The Sixers were one of the busiest teams this trade deadline, making several trades for both stars and role players alike. There was some surprise the team decided to go all-in by gambling on a few upcoming unrestricted free agents, but it is what happened after the trade deadline that shocked fans. With several players who looked like they could help the team available on the open market, the Sixers decided not to sign anyone and, instead, finish the season with the roster they had already constructed.
Just one year ago, the Sixers made two important moves down the stretch run of the season, signing Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to help stabilize their bench. These were solid additions, but unlike the national media tries to convince you, these were not moves that completed the team. Both Belinelli and Ilyasova were examples of what the buyout market is all about: bringing in players who haven’t made an impact or been given the proper chance on one team, and hoping they can be useful role players on another.
With a team that is looking very different than it did to start the year, some issues are to be expected. These players haven’t played with each other before and will need time to mesh, but with the Sixers in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, they can’t sit back and wait for things to start working. Role players like James Ennis, Jonathon Simmons and Mike Scott were brought in to help a bench unit that was among the worst in the entire league. Thus far, they haven’t exactly lived up to expectations. Again, it is still early, but the early return on investment hasn’t been very inspiring.
One of the players that had to be traded in order to secure the Sixers’ fourth star in Tobias Harris was sharpshooting rookie Landry Shamet. There were still some holes in his game, but Shamet was living up to the billing of a first round prospect halfway through the season. He became the most reliable scorer on the Sixers’ second unit, and now that he is gone, there is a hole that hasn’t been filled. It seemed like this year’s buyout market was the perfect place to find a stopgap to fill this role, with players like Wesley Matthews, Wayne Ellington, and Jeremy Lin available. Instead, the Sixers will try and force something that isn’t working right now. Jonathon Simmons seems to have taken Shamet’s role as backup shooting guard, but his lack of an outside shot brings his fit on the team into question. With so many shooters on the market, it feels like a missed opportunity.
Eastern Conference foes above Philadelphia in the standings like the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers both got stronger thanks to the buyout market, adding Lin and Matthews, respectively. The Detroit Pistons helped their chances of making the playoffs by adding Ellington. Unlike those other teams, the Sixers have the comfort of having four stars, so those additions weren’t as big of a priority. Since the trade for Tobias Harris coach Brett Brown has done a good job of staggering the stars so that at least one or two are on the court at all times. This allows them to be in control of the game while not overexposing the inexperience of the entire bench unit. Staggering the stars works for now, but the team must be able to feel comfortable in situations where the bench needs to step up.
Marco Belinelli shot 38 percent from deep during his time with the Sixers. That’s not a crazy number, but it goes to show there are some solid players that can be picked up at this time of the year. Right now in his five games with the Indiana Pacers, Wesley Matthews has shot 44 percent from 3-point range. With the Sixers going all-in this year, it’s peculiar to see them not going hard after a player like that, especially when they saw first hand how buyout players can help down the stretch of a season. Matthews wouldn’t have been a starter in Philadelphia like he is in Indiana, but the chance to win here seems to be higher.
Regardless of who the Sixers could have signed, it was surprising to see them being content going with a bench unit that doesn’t seem to be much improved after the trade deadline. There is still time to turn things around, but sitting back during this buyout period could end up hurting the team towards the end of the year and into the playoffs.