While some people are bemoaning the Sixers “running it back” this offseason, the reality is, as things stand, we are looking at between three to five new faces on Philadelphia’s active roster next season. First-round picks Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet, free agent signing Nemanja Bjelica, international stash Jonah Bolden, and second-round pick Shake Milton could all, to various degrees, play roles for the team during the 2018-19 season. The Sixers may not have landed another star, but they have improved their overall depth from a year ago, which should help them carve up an even weaker Eastern Conference now that LeBron James has made like Fievel and gone west.
At present, the new bodies have created a numbers crunch which will have to be addressed sometime in the next few months. NBA teams can carry as many as 20 players during the offseason, but they must reduce that total to 15 by the regular season. In addition to the 15 men on the roster, teams can also have two additional two-way players under contract. Currently, the Sixers have 17 players under contract, plus Milton and Bolden. Here’s the full list of those 19 players, broken down by contractual status:
Not Under Contract:
How will the Sixers get those 19 names down to 15 (or 17 including the two-way contracts)? Barring stalled talks reigniting with San Antonio over Kawhi Leonard, or a trade occurring completing out of left field like one for Jimmy Butler, these are the likeliest ways I see things could play out.
Sign Shake Milton to one of the two-way contracts.
A late second-round pick, Milton seems like a likely candidate for one of the two-way deals. He could make up to $385k, a significant increase over a G-League salary of $35k. A stress fracture in his back has prevented Milton from participating in summer league, which makes it extremely unlikely another team would change its evaluation enough to offer him an NBA contract prior to the season. Milton seems likely to take the higher payday and certainty of the two-way deal with the Sixers.
Stash Jonah Bolden overseas another year.
Unlike Milton, I would find it unlikely Bolden would take a two-way deal. Playing another year in Israel for Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he is still under contract, would be a better alternative for both sides. The two-way salary would be a paycut to what Bolden is making overseas, and from Philadelphia’s perspective, the team could defer paying the $650k buyout to get him out of his contract. Bolden has been clear about his desire to come stateside, but it’s unclear whether there is a spot for him. The Australian big man will have to leave the Sixers without any doubt that he’s ready to play a rotational role this year if he is to come over.
Trade one of the young wings.
In a wing rotation suddenly more crowded with the re-signing of J.J. Redick and the trade for Wilson Chandler, there isn’t enough court time to go around for Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Furkan Korkmaz. Philadelphia’s return would be minimal if any of these guys were to be shipped out, a highly-protected second round pick or a second-round pick swap.
TLC would be the most likely candidate to go if the team went this route. Anderson received some limited minutes last postseason, whereas Luwawu-Cabarrot wasn’t even a consideration for playing time. Meanwhile, Korkmaz’s injury last year prevented the team from a fair evaluation of his potential at the NBA level; he is also the youngest of this trio by a significant margin.
Trade or release Richaun Holmes.
Like with the young wings, you wouldn’t be looking at much of a return for Holmes. Still, he would seem to be, at best, the fifth big on the roster, behind Embiid, Johnson, Saric, and Bjelica, and any return is better than nothing if you aren’t going to play the guy. If there is zero market for Holmes, the Sixers could also release Holmes at no financial cost to themselves given his contract being non-guaranteed.
Buyout or release Jerry Bayless.
The Sixers have already been rumored to be in discussions with Bayless about a potential buyout this offseason. They could strike a deal to save an amount of cap space equivalent to the veteran’s minimum, which Bayless would then recoup when he signs with another club. If necessary, Philadelphia could even opt to flat out release Bayless and eat the entirety of his $8.6M salary. Using the stretch provision would seem to be off the table now that there’s no max-level star to clear cap space for this time. No need to put additional money on the books in future years.
Prediction: Milton takes one of the two-way spots, Bolden is stashed, and Bayless is bought out.
We’ll see what paths the Sixers decide to go down. For a few of these guys, they’ll have the chance to start making their case Friday night in summer league action.