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Sixers Free Agency Primer: An in-depth look at salary cap implications, potential targets, and more

Will they or won’t they run it back?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is almost here, and this will be the most important July the Sixers have ever had. They have two star-caliber players, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, set to hit the open market along with another integral piece of their dominant starting unit, sharpshooter JJ Redick. There is a frightening amount of uncertainty surrounding the top of the roster, but the Sixers also must address a bench that, quite frankly, failed them time and time again throughout the regular season and playoffs. There are going to be many moving parts, so stick with me here:

Salary Cap

Before we can get to the fun part and discuss some potential targets, we need to address some cap-related quirks. First, here are some definitions you’ll need to know as we get into the nitty-gritty details. If you consider yourself well-versed with the salary cap and collective bargaining agreement, feel free to skip this section:

  • Cap Exceptions

Salary cap exceptions are devices that allow teams who are over the salary cap to add to their roster. There is the minimum exception, a universal exception which allows a team to sign a player to a minimum contract at any time, and then four others that can only be used once per year: the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, the taxpayer mid-level exception, the room mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception (listed from largest to smallest). However, there are certain rules to qualify for these exceptions that we’ll get to soon

The non-taxpayer version of the MLE is worth around 11.5 percent of the total salary cap, and this year is projected to be about $9.25 million. It can be split up among as many players as the team chooses, but once the money is used, that spending power is gone until the following offseason. Contracts offered using this exception are allowed to be anywhere from one to four years.

The taxpayer version of the MLE, used for teams in the luxury tax (we’ll get to this soon as well), represents a smaller amount, somewhere around five percent of the total salary cap, this year projected to be approximately $5.71 million. It can be split up among as many players as the team chooses, but once the money is used, that spending power is gone until the following offseason. Contracts offered using this exception are allowed to be anywhere from one to three years.

The room version of the MLE is available to teams who have salary cap space. It is slated to be worth $4.76 million this year, but it is very unlikely that it is available for the Sixers. Contracts offered using this exception are allowed to be just one or two years.

The bi-annual exception (BAE) is worth even less, this year coming in at about three percent of the total salary cap, this year projected to be worth about $3.6 million. It can only be used once every two years, and the Sixers did not use it last year. It can also be split up among as many players as the team chooses, but given it’s miniature value, it is almost always used on a single player. Contracts offered using this exception are allowed to be just one or two years.

  • Bird Rights

Free agent bird rights determine how much a team is allowed to offer a player. These are the varying levels of bird rights and what they mean:

Non-bird: this applies to players who have only spent one season with their team right before entering free agency. They are only able to be offered up to 120% of their salary in the previous season.

Notable Sixer free agents that apply here: James Ennis III, Mike Scott

Early-bird: this applies to players who have spent two consecutive seasons with their team right before entering free agency. They are only able to be offered up to 175% of their salary in the previous year.

Notable Sixer free agents that apply here: JJ Redick

Full-bird: this applies to players who have spent three or more consecutive seasons with their team right before entering free agency. They are able to be offered any contract, all the way up to that player’s maximum contract.

Notable Sixer free agents that apply here: Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris

You may have noticed that even though a full-bird free agent needs to have spent three or more consecutive years with the team they’re on, I listed Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, both of which were mid-season pickups. Here is a tricky aspect of this: when a player is traded, the team acquiring them inherits whatever rights the team trading the player had. For example, when the Chicago Bulls traded Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota acquired full bird rights on Butler. And when Minnesota dealt him to Philly, the Sixers took ownership of them. The same applies for Harris, whose full bird rights were transferred from Detroit to Los Angeles in the Blake Griffin trade and then from the Clippers to the Sixers.

