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Free Agency Primer: Sixers Wing Situation

The Sixers have a lot of guys resembling NBA players at shooting guard and small forward, but their long-term projections are still a bit hazy.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Pavorsky already tackled the 76ersoptions at point guard with free agency beginning tomorrow. Here's a look at what the Sixers and Sam Hinkie have has options on the wing this season:

In-house Options

Robert Covington: Big Shot Bob will start on the wing for the Sixers this season. He should be a terrific catch-and-shoot partner with Jahlil Okafor when the rookie gets double-teamed out of the post. Only 16.6% of his shots came on wide-open looks this season, per NBA stats. He shot 44.8% from three on those attempts, forming what should be a great scoring opportunity when a defender drifts too closely over to Okafor. Improvements on defense and with his off-the-dribble game, however, are much needed.

Hollis ThompsonI am buying up all of the available real estate in Holliswood. His defense still leaves something to be desired, but he has shot 40.1% from three each of the last two years, at least positioning himself as a contributor in Sixersland for the next few seasons while he's signed to a cheap contract.

Jerami Grant: Grant oozes defensive potential and even displayed some semblance of an outside shot, making 44.3% of his threes in January and February, before cooling off the finish the season at 31.4% from deep. Grooming Grant seems integral to Brett Brown's developmental process.

JaKarr Sampson: If I was asked to describe Sampson's game in a sentence, I would say, "His hair is top five in the NBA." I feel like he tries to do everything on the court, but I can't remember a single play he made this past season. He logged time at shooting guard, both forward spots and even at center in 2015, per Basketball-Reference. I do recall instances of #PointJakarr as well, so this guy is basically a cross between Draymond Green and LeBron James.

J.P. Tokoto: He can run, jump, defend and dunk. He's a lot like K.J. McDaniels aside from the highlight, chase-down blocks and the few weeks of streaky three-point shooting. He'll either be with the Sixers or the Sevens in the NBDL come the start of the season and I would bet he gets some minutes for Brown's squad this year.

Possible Free Agent Targets

Luc Mbah a Moute (ranked 126th on Tom Ziller's free agents list): While he doesn't give the Sixers anything on offense, LRMAM was a part of the Sixers' five best five-man defensive lineups, per NBA stats. Coupling that with his status as a mentor to his young padawan Joel Embiid, Mbah a Moute provides value to the organization both on and off the court and may be the lone veteran the team signs this summer.

Jason Richardson (ranked 136th by Ziller): J-Rich appeared to be genuinely fine with his role as the old head and part-time three-point threat with the Sixers this year after spending two full years rehabbing with the team. I foresee, however, the Sixers looking elsewhere for their wise-sage-off-the-bench-type vet this year, as Richardson could possibly get a Mike Miller-like offer from a contender to be a bit player in the regular season and one-dimensional contributor come playoff time if his legs hold up.

K.J. McDaniels (ranked 98th by Ziller): Based on Sean O'Connor's great work this morning on the ways in which the Rockets could clear cap space, it looks possible that Houston would renounce McDaniels' Bird rights, making him an unrestricted free agent. Could Hinkie pull of the basketball equivalent of Revenge of the Nerds and bring McDaniels back, given the Sixers should have more to spend on a guy who didn't showcase a ton as a rookie than most teams? The bridge to the McDaniels family may be burned, but it remains an intriguing scenario for the Sixers to explore.

Khris Middleton (ranked 20th by Ziller): I almost left Middleton off this list, as I did with Jimmy Butlerwho reportedly had a meeting scheduled with the Sixers brass, and Draymond, assuming he was a player out of the Sixers' league in terms of quality, likely remaining with his own team for an assured max deal. While he's not as good as Butler and Green, he's likely deserving of a max contract, as he will only turn 24 in August and should be one of the league's premier 3-and-D players in his prime, averaging 41.0% on triples on over 558 attempts in his two seasons with the Bucks.

He's also become, albeit controversially, the Real Plus-Minus King, ranking 10th in the NBA this year in RPM, per ESPN. Is he the 10th-best player in the NBA? Certainly not. Is his defense a bit undervalued in tandem with how great of a shooter he's been? That's likely.

Here's what Zach Lowe wrote this morning for Grantland regarding the max contract in relation to next summer's cap jump and Middleton specifically:

A bunch of those teams — Utah, Orlando, Milwaukee, Detroit, Phoenix, and others — have cap room this summer, and they should be hell-bent on using it. I don’t really even care who they sign, provided it’s not an obviously below-average player on the downswing. Pick a young or mid-career free agent and fucking splurge. Almost any deal with a solid player at $15 million or below this summer will look fine once the cap cracks $100 million. Have a jones for Khris Middleton? MAX HIM OUT.

Ziller only predicts that Middleton will sign a four-year deal worth $40 million with the Bucks. The Sixers won't be challenging for a playoff spot this year like the Bucks will be, but would Middleton really pass up $27 million over the next four years, as he'd be able to sign a contract worth $67 million in Philly, just to play for a team that's a year or two closer to true contention? That seems like a bad financial move for a guy who's been overlooked during his NBA career.

Obligatory Spurs Targets

Brett Brown once coached for the Spurs and won a few rings in San Antonio, so every Spurs player is a #FutureSixer.

Kawhi Leonard (ranked 2nd by Ziller): LOL, not happening.

Danny Green (ranked 14th by Ziller): Despite turning 28 this month, Green is a young 28, considering that he's played less than 8000 minutes in his NBA career. Butler, who turns 26 in September, has only played 296 fewer minutes during his tenure with the Bulls. What I said regarding Middleton can essentially be replicated for Green, as he's a 3-and-D talent, possessing the ability to guard positions one through three, an RPM favorite, ranking 12th this season, and a career-long role player who could cash in for his services in July.

While Green is more than four years older than Middleton, he doesn't need to go chase a ring for a contender as third or fourth option, as he already won a championship with the Spurs in 2014. I don't see Green remaining in San Antonio as they clear space for their possible signing of LaMarcus Aldridge, leaving an even playing field for the league's remaining teams to offer him a max or near-max contract.

Ziller predicts that Green will sign a four-year deal worth $48 million with the Blazers, once again leaving me wondering if he'd turn down $19 million over the course of that contract for a team that probably won't be a real contender in a stacked Western Conference. Brown should be chauffeuring his old player around Center City and enticing him to join the Sixers.

Free Agency Outlook

It's very unlikely the Sixers add anyone, but situations where other teams don't value the elder Green and Middleton as the pseudo-stars the cap jump morphs them into could give the Sixers an outside shot of just simply laying more money on the table. Such a move would give these two players who've been glue guys throughout their respective careers the shots and financial security they wouldn't get elsewhere.

The team doesn't have any solidified long-term starters on the wing, not even Covington at this point, though he's certainly a valuable player who could contribute in a smaller role in the distant future and a larger one in the immediate. The Sixers seem content, however, with rolling into this season with Covington, Thompson and the rest of the D-League Avengers, whom they hope they can develop into quality NBA wings.

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