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Options to Fill Out the Sixers Frontcourt

With Spencer Hawes sidelined with an iffy back, the Sixers frontcourt is extremely thin. Look no further than last night when TONY BATTIE MacGyver'd himself into the starting lineup. Doug Collins isn't ready to hand over significant time to rookie Nikola Vucevic, and with Marreese Speights currently traded for 64 cents, there aren't many in-house options left (excluding barrel-scraping Lavoy Allen and Craig Brackins). Though Hawes hasn't been as integral to the offense as some have believed, they'll need to explore the market for a backup big man to come in with Vuce and Thaddeus Young on the Night Shift.

This has the potential to go either two ways: passably decent or nauseatingly terrible. There's not going to be a huge win come out of a minor trade or FA signing like this one but there could be an idiotic one, so let's hope for passable. People had guessed that after the Speezy trade, a roster spot would have opened up for Xavier Silas, but that does not seem likely now, though the backup point guard role is still mysteriously void of actual point guards.

Consider that the Sixers don't have much in the way of assets (Andres Nocioni's expiring, ehhh Brackins, Mo's trade exception and draft picks), the options aren't enviable. Here are some purely speculative veteran-y candidates the Sixers could target. I left out Drew Gooden purely for my own health.

Anderson Varejao - Cleveland Cavaliers

There's no denying his value to a basketball team with his rebounding ability (16.3% on the offensive glass second behind DeMarcus Cousins in the league this year), solid career shooting percentages (.549 TS%), and a low low usage rate (always hovering between 13-14%). On a bad team, he's mostly useless, but on a good team where he can do his thing without having to score, the 29-year-old is a huge boost. While his PER (18.8) and WS/48 (.176) are agreeable this year, his contract (3 guaranteed years worth over $25 million) is not and it's likely the Sixers would have to give up a first rounder to get him in addition to Noce and the exception. On the plus side, bringing him in would most likely guarantee an Elton Brand trade or amnesty this offseason. I think this Reggie Evans clone (with more athleticism and not as much of an offensive liability) is the least likely of the bunch.

Verdict: Decent, pending what would happen afterwards and also his haircut.

Chris Andersen - Denver Nuggets

From what Nate Timmons at Denver Stiffs told me, Birdman looks "terrible" and "would be traded in a heartbeat". But he's a veteran, high energy guy that would excite the casual fan - people the Sixers are clearly trying to target. Plus he comes with all the buzz words like "veteran", "hustle", "instinct", and other journalistic shortcuts. I'd prefer Kosta Koufos, though he's less likely to be dealt for what the Sixers can offer. With three years on Anderson's contract worth $14 million, the value's just not there.

Verdict: Stab me in the face.

Ben Wallace - Detroit Pistons

Hold onto your butts folks, the 2004 Pistons comparisons are about to spit all over you. Everyone's favorite THEY DON'T HAVE A SUPERSTAR LET'S EMULATE THEM team was anchored by offensively challenged clock in London and he's currently employed by that same franchise. The Pistons, save for Greg Monroe, are in the worst situation of any team not named the Phoenix Suns and there's no telling what they're thinking at any time. But Wallace is mostly spent at age 37 and any talk of a career rejuvenation is blowing smoke. He can still rebound quite competently and not much else.

Verdict: Since it's only one year, this would be fine. I believe Mo's trade exception would do the trick. Possibly a second rounder as well.

Samuel Dalembert - Houston Rockets

Hello, old friend. Things have not been good for the Haitian Sensation since he left Philly. All of his averages have gone down since he went to Sacramento then Houston, and he could be feeling sentimental enough to return home. The Rockets are predictably awful this year, though not nearly as bad as they figure to be in the future. There's simply a lot of money going to players that likely will never help anyone win games (Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet leading that charge, sad as it is to say for me). If they're interested in sticking the proverbial fork in this season, starting Jordan Hill next to Luis Scola, and letting Thabeet and Patrick Patterson back them up, they'd have a good shot at a top 8 pick come June. Dalembert just gets in the way of that. Here, he'd back up Hawes for 15 minutes, rebounding and keeping people out of the paint, which he still does relatively well. Whether Collins could fit him into the offense is another thing, but he's still got enough left in the tank (unlike some others on the list) to contribute. Plus, he's Sammy D.

Verdict: The contract scares me away. This is the only year guaranteed but he's got a team option next year for $6.7 mil and the Sixers, for whatever reason, hate declining options. I'd only want him around as a loaner for the rest of the year. Next year needs to be all Vuce backing up [INSERT STARTING CENTER HERE].

Larry Sanders - Milwaukee Bucks

I'll admit it, this one's just for me. The VCU grad with arms that scrape the floor has yet to perform statistically (in the traditional sense) but his advance stats are in line with what I liked about him in school. He's super raw but the defense his there (99 and 97 DRtg's through a season and change) even if he needs work on timing and footwork. He'll never have a huge offensive game, but the defense he gives you now is equal or better to everyone on this list save for Varejao. What he has working against him is his lack of veteran-ness. I can't see the Sixers going after another big man without "experience". He and Vuce would fit nicely together on the Night Shift but I highly, highly doubt it happens.

Verdict: Very unlikely, despite the extremely manageable contract (2 years at less than $2M per, a team option at $3M for the third year, and a $4.3M QO for the 4th - that's cheap control). A guy can dream...

Also, for your reading pleasure, I've pulled the Wild Card and asked the effervescently omnipresent Scott Schroeder from Everywhere on the Internet (namely, Ridiculous Upside) to talk to me about some potential D-League choices. Here's Scott, who took a break from his Greg Ostertag lovefest to report from the D-League Showcase in Reno, Nevada and write this love letter:

Greg Smith is probably the embodiment of ridiculous upside here at the D-League Showcase considering he just turned 21 earlier this week. He certainly looks the part of an NBA center at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds. The former Fresno State early-entry candidate doesn't show much touch on his jumper, limiting him to just a couple of moves with his back to the basket. His defense isn't outstanding, either, but he seems to be improving on that end as well -- which should be the case for the next few years considering he's younger than most players teams will be drafting next season.

Jeff Foote is my personal favorite in the D-League as far as centers are concerned. A true 7-footer with a standing reach of 9-feet-3½, he's proven to be more athletic than he looks on his way to averages of 15.9 points and 9.5 rebounds through 10 games in the D-League this season. His offense mostly consists of an unblockable hook shot, but he alters quite a few shots on defense and has been able to stay out of foul trouble for the most part. His rebounding isn't outstanding as he's not as bulky as he ideally should be to play the 5 in the NBA, but the former Cornellian is one of the best overall bigs the D-League has to offer.
The Sixers have been historically befuddled about the use of the D-League, from picking up old ass vet Antonio Daniels last season to sending Brackins up and down at random. There's about a 1% chance they sign somebody out of the minors, so we suggest you stop holding your breath.

Whichever way they go, as long as Tony Battie never starts another game for this team, they should be fine with whatever they choose. Giving up a first round pick in 2012 or beyond should be absolutely out of the question, but judging by this team's win-now approach to everything, I'm not so sure it will be.

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