  • Cap Holds

Cap holds are placeholders in a team’s salary cap to represent that team’s free agents. They are designed to prevent a team from overloading their roster with max-level players: for example, the Sixers couldn't sign a max player, and then afterwards use their full-bird rights to sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, because the cap holds for those two players prevent them from having the necessary cap space. A team can renounce a player’s cap hold, thus freeing up salary cap room, but if they do so, they lose whatever rights they had on that player, with no ability to go back and reverse the decision. That means if the Sixers renounced the rights to Jimmy Butler, they could no longer give him a max contract unless they created the necessary cap space. There are also cap holds for empty roster spots to prevent teams from hoarding too much cap space — if a team has 12 players or less on the books as either a cap hold or under contract, they are charged the minimum salary against their cap until they fill those spots. (Example: two minimum roster charges if you have 10 players, one minimum roster charge if you have 11 players, etc.) The minimum roster charge for this year is projected to be worth $897,158, equal to the rookie minimum salary.

  • Luxury Tax

The luxury tax is, well, a tax, intended to incentivize keeping team payroll from getting too high, which is intended to help small market teams that may be at a financial disadvantage compared to the richer franchises. It makes spending massive amounts of money especially costly, forcing teams who go above the number to pay a significant tax for every dollar above they go. This year’s luxury tax is projected to be $132 million, $23 million higher than the $109 million salary cap.

  • Apron

The apron is another method to de-incentivizing major spending. It is a number higher than the luxury tax that, if passed, tacks on restrictions to that team, most notably that they are ineligible to use the non-taxpayer MLE or the BAE. The Sixers must pay close attention to how near the apron they get. Because for the Sixers, those two exceptions are going to be the best chances to upgrade what was a lackluster bench, so staying below the apron needs to be a top priority. It is slated to be about $138 million for this upcoming season, and if the Sixers bring back Butler, Harris and Redick, they will have to tread lightly if they want to stay under and use those pivotal exceptions.

And now a bit more necessary bookkeeping (we’re going to get to some free agent targets soon, I promise!):

We are going to assume that the Sixers will be renouncing the rights to the following upcoming free agents: Boban Marjanovic ($13.3M cap hold), Furkan Korkmaz ($2M cap hold), Amir Johnson ($1.6M cap hold), and Greg Monroe ($1.6M cap hold).

Korkmaz, Johnson and Monroe will all be renounced for the fairly simple reason that they are not real options to hold roster spots for this team next season.

For Marjanovic, a renouncement of rights does not necessarily mean an exodus from the roster. Because his contract which just expired was fairly large, it means he enters free agency with a proportionately large cap hold. The Sixers could decide to bring him back, but they will almost certainly have other priorities not just in roster-building but in finding reliable backup center production. Whether it’s as a last resort option for the primary backup role or as a reasonable candidate to be the team’s third center, a Boban return is possible. But they will renounce his cap hold in order to gain a notable amount of flexibility, and then if they see fit, bring him back using a cap exception. It’s hard to see Marjanovic having any serious suitors who will pay him more than a few million dollars per year given his established reputation as someone who can't be trusted against the best teams.

Because the Sixers just have non-bird rights on James Ennis, they can merely pay him up to 120% of his 2018-19 salary — a number just under $2M — unless they use a cap exception, which will likely need to be the path to bringing him back. Ennis is very likely to command more than this, so the team’s early bird rights will probably be irrelevant. But, they might as well hold onto his rights just in case he faces a suppressed market that plummets his price range right into the territory where the Sixers could snag him without needing to use an exception.

We will also assume that the Sixers will retain the full-bird rights to TJ McConnell ($1.6M cap hold), because the hold is insignificant, and keeping it gives them free reign to offer McConnell whatever contract they would like (as long as he accepts, obviously). They will also retain Mike Scott ($5.1M cap hold), who is a non-bird free agent like Ennis, but since he made almost three million dollars more last season, the Sixers don't necessarily need to dip into an exception to sign him — they can give Scott up to that $5.1M number, which should be enough money to work with.


Finally, let’s get to the players themselves. First, we’re going to run through each of the Sixers’ free agents, and then we’ll follow that up with outside targets.

Internal Targets

Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris

Butler: $30,668,669 cap hold

Harris: $22,200,000 cap hold

We start with the team’s single most important free agents. We all know what it is each of them wants: a full five-year maximum contract projected to be worth about $190 million.

