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A Sixers Pre-Free Agency Mailbag

Answering all your questions before the madness begins.

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NBA free agency begins on July 1 at 12:01 am EST. The countdown has begun. Who are the Philadelphia 76ers signing? Who are the Sixers trading for? There are so many questions. I know you all have questions. Let’s go through some of them in a quick mailbag.

“Are we getting LeBron? That’s all I got.”

The Sixers SHOULD be the favorite to land Lebron James, but they’re not. That vexes me to no end. Why are the Lakers the favorite to land James at odds of 4/13 (as of this writing)? I don’t get it. The Sixers represent the best way to win championships for the next five years, if not more.

The Spurs seem reluctant to trade Kawhi to Los Angeles, and now that Carmelo Anthony has re-signed with Oklahoma City, I get this sneaky suspicion that Paul George will return (which is a whole ‘nother head scratcher). The Lakers aren’t even close to the Sixers talent wise, but THEY’RE the favorite? I’m just dumbfounded by that, so out of pure spite and hatred for all things Lakers, I’ll say that Lebron either comes to Philadelphia, or he shocks everyone by staying in Cleveland.

“When will the Sixers employ a buyout on Jerryd Bayless? Would you prefer that they literally or figuratively ‘Old Yeller’ him?”

The answer to the first question is “soon and without pause”. Bayless couldn’t be moved during the NBA Draft, so the next option would be using the stretch provision on him which spreads out the cap number on Bayless’s contract over three years.

As to the second part of that question, I won’t outright condone violence on another human being, but every human has free will, so just realize the legal ramifications of your action.

“If the Sixers strike out on the big three, what direction do you see them going?”

Assuming the Sixers swing and miss on Lebron James, Paul George, AND Kawhi Leonard, the Sixers can deploy a similar strategy to last offseason. (Of course, this will happen once the feeling of depression exits.)

Redick will be offered a contract to stay, but there are some equally interesting options. The top of that list used to be Avery Bradley, but it was pointed out by my editor that he has kinda stunk since leaving Boston -- which the statistics back up. Now, the top of that list includes guys like Joe Harris (Brooklyn), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (witness protection, I mean the Lakers), Brook Lopez (see Caldwell-Pope), Amir Johnson returning, and Kyle O’Quinn.

In terms of long(er) term deals, there’s a number of Liberty Ballers staffers that would welcome Tyreke Evans. Evans would be a nice story with the kid from Chester returning home, but we’ve been burned by the player who has an anomaly year in three point shooting (see Bayless, Jerryd).

We should all be pretty confident the Sixers will land at least ONE of those three in the “A-tier” list of free agents. If the worst happens, the Sixers are still in damn good shape thanks to a new asset to dangle over the league (2021 unprotected Miami pick).

“If we get one of LJ, PG or KL in FA, who will be the Sixers 6th man next year? RoCo, Fultz, Saric or someone else?”

Regardless of who the Sixers get in free agency, there’s the prevailing notion that Fultz will be the starter alongside Ben Simmons in the backcourt. Honestly, even if J.J. Redick did return, Fultz should still be Simmons’s backcourt mate on the condition that his head is right, because he’s much more dynamic offensively.

That leaves Covington and Šarić. With Lebron, George, or Kawhi Leonard on the team, that probably moves Covington to the bench. In crunchtime (final five minutes or so), the lineup could be Simmons/Covington/”A-tier acquisition”/Šarić/Embiid. From the opening tip, I would move “The Homie” to the bench and start Simmons/Fultz/”A-tier acquisition”/Šarić/Embiid.

Covington could be a sneaky candidate for Sixth Man of the Year with a B-unit that also would include (theoretically) T.J. McConnell, J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, and whomever else the Sixers sign in free agency.

DeMarcus Cousins is available. He’s a superstar player, but far from the prize of this free agency cycle. Are there conditions under which the Sixers might invest in him?”

Has Joel Embiid suffered a career ending injury by the time of this piece? (Knock on wood. Knock on wood.)

If he hasn’t, the answer is no. If he has … the answer is probably still no. Cousins would be a 27-year-old big man coming off Achilles surgery. That’s a pass for me especially since Cousins would take away minutes from Jonah Bolden — who should get legitimate minutes in the Sixers front court.

“Will the Sixers resign JJ? If they don’t, how do they fill the offensive void? Follow up. How do the Sixers fill a ‘3-and-D’ void off the bench?”

I’ll answer this in terms of both sides of the ball. The offensive void could be filled pretty well whether or not J.J. Redick re-signs. Other wing options who shoot well (>37%) from three include: the aforementioned Joe Harris (41.9%/358 3PA), Wayne Ellington of Miami (39.2%/579 3PA), Seth Curry (42.5%/322 attempts), Denver’s Will Barton (37.0%/422 3PA) and for comedic purposes, I’ll include Nik Stauskas.

Defensively is where it gets dicey. The options aren’t great. Of the options out there, Trevor Ariza is probably the best wing defender of the bunch. He was a positive in DBPM (+0.7), so I guess that’s… something. (Shrug). Ultimately, the bigger defensive role will fall on Zhaire Smith. Into the fire with you, youngster!

“There are currently only two ‘bigs’. One is Embiid and the other is Richaun Holmes, who the team appears to not trust to give minutes to. Who are the targets as backup big?”

The easy answer is re-sign Amir Johnson. He’s good in bursts -- which is all you’re asking for a big man to do off the bench for this team. Other names that are interesting are Brook Lopez or Kyle O’Quinn if the Sixers want another big with a bit of an offensive punch. Lopez will be somewhat pricey, however. Both can step out and hit 16-18’ jump shots, and Lopez can hit three pointers.

Kevin Love (our editor) did a nice write-up about the intrigue that Ed Davis brings as someone who is basically Nerlens Noel -- rim runner, pick-and-roll man, and lob guy.

There’s also the rerun of Ersan Ilyasova. Illy had big minutes during the playoff run, so that’s something that shouldn’t be ignored.

“Can the Sixers as currently constructed (addition of Zhaire Smith with a JJ Redick return) beat Boston with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward in a seven-game series?”

This is tricky to answer because “as currently constructed” also includes Markelle Fultz. He’s the key to this answer. From all accounts via Drew Hanlan, Fultz is at least on the way back to regaining the skill and swagger that made him the #1 overall pick in 2017.

If Fultz returns to that, he’s the starting two-guard to start the season. His game adds much needed shot creation and shot making in the half court -- which is what the Sixers lacked in that playoff run (not just against the Celtics). Defensively, they’re better. Let’s just pretend Redick doesn’t return. Smith gets those minutes off the bench to spell Fultz (or Covington). Smith is a much better defensive upgrade.

All of that said, it would be a series that would go seven games. This is not a “Tyson/McNeeley” fight. This thing’s going the distance, and it’ll come down to who has home court for game seven. If it’s the Sixers, I’ll say Philly in seven. If not, it’ll be Boston in seven.

Good lord, this offseason is going to be fun.

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