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Sixers 2018 free agency: potential Mid-level exception targets

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With Zhaire Smith sidelined, Philadelphia could add reinforcements via their available Room-MLE.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Zhaire Smith’s Jones fracture injury shelfs him for the foreseeable future and Philadelphia could pillage the free agent market once again for a potential replacement. According to medical information, an area where I have no expertise in, Jones fracture recovery makes up a six-to-eight week time frame. Given Philadelphia’s investment in Smith’s future, they could sideline their first-round pick for an extended period as a precautionary measure before deeming him healthy.

Post-recovery treatment demands little pressure on your feet and, instead, utilize your upper body. Smith’s timetable could span anywhere from late-November to late-January. I’m just speculating, but Philadelphia needs to adjust before October. Smith isn’t the same type of minute-grabbing, headline-stealing rookies Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and, to an extent prior to his shooting debacle, Markelle Fultz were. However, he appeared destined for wing minutes off the bench that’ll now be dispersed amid his absence.

Now, the onus is on Philadelphia’s staff to rectify an underwhelming summer of developments and they’re capable to shift its narrative. The Sixers’ rotation sans two-way talents stands at 15 players, excluding Norvel Pelle, but they’re still eligible to utilize their Room-Mid-level exception (MLE) contract. Buying out Jerryd Bayless and eating a portion of his salary creates a vital 15th opening.

Philadelphia offered their initial MLE to power forward Nemanja Bjelica, but the veteran earned a higher payday 2,000-plus miles west in Sacramento and rejected Philadelphia’s offer. Luckily for the Sixers, there are still viable free agent options they can inquire about and fortify their rotation. Offer who’d you like the Sixers to spend their MLE on in the comment section.

Patrick McCaw

My colleague Greg Melo and I have stanned for Philadelphia to use their valuable salary tool on Golden State Warriors swingman Pat McCaw for months now. Between his strong rookie season and gruesome back injury that resulted in sleeping troubles, McCaw’s career transformed into a very unique situation. He’s arguably one of the most talented offensive wings without a 2018-19 contract. Don’t let his pedestrian numbers from the floor influence your perspective on the 22-year-old swingman, McCaw’s rookie season hinted he has massive upside as a role player scorer.

His offensive feel and ability to create off the dribble don’t pigeonhole him into a 3-and-D niche wing. McCaw separates himself from JJ Redick and Furkan Korkmaz as a self creator who can slash and finish, despite his 185-pound lanky frame. Redick’s elite ability to play off of screens and rely on pristine angles for catch-and-shoot opportunities will earn him heavy minutes at the two, but McCaw’s 6’7” length and overall package could play at either the two or three.

If you sifted through McCaw’s base numbers and on/off splits, they don’t do his potential impact any sort of justice. The UNLV product probably should’ve been a first-round pick in 2016 and if Philadelphia was more driven to buy picks instead of selling them, McCaw was a prime suitor.

Recovered from his ghastly back injury against San Antonio, McCaw fits the flier label to a T. He’s not as polished offensively as Wilson Chandler or as catch-and-shoot reliable as Furkan Korkmaz, but McCaw brings slashing and outlet wing value while also capable of guarding both shooting guards and small forwards to an extent. Per basketball-reference, McCaw is a career 67.1 percent shooter from three feet and in.

There are better defensive options still accessible, but it’s a tough argument placing Pat McCaw anywhere but No. 1 on potential free agents Philadelphia could acquire.

Corey Brewer

Segueing into more dependable defensive options, journeyman Corey Brewer is another swingman Philadelphia should be eyeing this month. Brewer brings a wealth of experience and production, playing both shooting guard and small forward. When the former eighth-overall pick contributed for Denver, Houston and Oklahoma City during their successful years, Brewer posted a positive plus-minus per 100 possessions in every year but one.

He doesn’t resemble a three-and-D wing, but he’s more of a swingman who’ll offer dependable defense, attack the rim and occasionally make the triple. Brewer’s consistency and versatility would be welcomed attributes on a team who now needs a multi-positional bench option. Redick, Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler are defensive liabilities who suffer from either general apathy or physical limitations. Brewer is a shiny new puzzle piece who can stay with the Jaylen Brown’s and Kawhi Leonard’s of the world better than the aforementioned trio.

Brewer’s potential pales in comparison to McCaw’s, but he’s seasoned enough where he’ll immediately slide into the rotation and complement Philadelphia’s offensive stars. With 47 games of playoff experience, Brewer is already primed to compete in late April and has been battle tested playing in meaningful basketball games.

He’d probably take more of Korkmaz’s minutes than Chandler’s, who’d find greater success at the four, but there’s definitely available minutes Korkmaz can soak up at the two. If this season’s theme focuses more on development, than Brewer wouldn’t be an ideal option as he’d grab minutes away from some of the team’s younger talent who need the experience.

However, I think Philadelphia’s intent on challenging both Toronto and Boston for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference Finals crown.

Rodney Hood

Rodney Hood tops off the list of players I’d prefer using the Room-MLE for. Cleveland and Hood didn’t seem like the perfect marriage between player and team, which should give Hood’s camp some reservations about returning. With capable playmakers and a lethal rim protector behind him once again, Hood’s role in Philadelphia’s rotation would center around providing a second unit offensive punch.

Hood is a one-dimensional lengthy scoring swingman who isn’t a facilitator, doesn’t crash the glass or defend, but mining some upside out of a player whose shooting numbers rose last season makes for a sensible play. Hood is entering the prime years of his career and his track record in Utah suggests he could be one of the league’s top bench scorers for a competitive team. He’s arguably the best offensive creator still available and should rebound after a forgettable Cavaliers stretch.

Complementing T.J. McConnell and Robert Covington, Hood brings a scoring dynamic that could bolster Philadelphia’s second unit. A 36.9 percent shooter from deep over his four-year career, Hood also presents Ben Simmons with a potent kick-out option. Again, we’re slightly compromising Korkmaz’s playing time this season bringing in another swingman. However, the tradeoff is another rotational piece who could re-sign and become a fixture in Brett Brown’s lineup following this season.

Overpaying Hood if he stands out won’t be an option, as his representatives could seek more lucrative deals, but a swingman who can create off the dribble and confidently score isn’t already featured on Philadelphia’s roster. Hood brings that new element to a team in a complementary role.