The argument for bringing either back is fairly simple -- they are both very good players who, as part of a quartet of stars, nearly brought the Sixers to the Eastern Conference Finals. The NBA is a stars league, as the Sixers have publicly professed for years. So why not bring back two guys many agree are All-Star-caliber players? Well, for each one, there is a case to be made against running it back.

Let’s start with Butler. His value on the court, specifically in high-pressure situations where he shined, was obvious. If they to let him walk, they won’t be able to find a replacement that will match his production. However, Butler has worn out his welcome at both of his previous stops in the NBA, shown glimpses of an athletic decline, and would be making over $43 million in his age-34 season. Jimmy had what was somewhat of a frustrating season with the Sixers -- he often coasted on defense, went through bizarre stretches of not shooting three-pointers, and simply seemed checked out at times. While it is undeniable that Butler is an excellent player, the case that it will do more bad than good to bring him back is at least arguable.

Now, to Harris. When acquired in February, he was seen as somewhat of a hedge to Butler, who has never been considered a lock to stay. Because of his offensive versatility, specifically his high-caliber jump-shooting, he fit the theoretical mold of a star who “fits,” not viewed as a player who could in any way disrupt what the Sixers had going. The hope was that Harris could blend into the offense while also putting up star-level numbers. And to some extent, he fulfilled these hopes. Harris accepted a significant decrease in on-ball opportunities for the betterment of the team, and helped maintain the flow of the offense. However, the star-level production he showed in Los Angeles during the season leading up to the deal did not carry over. After making over 42 percent of his three-point attempts in LA, he only knocked down 32.5 percent of them in Philadelphia. He had multiple stinkers in the playoffs, most notably a 7-of-23 shooting performance in Game 4 of the Toronto series that included going 2-of-13 from beyond the arc. As a whole, he shot just 38 percent from the field against the Raptors while only canning 28 percent of his threes.

And this is what makes it tough for the Sixers -- they have to properly weigh all risks involved here. Not just of what happens if one or both of these players doesn’t live up to their contract, but what happens if they leave. Who can the Sixers realistically expect to replace them with? Will there ever be another opportunity to add a star next to Embiid and Simmons?

Ultimately, here’s where I land: the Sixers should prioritize Butler because he is simply a much better player; however, the goal should be to bring both back. This is about winning championships, and bringing Butler and Harris back raises their ceiling more than any other move can at this juncture.

JJ Redick

$15,920,000 cap hold

Redick had an interesting year, starting off slow relative to his typical self before seeing a surge later on in the season. He finished the season just under 40 percent from three-point range, this being the first time he failed to reach that mark since 2013-14. However, he was burdened with what was by far the biggest workload he’s been tasked with as an NBA player, setting career-highs in field goal attempts, three-point attempts and minutes per game. Once again, his value to the offense was more obvious when he wasn’t on the floor. Though much less than they did last year, the Sixers at times struggled to consistently get good shots without the gravity he provided with his shooting. However, these issues were mostly mitigated by both the exodus of Markelle Fultz and the arrivals of Butler and Harris. Once the playoffs rolled around, I (along with many others) was skeptical of how effective he could be given his long track record of being limited on both ends in the postseason. But Redick, faced with two difficult matchups in Joe Harris and Danny Green, took the challenges head on, demonstrably outplaying each of his assignments on both ends of the floor.

It’s hard to imagine that the Sixers won’t hope they can retain Redick, especially if Butler and Harris are back. But in each of the last two years, they’ve only been willing to give Redick a one-year deal. They’ve been lucky to hang onto him, because Redick has been open several times about wanting long-term security. However, in years past those one-year pacts were designed to keep the Sixers available for max free agents. But with that now out of the picture, the Sixers could be willing to give Redick a multi-year deal if he sacrifices in terms of average annual value. With Redick seeking multiple years on a deal and the Sixers being on the verge of receiving a luxury tax bill, a long-term contract with a starting salary slightly below Redick’s expected market value seems like a potential win-win. If they stick to one-year offers only, Redick’s price should be about $10 million, slightly more than the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception projected to be worth $9.2 million, and a bit less than the $12.25 million he made last season. But my gut says he can be had for less if the Sixers give him the contract length he has been seeking.

