in height with a tenacity in the paint. Only 27 years old, he could be an under-the-radar bargain in a crowded center market. Let's assume that it takes more than the taxpayer exception to sign him. Say, $6 million per season.
2) Aron Baynes: He showed his value in the playoffs, and if the three-point shot is here to say, he's worth that much more off the bench. The feeling in Boston seems to be that he'll end up re-signing, so he might not be a realistic option.
3) Nerlens Noel: It'd be an interesting turn of events if he ends up back here, but it might be more likely that a rebuilding team signs him to a multi-year deal because of his upside and name value.
4) Zaza Pachulia: Good defensive center who brings championship pedigree.
Other names: Lucas Nogueira, JaVale McGee
The Belinelli Role
1) Joe Harris: It'll be interesting to see where his market ends up settling. Only 27, he shot .419 from three-point range last season and has a .579 effective field goal percentage for his career. Played in a system with lots of screening and ball movement in Brooklyn.
2) Wayne Ellington: Consumate role player with playoff worth who has shot .380 from downtown while averaging 24 minutes per game over the last four seasons. Plus he's a Philadelphia native and Episcopal Academy graduate.
3) Nick Young: Swaggy P back in Philly? It'd make a lot of sense after seeing the role he played in Golden State last season. A .392 three-point shooter over the last two seasons.
The Redick Role
1) Trevor Ariza: Would be ideal in a lot of different ways. Could slot ahead of Covington in the rotation. Pairing him with Redick would be intriguing.
2) Kentavious Caldwell–Pope: He'll clearly be hoping for a multi-year deal after signing for one year and $18 million with the Lakers, similar to Redick's contract with the Sixers. A defensive upgrade over Redick, he also shot .383 from downtown in his first season with the Lakers.
3) Avery Bradley: At one point, he seemed like a candidate for a multi-year deal in the upper teens, but a disappointing season that ended with injury could limit his market to the mid-level exception territory. Maybe a one-year overpay lands him.
4) Will Barton: I have him on the list because he's a bucket-getter who shot .370 from three-point range in each of the last two seasons while playing a prominent role in Denver. I don't have him at No. 1 because it's difficult to envision him settling for a one-year deal, even on an over-pay. Reportedly turned down four years and $40+ million last offseason.
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The Ilyasova Role
1) Luc Mbah a Moute: One of the better playoff-caliber role players in league, he's a good shooter from deep and a solid, versatile defender. Checks off a lot of boxes. At his age, could be enticed by a substantial one-year offer?
2) Nemanja Bjelica: Would seem to be a candidate for a multi-year deal. Don't know what the Sixers think of his defense, but he shot .415 from three-point range while averaging 21 minutes per night last season.
3) Anthony Tolliver: Will be 33 years old, so a one-year candidate. Has shot .418 from three-point range with an average of 4.1 attempts per game over the last two seasons. Defense a question mark.
4) Mike Scott: Knocked down 41 percent of his three-point attempts and moved into a prominent role in the Wizards rotation down the stretch and through the playoffs last season.
Two of the best fits on this list are Ariza and Mbah a Moute, which will make the Rockets a key player as it relates to the Sixers' market. If they fail to add another elite free agent to Chris Paul and James Harden, it wouldn't help the Sixers cause. Houston can go over the cap to re-sign Ariza.