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Sixers Season Preview: Jerryd Bayless is the ideal ‘stopgap’ point guard for Philadelphia

Bayless is the starting point guard for now, but should fill more of a reserve role after this season.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Media Day Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Overcast clouds and continuous rain dampened the penultimate Friday in September throughout the Philadelphia region. Despite no semblance of lightning throughout the area, an emphatic bolt might as well have struck the city’s core.

Ben Simmons, the beacon of positivity that would help usher a new era for the Sixers, landed awkwardly on teammate Shawn Long’s leg in a scrimmage Friday. The No. 1 overall pick underwent surgery to repair the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.

Because Simmons is going to miss an extended period of time, point guard Jerryd Bayless will have to assume a heightened role entering the season. General manager Bryan Colangelo inked the career journeyman on July 1, bringing in the point guard on a three-year, $27 million contract.

Before delving into what Bayless offers the team this season, it’s necessary to acknowledge the coup of a contract Colangelo signed the point guard for. The first-year GM deliberately opted for the short-term solution to the nagging issue at the point. Instead of pillaging the market for a shinier, name brand lead guard, Colangelo is paying Bayless $9 million annually to provide consistent results.

If he exceeds expectations and provides an evident boost to the offense: great. Even if there’s early struggles in his debut season with his seventh team, his inevitable upside remains the same (essentially lacking top flight athleticism and defensive ability). Bayless is a competent bench guard whose versatility could be vital later in his contract.

Joining a team that won only 10 games last year, Bayless doesn’t have to worry about lofty expectations in his expanded role with the Sixers. But he is essentially a high-end role player masked as a starter, so not relying on him to provide a bulk of the scoring would certainly benefit him.

Since the Sixers offense previously featured guards that made efficient scoring and good passing look mutually exclusive, Bayless is a breath of fresh air.

In Milwaukee, the former first-round pick developed into his role after multiple seasons attempting to find his niche. Coming off one of his top statistical seasons last year (10.4 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.1 APG), the 6-3, 200-pound guard brings a blend of shooting and facilitating that Philadelphia has clamored for at the 1 for multiple seasons.

When taking a dive into his numbers as a gunner, it appears that Colangelo did his due diligence when plucking his newest starting point guard from the vast free agent field.

Last year, Bayless was lethal from three-point range. It was the impact that breeds optimism when envisioning his usage within the Sixers’ offense. The Arizona University product sank a career-high 43.7 percent of his three-point looks last season on a respectable 4.4 attempts per game. To contextualize the impact Bayless had on the Bucks’ offense as a marksman from behind the arc, most of his attempts (3.4) came from the catch-and-shoot variety.

It’s promising to see him active and not aloof when another player handles the rock. He finds open areas and gets clear, semi-contested looks.

Don’t make the assumption that Bayless only gets open because he’s facing an anemic Nets defense. He has the propensity to create space for himself, even against defensively stout teams in the league.

It’ll be interesting to see his role, as Bayless played approximately 54 percent of his minutes last season at the point and 46 percent as a two-guard. Tying into the fact that the majority of his threes are from catch-and-shoot attempts, it’s partially due to Bayless splitting time between both guard positions.

Milwaukee featured MCW and Greivis Vasquez (also Giannis Antetokounmpo if we’re lamenting his jaw-dropping lone game as the starting PG for the Bucks) at the point last season. With Sergio Rodriguez and T.J. McConnell spelling him at the one, Bayless could “move up” a position and play in a similar two-guard role and float on the perimeter. There aren’t an abundance of shooting guards that can facilitate effectively. It’s a luxury that Bayless is a translucent talent.

Though his assist percentage dipped last season (21.0 in the 2015-16 campaign to 16.2 percent), a product of his teammate’s inability to score from his passes, Bayless also decreased his turnover percentage (18.8 to 13.3 percent). If Bayless can refrain from firing nonchalant, errant passes, and complement additional facilitators, he’ll be a weapon at the 2 for head coach Brett Brown.

When discussing Bayless’ future role as an off-ball guard on this team, having Simmons and Saric as psuedo-point guards and creators could help Bayless thrive. While Rodriguez and McConnell could have difficulty exploiting opponents in transition or in the halfcourt, Simmons and Saric operate as natural magnets that thrive off of defensive breakdowns and attract defenders naturally.

Both Bayless (wrist) and Simmons (foot) missed the first preseason game of the season due to injury, which makes it more difficult to gauge Brown’s game plan for the duo. Bayless is “day-to-day” with a wrist injury, but there’s been no mention by Brown yet that he’ll play in the Sixers’ second preseason game Thursday against Washington.

Early in the season, Bayless could take on a larger role as a distributor, with the frontcourt featuring a bevy of offensively gifted big men.

If Brown has any credence in Bayless’ ability to play both guard positions, expect to see him play a multitude of roles for the team this season. The Sixers are loaded with talents who have diverse skill sets. Bayless is one of the elder Sixers on the roster that embodies that notion.

On a roster full of quirks, Bayless is in an unusual predicament. He’s the stopgap option until the future, younger point guard enters the fray and supplants him as the starting lead guard. It’s understandable to envision a Markelle Fultz or Dennis Smith Jr. quarterbacking this team next season.

Bayless’ ceiling on this team is arguably destined to play in a reserve role, but performing admirably could lead to the 28-year-old veteran having a solidified position within the Sixers’ foundation.