Boban Marjanovic

$10,500,000 cap hold

After being acquired in the February blockbuster, Marjanovic was given the most consistent playing time of his career, and was a perfectly reasonable option at backup center. Despite his obvious limitations, he used his physical strengths to his advantage, combining them with a surprising amount of skill to provide quality minutes.

But then the playoffs started. Boban was alright in the Brooklyn series because they lacked the personnel to effectively attack his weaknesses. But against Toronto, he was run off the floor multiple times in the series. Ultimately, what manifested was what we all knew: Boban can play in the regular season but not the playoffs. If the Sixers want to bring him back on a very cheap contract, they should only do so if they can secure a backup big-man who is reliable in a playoff setting first, because Boban is simply not capable of logging playoff minutes. With that being said, if they do add that backup big-man, I would not at all be opposed to bringing back Boban, preferably on a minimum deal, to eat up some regular season minutes.

The Sixers will need to renounce Marjanovic’s cap hold for reasons relating to financial flexibility, but he could still be attainable at a small price if he doesn’t see an active market.

Mike Scott

$5,184,600 cap hold

Initially the least-talked about component of the trio acquired from LA, Mike Scott may have been the most beloved by the end of the year. He became a fan favorite thanks to hilarious quotes, generally being cool as hell, and much more. But he also was a very valuable player, providing decent defense at multiple positions and being everything the Sixers had hoped from Mike Muscala on offense plus more, hitting over 41 percent of his three-point tries with the team on considerable volume. Scott can make up to his $5.184 million cap hold next season, which seems like roughly what he is worth. However, the Sixers will be close to the apron and may ask Scott to take less than that, perhaps closer to the $4.3 million he made last season. Given the relationship that quickly formed between Scott and the city of Philadelphia and the career resurgence he saw, it isn’t hard to imagine that he hopes to stick around -- in fact, he stated as much during his exit interview. I think we all would love to have Scott back, and given how strong the admiration is on all sides, it isn’t hard to see the front office working to figure out a deal that strikes the right balance between rewarding Scott for his second half and making sure the team is in a stable place financially.

James Ennis III

$1,618,486 cap hold

After being salary-dumped by Houston and essentially gifted to the Sixers, Ennis eventually won what Brett Brown dubbed “The Quiet Tournament” (I’m not sure if Brett understands how tournaments work) for bench wing minutes. Ennis might have outperformed expectations more than any other Sixer during the postseason, turning a shaky regular season filled with mental mistakes into a successful postseason where he was a legitimately good option off the bench. He was miscast as the team’s top perimeter reserve, but thanks to capable three-and-D play as well as what was quite frankly a ridiculous amount of timely offensive rebounds, he played his way into being deserving of a spot on next year’s roster. Ennis would likely be had for the Bi-Annual Exception worth up to two years and $3.61 million per year or a small portion of the Mid-Level Exception that the Sixers will have access to. However, expect Ennis to test the market, as he reportedly is seeking a multi-year contract, and the Sixers will have other priorities to focus on before tending to Ennis.

TJ McConnell

$1,618,486 cap hold

All possible indicators project that TJ’s tenure in Philadelphia has come to an end. He was benched after one playoff game in a move that was clearly a success and is an awful fit with the team’s primary ball-handler. He would provide value for the Sixers on a very small contract, simply as a change-of-pace option when the team is in need of a spark, someone who can eat up minutes whenever necessary and act as a linchpin of the team’s locker room. However, TJ will have offers elsewhere for more money with a larger role. And he does make sense as an option for young teams going through a rebuild -- as we all were witness to, he can organize a five-man unit with ease, is as unselfish as they come and sets an example with his effort level. So what this will come down to is how much more McConnell’s offers from other teams are worth than the likely minuscule offer he will receive from the Sixers — and more specifically if that margin is enough to outweigh TJ’s obvious love and gratitude towards both Philadelphia as a city and the Sixers organization -- the only city and team that gave him a chance to play in the NBA.

