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How Sixers’ offense could have looked with Kyle Korver

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A Korver reunion in Philadelphia would have been fun to watch.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

J.J. Redick has his weaknesses. At 6’3”, with a small wingspan and no major explosiveness, he has defensive limitations that solid positioning and effort can’t overcome. Alongside the similar limitations of Marco Belinelli, it was a flaw that hurt the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2018 playoffs. It’s what many people have talked about when looking back at last season. But none of this changes just how big an impact Redick has at the other end of the floor.

Redick’s efficiency is exceptional year after year, and his constant movement and ability to release from well beyond the arc at all sorts of angles, coming off screens, or falling out of bounds in the corner, opens up so much space for the offense. So, if you can have not one of those players on your team, but two, it’s a no-brainer.

Out of nowhere, that possibility appeared on Philly’s radar. Keith Pompey reported that the Sixers had discussions about trading Jerryd Bayless to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Kyle Korver. The New York Times’ Marc Stein confirmed that it was “possible”.

As Liberty Ballers’ own Jackson Frank detailed well here, the Sixers could use more shooting after losing Ersan Ilyasova (somewhat replaced by Mike Muscala as a backup center) and Belinelli. Philly’s offense took off late in the season with those two in the rotation, and replacing Belinelli’s movement, range, and ability to hit off-balance shots would have been a nice way to cap off their star-free summer.

Unfortunately for the Sixers, this partnership may never come to fruition. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has said that the Cavs wanted a first-round pick in return for Korver. If this was the case, it’s right for the Sixers to say no — as perfect as he’d be for the team, you can’t give up valuable future assets for a 37-year-old when there’s no guarantee you’re even making it past Boston or Toronto in the playoffs anyway. Nevertheless, it’s a lot of fun to think about Korver’s potential fit with the Sixers.

At 37 years old, Korver’s ageless shooting numbers continue to be nothing shy of brilliant: 43.6 percent from 3 on 5.2 attempts per game, to go along with ranking in the 99th percentile on spot-ups and the 89th percentile off screens. Not to mention the fact that, unlike Belinelli in his just-keep-gunning slumps, Korver has a little thing called shot selection.

It’s obvious that Korver would have been a great addition, but it is interesting to think about exactly how he could operate with the Sixers. How he could wreak havoc alongside another deadeye marksman in Redick, and how Brett Brown could utilize Korver in various actions to kill defenses. The spacing and creative possibilities would be endless with one of the best shooting duos outside of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, playing off one of the best passers in the world in Ben Simmons.

Similarly to Redick, Korver holds value simply by being on the court. There’s a gravity he possesses that many other shooters — including Belinelli — don’t have, creating a paranoia for defenders that he won’t stop moving until he finds space curling off a screen or exploits a defense the moment it falls asleep. Defenders have to pay more attention to Korver off the ball, which in turn creates a little extra breathing room for others.

In transition, defenses would scramble like mad as Simmons tears down the court, putting on a show with Redick on one wing and Korver on the other.

Besides pure shot-making and efficiency, the upgrade of Korver over Belinelli in terms of IQ would have been ideal for the Sixers’ bench. Even when sets aren’t run with Korver directly in mind, he relocates off the ball to find space, pump faking his way past defenders to take a clearer shot, or making extra passes if his shot isn’t open, like the pin-point assist to a diving LeBron at the start of this clip:

Beyond all of that, being able to run floppy sets with Korver and Redick would also give opposing teams serious trouble — whether they’re on the court together, or Korver is on the floor with more bench-based lineups, serving as an extra target to help out Markelle Fultz.

Having two world-class shooters to turn to would be a joy for Brett Brown, and the option of always being able to have at least one of them on the floor would be one heck of a luxury. The Sixers created so many good looks for Redick last season by using floppy actions, letting him dart off pin-down screens to find space at the arc. Even with well executed switches, it would be hard to contain both Redick and Korver sprinting off screens. And if the Sixers could find open looks for Redick with three non three-point threats on the floor in Richaun Holmes, Simmons, and T.J. McConnell (as you’ll see in the first play below), just think of how they could pick apart defenses with Korver operating on the other side of the court:

Brown would have fun thinking of ways to use Korver as a screener as well. We saw once again in the playoffs how Brown gets creative with a roster that boasts a unique blend of size and skill at different positions, including crafty sets like these. Here, the Sixers’ point guard (Simmons) sets up in the post as a passer, while their shooting guard (Redick) curls around a screen. Instead of taking the ball for the shot himself, though, as you’d expect, he manages to screen off two defenders as the power forward (Saric) moves past Redick’s screen into space for the 3:

Not many teams can use players like this. With Korver’s high IQ, he would fit right in however Brown wanted to use him.

You can see here how the Cavs use Korver to set a screen for LeBron James to divert the defense’s focus before popping out to the corner for a three (Korver could be used similarly to this with Redick running off for a shot, or with Joel Embiid rolling to the rim):

Even though the Cavs didn’t have nearly enough at either end of the court alongside LeBron James to be a real threat for the title this year, we still saw how effective Korver and Kevin Love could be together with good chemistry and smart movement. Korver starts this play by faking a curl off Love’s screen, sending Terry Rozier towards the arc. Aron Baynes is fairly close to the perimeter to hang with Love or hedge on the screen if Korver uses it for a three, but Korver’s cut instantly draws the defense with him, the Celtics’ communication falters, and Love gets an open 3:

Some of the Cavs’ simple methods of finding open 3s for Korver could have been easily replicated by the Sixers. He wouldn’t just stand still at the arc, and he commands attention. When paired with the Sixers’ other shooters, including bigs like Saric (39.3 percent from 3) and Muscala (37.1 percent from 3), that would have been a real weapon.

The offense-first lineups the Sixers could have run out with Simmons-Redick-Korver-Saric-Muscala could have easily burned opponents in quick bursts, too. Plus, it also helps that the 6’7” Korver has more size and length than Belinelli, and can’t be bullied quite so easily on defense.

Even if a deal didn’t happen this summer, there’s always a chance to reopen trade talks before February’s deadline for a late-season push if the Cavs are enduring a wave of losses and see no need to keep Korver. At that point, freeing up a little cap space and taking back an asset of some kind may be more appealing to them.

If Korver is going to leave Cleveland, whenever that may be, battling it out for the Eastern Conference Finals with a ton of talent around him in Philly seems like the perfect landing spot.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.