The Sixers went into last week's draft looking likely to come away with their franchise point guard, and left with a handful of big men and zero guys in their biggest area of need. Philadelphia has experimented with the position since trading away Michael Carter-Williams, signing a slew of players to ten-day and one year contracts, with varied success.
We'll kick off our three-part free agency series by looking at the the area that can't seem to be solved: the ball handlers.
Tony Wroten: The Tony Wroten experience is entering its third season in Philadelphia, and the former first-round pick can be all over the place. At times, he's a super effective offensive player by attacking and finishing at the rim. Mostly, he can start jacking up ill-advised threes, or trying to throw passes like he's looking to his And-1 Mixtape Tour audition reel. I think at this stage in his tenure, it's fair to accept Wroten for what he is: a super fun, but not all that good player. His shooting stroke has shown little improvement, he's unable to make good on all the contact he can draw because he cannot shoot free throws, and turns the ball over a ton. Wroten is also coming off a torn ACL, the same one he damaged while in high school. He can still be an enjoyable player to watch, but at this point I think his game has stagnated, and is hard to look at as a long-term solution.
Isaiah Canaan: The general consensus seems to be that people are over Canaan, and for seemingly good reason. For a guy who exclusively shoots from only beyond the arc, he doesn't even really shoot at a high clip. The rest of his offensive game is pretty nonexistent. He's not a passer, and can beat very few guards in this league off the dribble. He's cheap and the team seems to like him so he's staying put, but I can't say I'm happy about it.
Pierre Jackson: Jackson was acquired during the 2014 NBA Draft in exchange for Russ Smith, and tore his achilles in his first summer league game with the Sixers last year. I was super excited about Jackson last year, and even more so this season as he joins the team in Las Vegas Summer League. Jackson seems like the type of player Canaan wishes he could be, a multi-faceted offensive threat who can shoot from the outside, but possesses the quickness to get to the lane. Turnovers are an issue, and he also hasn't played in over a year, but I want to see him make this team and get a chance to show what he can do.
T.J. McConnell: Philadelphia signed McConnell to a partially guaranteed deal, with a six-figures in his pocket even if he gets cut. He's a super tough defender on one end of the floor, and a pass-first point guard on the other, which is essentially what Philadelphia is looking for. The Sixers seem pretty committed to him making this roster.
Possible Free Agent Signings
Ish Smith (ranked 117th on Tom Ziller's free agents list): The 26-year-old Smith was signed as a free agent by Philadelphia for the final 25 games of the season, and played really well. He shot just 39.8% from the floor, but dished out 6.1 assists a game, and developed a chemistry that Nerlens Noel that no other guard has accomplished in a Sixers uniform. The offense ran really smoothly with him in charge, and while he's not a great finisher himself, Smith can really set up his teammates. He still has the journeyman tag to his name, and I think he could still be signed for relatively cheap.
Cory Joseph (ranked 72nd by Ziller): It's sad that the San Antonio Spurs' Cory Joseph could be a top free agent target for the Sixers this summer, but I really think he could be a great pickup if Philadelphia wanted to get involved. Joseph really stepped up in Tony Parker's absence the past two seasons. He's a good shooter from beyond the arc, can get into the lane, and set up his teammates. Joseph's also only 23, and it seems like he's gotta a ton of good basketball ahead of him. He is a restricted free agent so it might take a little extra dough to lure him away from San Antonio, but not enough to really scare you away. Based off the current guard situation in Philly, I think Joseph can both start and excel in a familiar system under Brett Brown, who he is quite familiar with.
Free Agency Outlook
Other than possibly bringing Smith back into the fold, I think the Sixers basically stand pat here. They've really put little value on the position over the past few years, and there might be a reason for that. A guy like Ish Smith is proof that, at least on this team, you don't need to spend a high pick or a lot of money to achieve success at the point guard position. He's a smart enough player to realize his role in the offense is to facilitate more than it is score, and it worked out well for both him and the team.
Frankly, this team really doesn't need a ball dominant guard that looks to score a lot. The Sixers seemingly going to run all their offense out of the post, so most of the ball handler's duty is going to be feeding it into Jahlil Okafor on the low block. Philadelphia won't throw crazy money at any player to primarily do that. They'll still need someone to run the occasional pick and roll with Nerlens Noel, but there's no reason why guys like Wroten or McConnell can't handle those duties at this point in the team's rebuild.
It might come as a mild surprise, but I don't think the organization goes out of their way to address the position this offseason. Next year should be a different story.