Furkan Korkmaz, Greg Monroe and Amir Johnson

Korkmaz: $2,033,160 cap hold

Monroe: $1,645,357 cap hold

Johnson: $1,618,486 cap hold

It’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which any of these players are back next season -- Korkmaz had his team option declined, Monroe was a late-season signing originally intended to eat up end-of-year minutes, and though a valuable locker room presence over the last two years, Johnson simply lacks the athleticism to be relied on anymore. Expect all three of these players’ cap holds to be renounced quickly.

External Targets

How can the Sixers get cap space? If they do, who can they target?

It’s probably unlikely that the Sixers end up operating as an under-the-cap team — they would need to lose either Butler or Harris AND Redick (or, of course, all three). Here’s how much projected room they’d have in each of those scenarios:

Potential Cap Space

Situation Projected Cap Space
Situation Projected Cap Space
Harris and Redick out, Butler returns $18.4M
Butler out, Harris and Redick return $24.9M
Butler and Harris out, Redick returns $39.7M
Butler, Harris and Redick out $54.7M

All three of these scenarios provide the Sixers with ample opportunity to sign at least one starting-caliber player, if not multiple. I’m not going to include max players (Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Khris Middleton, and D’Angelo Russell) because you probably know what they have to offer.

Here are some options for the Sixers if they end up in the cap space game:

Patrick Beverley

Position: guard

Where he could help: perimeter defense, spot-up shooting, secondary ball-handling, intense coolness

We start with someone who Sixers fans seem to have wanted for years. Beverley is in line for a major pay-day, whether that’s from his incumbent team, the Clippers, his hometown Chicago Bulls or another team who craves his skillset. It isn't hard to figure out why Philadelphia fans would be so fond of Beverley — in addition to his clear fit on this team as a defensive specialist point guard who doesn't need the ball, he is known for being a pest, someone opponents detest having to go up against. But getting past clichés, Beverley truly would be a great addition as a player who can stand out on defense and effectively blend in on offense.

Bojan Bogdanovic

Position: wing

Where he could help: scoring, three-point shooting

Bogdanovic is simply a high-level offensive weapon. He isn’t good enough to be considered more than an ancillary piece of a championship offense, but when Victor Oladipo went down mid-season last year, it was Bogdanovic who stepped up and helped them keep their offense at least afloat. Given them both checking and not checking similar boxes, one would imagine that Bogdanovic would be a Tobias Harris replacement. And Bojan would be asked to do what the plan has been for Tobias — make himself fit around the starters, but also prepare to be the go-to option on offense for brief spurts within games as part of second unit lineups.

Malcolm Brogdon (restricted)

Position: guard

Where he could help: three-point shooting, scoring, perimeter defense

Another popular suggestion among Sixers fans as to who the team should target, Brogdon makes more sense in theory than he does in practice. He is a young guard who can play with or without the ball, is an elite shooter and a capable defender. What’s not to like? Well, he is reportedly going to command a contract potentially worth up to a whopping $20 million per year, which is a steep price to pay for what would likely be a fourth option who may never be a star-level player. But even more concerning, Brogdon was red-flagged by several teams before the 2016 NBA Draft because of medical concerns that still exist. So not only would the Sixers be making a major gamble on him improving, but they’d also be making an equally large gamble on him staying healthy. But, that’s not it — Brogdon is a restricted free agent, meaning his current team, the Milwaukee Bucks, have the ability to match any offer sheet he signs with another team. And while Milwaukee’s decision on whether or not to match Brogdon’s deal shouldn't come down which team is offering it, it’s hard to imagine they would feel as comfortable letting him go to the Sixers as they would if he went to a team such as, let’s say, Phoenix. Here’s another tricky aspect of this: let’s say the Sixers do sign Brogdon to a lucrative offer sheet: in the 48 hours of Milwaukee deliberating as to whether or not they should match the deal, the Sixers’ cap space is tied up. And then if the Bucks ultimately decide to match, the Sixers will have spent two whole days with the majority of their space eaten up. And two days is a long, long time in free agency. So again, this makes theoretical sense but isn't as promising of an option when you take into account the context.

