In an ideal 2016-17 season, the Philadelphia 76ers will delegate most of the frontcourt minutes to players born March 16, 1994 or later. Envisioning a pick-and-roll centered around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (presumably) running the show in transition are salivating and enticing notions that might transpire.
Even with the Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel trade rumors providing additional chaos leading up to the draft, the Sixers have solidarity in knowing that Embiid is progressing in his rehab and passing up Shirley Temples for mid-range jumpers.
Joel Embiid getting some shots up. pic.twitter.com/PiuejPs8YO— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) May 30, 2016
It's unknown whether the Sixers will slot Embiid into the starting lineup immediately or incrementally bring him into the rotation through bench minutes to start his career. However, if the Sixers tab Simmons with the No. 1 pick, he's likely starting at the 4 opening night. The point-forward's strengths play more favorably with Embiid, who is a two-way big that has the ability to stretch the floor, and Noel, who'd be that necessary rim protector to pair with the less bouncy Simmons.
That's if Colangelo isn't inclined to discard Noel for Jeff Teague, a player who is an unrestricted free agent after next season at age 29. Trading a combination of Noel and Okafor or either big opens up minutes. Brett Brown could divvy up minutes to holdovers Carl Landry and Richaun Holmes, but could also be in the market for a fresh frontcourt figure.
Here is a list of five candidates Bryan Colangelo should (could?) be considering following the 2016 NBA draft. The five players are predicated on the general manager's unwillingness to overpay for impending free agents, their speculated impact on the team and their ability to help accentuate other players' strengths on the roster.
1. Mirza Teletovic (PF), 30 years old, UFA
Despite only finishing his fourth full season in the league, you can gauge what Mirza Teletovic excels at and struggles in as a forward. He's developed into one of the league's premier stretch-4 options off the bench, averaging a career-high 12.2 PPG and shooting 42.7 percent (39.3% 3PFG) last season for Phoenix, and is a source of offense as a perimeter threat.
However, it's essential to place Teletovic with defensive savants in the frontcourt, sporting a brutal 110 DRtg as a Sun. At 6'9" and 242 pounds, Teletovic is a burly talent with little semblance of athletic ability. Embiid's heralded and unknown versatility helps, as that necessary rim protector if Teletovic assumes the power forward role. The Bosnian import wouldn't be implemented into the lineup for his stoutness on the less glamorous end. He's a weapon, whose offensive abilities are absent on a roster with athletic bigs.
Richaun Holmes and Jerami Grant valiantly tried to be the quintessential stretch-4 options lacking on the Sixers last season, but shot 18.6 percent and 24.0 percent, respectively. If Teletovic can be inked for a respectable price, he'd relieve stress that will follow young frontcourt players entering their debut campaigns (Simmons, Embiid).
2. J.J. Hickson (PF), 27 years old, UFA
With the propensity of acquiring players with ability overlooked by other teams during the first two years of The Process, Bryan Colangelo also could attempt to buy low on veteran J.J. Hickson. The journeyman has developed into a high-end bench piece, with two-way ability that many second unit players fail to possess. Even though Hickson's upside has diminished with being relegated to a bench contributor, there is talent that can be extracted.
The 6-8, 250-pound former first-round pick is a blueprint for the ideal first big off the bench for a contender. He's the antithesis of a mobile 4, but Hickson has versatility as a former center who can play both frontcourt positions. At the 5, he'd give up size but have the athletic advantage over more methodical centers.
He doesn't fill the need of a big who can stretch the floor or ascend to make plays on both ends of the floor, but Hickson fits the mold of a reliable presence down low.
3. Donatas Motiejunas (PF), 25 years old, RFA
A back injury literally crippled Donatas Motiejunas last season, whose trade to Detroit was voided due to a failed physical, and his spectacular 2014-15 season wasn't replicated. However, the Lithuanian PF still has serviceability as a lengthy big whose game is predicated on finesse. Per 36 minutes, Montiejunas' numbers across the board last season were similar to the averages he put up two seasons ago, but teams could have diminishing faith in his ability to respond emphatically.
He's a liability on the defensive end (110 DRtg), but paired with an Embiid or Noel, his inefficiencies could be mitigated. Motiejunas, like Teletovic, can stretch the defense, albeit not as efficiently, and has a semblance of an offensive game that merits his worth. At 25 years old, there's a grace period for the southpaw to reclaim some of his ability lost due to injury.
He'd fit the Sixers' trajectory, in terms of having their core develop, and can be paired with a defensive savant. The Sixers could have two entering next season, making a strong case for a Motiejunas flier.
4. Dewayne Dedmon (C), 26 years old, UFA
Dedmon was a product of the constant overhaul of players on the 2013-14 Sixers roster and eventually lost his place at center against Henry Sims. Two years makes all the difference. With Embiid, Noel or Okafor set to consume gobs of minutes at the 5, Dedmon could be brought back as depth.
He's been lurking among the Magic frontcourt for the past two seasons and has been a formidable option off the bench. Dedmon posted a 17.0 PER last season and career-highs in defensive rating (102 DRtg) and offensive rating (117) for the Magic. Dedmon isn't a failed heralded prospect or a talent laden with upside. He's evidently put in the effort to stick in a league where change is rapid.
The Sixers were bereft of legitimate centers when Noel and Okafor were out late last season and would be naive for letting their bigs once again wither away at the stretch run of the season. Dedmond, like Hickson, could be added to mitigate the burn the starters will accumulate as the season progresses.
5. Matt Bonner (C), 36 years old, UFA
Matt Bonner's main purpose on a team in a multi-year rebuild is not only to provide #veteranhelp, but also amplify Joel Embiid and other talent's ability to stretch the floor. The "Red Mamba," at 36, has been passed over incrementally as an option off the bench, dwindling in two-way ability and dexterity. It would be a massive stretch to bring him into a bizzaro world scenario, compared to the stability in San Antonio, but Bonner has a purpose.
Last year's early debate of whether the Sixers could utilize veteran mentors who lacked talent and upside was decided when Elton Brand joined the team in January. Brand blurred the lines of mentor and player, with his spurts of playing time last season a strange transition from letting youth prosper, but Bonner also could want to play-as well as bestowing knowledge.
Bonner's on-court impact will be limited on whoever targets the veteran talent, but he could be useful when any young big wants to be either a stretch-4 or stretch-5 without limiting their production.