With the 2016-17 season in the rearview mirror and all player exit interviews conducted, Sixers general manager Brett Brown held a press conference to put a wrap on an incredibly trying year for the organization.
When asked about what players on the roster he believed were keepers, Brown made sure to highlight Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Richaun Holmes, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Nik Stauskas and TJ McConnell.
Here are the players Brown acknowledged as the #Sixers' keepers: Simmons, Embiid, TLC, Holmes, Covington, Saric, Stauskas, McConnell.— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) April 14, 2017
Simmons, Embiid and Saric should come as no real surprise, as they currently comprise what will hopefully be Philadelphia’s Big Three. There are obvious injury concerns with Embiid (and I suppose Simmons as well), but based on talent alone it’s more than fair to say those are the two guys you want to build around.
Although Saric did a great job of carrying the offensive load in Embiid’s absence, he seems like the type of player who could be used more optimally as a sixth man role, especially if that hypothetical role allows for him to handle the ball more often.
Covington, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, seems like a very obvious part of the team’s growing core. General manager Bryan Colangelo also reiterated Brown’s thoughts, stating that a potential extension for Covington is “certainly something I think we want to address (this summer).” It’s good to see that the organization values someone with Covington’s skill set. He’s at the top of most advanced defensive stat categories, and his three-point shooting rebounded somewhat after a horrid couple months. Given the team’s pace and space, 3-and-D mantra, Covington fits into that perfectly. There’s good reason to think he could be in Philadelphia for the extended future.
Luwawu-Cabarrot and Richaun Holmes really stepped up at the end of the season when injuries allowed the two youngsters to run rampant in some meaningless April games. Even on a fully healthy roster, those two should command some solid rotational minutes. The situation at two guard is a little hazy -- Jerryd Bayless is the likely starter right now -- but Holmes seems to be the fairly obvious choice to back up Joel Embiid. His playing time can no longer be messed with.
McConnell’s ability to hack it in the NBA is no longer in question. In back-to-back years we’ve seen him showcase his ability to adeptly run an offense and play hard-nosed defense. After seeing how well he handled being a starter this year, there’s no reason why he can’t be Simmons’ backup next year.
Stauskas is a bit of a surprise, but I wouldn’t be ready to give up on him just yet. He greatly improved his three-point shooting this year (from 32.6 percent to 36.8 percent), and his ball handling skills seemed to be improved (not that this team really needs another though). He’s admitted to having issues with self-confidence in the past, and this year seems to have been a real breakthrough in that department. The Sixers picked up the option in his contract in 2018-19, and I’m not opposed to seeing if Stauskas can inch closer to that 40 percent mark from three that he’s targeting. A team can never have too many shooters.
Some notable names left off of Brett Brown’s list were Jahlil Okafor, Justin Anderson and Gerald Henderson. At this point it’s pretty clear that the Sixers would like to move on from the former third overall pick. He was clearly outplayed by Richaun Holmes this year, and Colangelo made it clear he’s still on the trading block.
Colangelo on Okafor: "We will continue to grow him to where he needs to be. If a deal comes a long that makes sense for both, we'll listen."— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) April 14, 2017
Not including Anderson, whom the team just acquired in February, shows how little they value him and how big of a joke that Noel trade truly was. Anderson put together spurts of solid play, but his lack of three-point shooting makes him a difficult fit on a team filled with adept outside shooting wings. Henderson’s two-year deal is non-guaranteed (fully if waived before June 30), so its possible that the team always viewed him as a one-year placeholder. He filled a need for this past season, but Brown needs to allow the young guns to grow, and that only comes with more playing time. Henderson just doesn’t fit into that equation.