Danny Green

Position: guard / wing

Where he could help: three-point shooting, perimeter and wing defense

It’s hard to imagine Green leaving the Raptors after their championship run, especially given some comments he’s made about his desire to return. But if he does hit the market, he would be an ideal replacement in the starting lineup for any of the three big free agents. While this term has become much overused, Green is the embodiment of 3&D, an elite shooter who defends multiple positions with success. He is a brutal dribbler who should never be asked to put the ball on the floor as part of any set plays. But his impact as a shooter and defender can't be understated. If the Sixers lose a core piece or two and see the opportunity to pry away a key member of the defending champions, they should take it.

Al-Farouq Aminu

Position: wing

Where he could help: wing defense, spot-up shooting

Like Bogdanovic, Aminu would likely be Tobias Harris insurance. However, he’d occupy a much different role. While Bogdanovic and Harris are gifted and versatile scorers at multiple levels levels, Aminu is an average spot-up shooter and not much else on that end. He’d provide sturdier defense than Harris, but with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid already manning the back-end, I’m not sure Aminu’s defense, while good, is exactly a necessity.

Terrence Ross

Position: wing

Where he could help: three-point shooting, scoring

Ross is a player who has been rumored as a Sixers target multiple times, most notably at the trade deadline as a possible return for Markelle Fultz. The logic is simple — he is a wing with the athletic and physical tools to provide defensive versatility, can shoot from beyond the arc and get buckets every now and then. Ross would be a decent acquisition, but if he were to be the player who takes up the majority of the cap space, I’d be concerned that the Sixers may have burned some money on a player who will help in only a few ways and not one that can provide wider-ranging value.

Thaddeus Young

Position: wing / big

Where he could help: defense, defensive versatility

Thad is a bit of a wonky fit because of his suspect jumper, but you shouldn't rule out a return entirely simply because of this simple fact: Thaddeus Young is a very good basketball player. He does all of the little things necessary to win, and is a true eye test champion — if you watch him regularly, it’s clear how valuable his production is. I’d be fairly surprised if this came to fruition, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Marcus Morris

Position: wing / big

Where he could help: spot-up shooting, wing defense

Morris had a red-hot start to the season, cracking the Celtics starting lineup early in the year as he nailed a ridiculous percentage of his three-point tries. However, this eventually proved to be an unsustainable stretch, as he suffered a long cold streak down the stretch of the season. After an excellent start on both ends, Morris finished the season on a bad note as both a shooter and defender. He has the ideal size and athleticism of a wing defender (though I think his defense has become overrated), and is at the very least a decent jump-shooter. Morris would be an acceptable option to replace Butler or Harris as one of the starting wings, though he doesn't add any of the scoring punch that either of those guys do.

Nikola Mirotic

Position: big

Where he could help: three-point shooting

Mirotic would be an interesting Harris replacement because he's a traditional power forward, fitting a stretch four archetype that Joel Embiid has stated his comfort playing next to. Part of what made the Sixers so hard to beat last season was their massive size, and Mirotic being inserted into the starting lineup would maintain that trend. He’s a solid shooter who will space the defense. He isn't anything special on the defensive end, but is perfectly passable. His value may have been depleted by a lackluster postseason with the Bucks that ended in him riding the bench.

And now let’s tackle all of the other targets — guys who are expected to make less, and could potentially be brought into the fold even if the Sixers run it back with their big-name free agents. These players will be split into three tiers based on the amount of money they are expected to command.

