It’s no secret that the Philadelphia 76ers are a future powerhouse in the NBA if things go according to plan. It’s also no secret that things haven’t always gone their way in the first season of truly competing in quite some time. The franchise cornerstones in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are playing the part and are both leading by example on the way to the playoffs, but they can only do so much. Other players need to pick up the slack when Simmons or Embiid are taking a break on the bench, and so far this year, the bench has mostly come up small.
With the exception of T.J. McConnell, the Sixers bench has been inconsistent. Players like Justin Anderson and Richaun Holmes have stepped up in limited action, but never enough to warrant an every game role. Because of the glaring weakness of the bench, a move needed to be made. Sure, a big trade would have been nice to see to really feel like the Sixers are going all in on competing right now, but the smaller moves the team did make helped sure up the biggest weakness in a very cost effective way. Picking up two players in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova from the growing group of players being bought out around the league allowed the team to keep valuable assets that would’ve had to been given up in trades, such as young players who don’t crack the rotation right now and draft picks.
No, Belinelli and Ilyasova aren’t going to light the world on fire, but they do the little things right for a bench that has mostly underperformed, along with bringing some veteran leadership and postseason experience. The Sixers rank 26th in the NBA in bench scoring per game (27.2 PPG), 29th in bench three point % (32.2%), and 23rd in bench rebounds per game (14.4 RPG), those numbers may not necessarily hurt the team drastically right now, but once the playoffs come around, better teams with experience can exploit that. Both Belinelli and Ilyasova should help bring the team back to the middle of the NBA in those stats, as they both bring an outside shooting game that the bench has sorely missed, and Ilysova can also help out down low.
These moves, while not the biggest, show that the Sixers front office is committed to building a winning culture after years of promoting the opposite. The starting lineup is doing their best at shouldering the load, but eventually some other players need to step up. The team could’ve gone after a bigger name on the trade market, but getting a few role players to fill in the deficiencies of the team protects the future as well as helping the present enough to fight for playoff seeding.
Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova have looked the part of rotational pieces who can come in and make effective plays so far in their time as Sixers, which is all they need to be, nothing more and nothing less. The signings weren’t the most awe inspiring, but it means much more than the players being brought in. Making moves makes a statement to the rest of the NBA, it says the Philadelphia 76ers are making the necessary changes to compete.
Side Note: Always remember, the picks swapped