Tier A: most or all of the $9.2 million Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception

Jeremy Lamb

Position: guard / wing

Where he could help: scoring, three-point shooting

After a start to his career that included multiple early trades, Lamb settled into a nice spot in Charlotte where he was afforded great opportunity to be the second option of an offense. Lamb could very well get more than the full mid-level, as he’ll certainly be asking for upwards of $10 million. But if his price drops a bit, he makes sense as a target if the Sixers want to use their entire mid-level to get the best player possible rather than splitting it up among multiple guys. He’s been a good but not great shooter (.358 3P% over the last two years) — however, he could see an increase in his three-point efficiency if his role is scaled back on a team like the Sixers, where he would rarely be getting much attention from opposing defenses. Where Lamb would leave his mark is his ability to score, as he averaged over 16 points per game over the last 30 games of the 2018-19 season, with the vast majority of those games being ones in which he came off the bench. Lamb is the ideal option if the Sixers want a microwave type of player to come into the game and be assertive with the ball in his hands.

Cory Joseph

Position: guard

Where he could help: perimeter defense, secondary ball-handling

And here we have my favorite outside free agent target of any kind for the Sixers this summer. Joseph provides what Sixers fans were desperate for in the playoffs — he is a legitimately elite defensive player against point guards. Thanks to his size, Joseph is also able to defend shooting guards if necessary. He had a rough year on offense last season, only making 32.2 percent of his three-point tries. However, he’s shown that he is capable of hitting threes at a decent rate, knocking down over 35 percent of his shots from beyond the arc in each of the preceding two seasons. Joseph could be subbed into the game for any non-Embiid starter and the lineup would still have great success. As an added bonus, he’s one of the more durable players in the league — Joseph has not missed a game since early February of 2017, and has only missed five total games in the last five years. The Sixers would benefit greatly from adding a consistent guard who can make a significant impact on the defensive end without interrupting the offense.

George Hill

Position: guard

Where he could help: spot-up shooting, perimeter defense, secondary ball-handling

Hill saw a bit of a career resurgence after being dealt from a struggling Cleveland team to a contender in Milwaukee. He fits a similar, ideal mold to Beverley and Joseph: a point guard who plays defense, can make spot-up threes and doesn't need the ball. Hill is the best shooter of the three, but at this stage of his career is the worst defender, though still more than capable. He’d be an easy guy to slot into what the Sixers have, either as the fifth starter or the first perimeter player off the bench.

Dewayne Dedmon

Position: center

Where he could help: rim protection, floor spacing, having a backup for Joel Embiid who is physically capable of moving from side to side at the level of a professional athlete

I don’t expect the Sixers to make a center their biggest addition in free agency, but if they do, it will be Dedmon, who has become appreciated around the league for his reliable rim protection and developed jump-shot. He isn't someone you run plays for to take a three, but he is comfortable letting it fly. In almost any case when signing a backup center, the Sixers will have to choose between a helpful offensive player with defensive struggles or a defensive-oriented player who will stagnate floor spacing. With Dedmon, though, they would get the best of both worlds.

Trevor Ariza

Position: wing

Where he could help: spot-up shooting, perimeter defense

A many-time rumored Sixers target, Ariza is coming off a season that should depress his market significantly. He was dreadful in Phoenix, got traded on the very first day he was trade-eligible, and then had little impact in Washington. Based on reputation alone, though, it’s fair to expect him to have suitors on the market. The Sixers would be best to stay away here given the expected price.

Reggie Bullock

Position: wing

Where he could help: three-point shooting

Whether it be spotting up or coming off of a screen, Reggie Bullock is one of the league’s best shooters. He could be hard to get, as the Lakers should make a push to bring him back. Bullock has the ability provide an even better version of the offensive production the Sixers were getting from Landry Shamet. Bullock is far from a defensive stopper, but he is more competent than Shamet as a defender thanks to his size.

Darren Collison

Position: guard

Where he could help: spot-up shooting, ball-handling

This would not be the route I’d take in signing a backup point guard. Collison is a nice player, but his skillset doesn't really overlap with what the Sixers are in need of. He has a small frame and can be attacked defensively, so even if his shooting would help, this wouldn't be worth it.

Seth Curry

Position: guard

Where he could help: three-point shooting, secondary ball-handling, shot creation

Curry is a fun player who deserves a pay-day, and it seems that he is bound to finally receive one. He would be a big help for the Sixers, adding a neat dynamic as someone who needs to be attended to no matter who he is on the court with because of his three-point shooting ability off the dribble, off the catch and off screens. In addition, he is a capable ball-handler, which certainly never hurts.

Maxi Kleber (restricted)

Position: big

Where he could help: defensive versatility, floor spacing

Dorian Finney-Smith (restricted)

Position: wing

Where he could help: wing defense, defensive versatility

I grouped these two together because you can say many things that apply to both when it comes to the Sixers’ free agency plans: both are valued by the Dallas Mavericks, and in order to offer either one of them enough to avoid the offer sheet being matched, the Sixers would end up overpaying. But if Dallas goes big-game hunting and it somehow precludes them from bringing either of these two back, the Sixers should make an offer. Kleber is a floor spacer who can also play defense at the center position, and Finney-Smith is a very good wing defender.

Delon Wright (restricted)

Position: guard

Where he could help: perimeter defense, defensive versatility

I have long been a fan of Wright’s game. He has excellent size for a guard — listed at 6’5” — and has improved at leveraging that size correctly. He has some very encouraging advanced defensive stats (which, granted, are imperfect), and is someone who could defend up to three and maybe even four positions at times. It is unclear how fond Memphis is of him after acquiring him as part of the package for Marc Gasol, but the Sixers should at the very least make calls about his availability.

Rodney Hood

Position: wing

Where he could help: three-point shooting, scoring

After experiencing a revival of sorts in Portland, reports indicate that the Blazers are bracing for him to depart on a deal worth upwards of $6 million. Hood’s height and high release point make him a dangerous shooting threat. I had lost hope for Hood entirely until he emerged in Portland. If there is still untapped potential there, he could be a bargain for whoever signs him. But I do fear that he could revert back to his old ways.

Wesley Matthews

Position: wing

Where he could help: three-point, wing defense

Matthews has sadly never been the same player since tearing his achilles, but he at least remains a rotation wing. He doesn't have any true standout skills, but is good enough of a shooter and defender to be relied on to serve a role for a good team. He’s not close to the top option for the Sixers as far as wing depth goes, but he could be had for the right number.

Iman Shumpert

Position: wing

Where he could help: spot-up shooting, wing defense

Shumpert is fairly similar to Matthews, at least in what he does and does not provide on the court. He’d be a serviceable wing who defends his position well (better than Matthews), and is able to knock down some open spot-up threes. There’s not much else to his game.

JaMychal Green

Position: big

Where he could help: floor spacing, rim protection, defensive versatility

After spending his entire career as a power forward, Green was dealt to the Clippers in February, and soon enough was logging significant center minutes for them. So what I’m suggesting here is not for Green to be a Mike Scott replacement — rather, I’m suggesting that the Sixers sign him to be their backup center. He is certainly smaller than the average center, but I’m betting that the benefits of having someone who can space the defense and move quickly outweighs the downsides of having an undersized big-man.

Kevon Looney

Position: big

Where he could help: rim protection, defensive versatility

I would be surprised if Looney doesn't get a significant financial reward for his NBA Finals performance. He fought through multiple injuries that were expected to keep him out for the rest of the season and was clearly playing with a significant amount of pain, yet remained effective. He’s shown on big stages for multiple years that he is a great player to have as part of your center rotation. If he falls within an acceptable price range, he would fit in well as Joel Embiid’s primary backup.

Tier B: a smaller portion of the $9.2 million Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, or the entire $3.6 million Bi-Annual Exception

Noah Vonleh

Position: wing / big

Where he could help: defensive versatility

This would be my top option for a backup center when taking all factors into account. Like Green, Vonleh is undersized for the center position, but he’s shown that he is up for the task: Vonleh kept the Knicks as an average defensive team while at the center position according to Cleaning the Glass, as their Defensive Rating was in the 49th percentile. 49th percentile isn't special, but considering the amount of putrid defenders he was playing with — Trey Burke, Kevin Knox, and Emmanuel Mudiay, for example — it’s a fairly impressive number. It’s hard not to see him being capable of anchoring a good defense if surrounded by defensive-oriented stars like the ones in Philadelphia. My Plan A in regards to backup center would be to sign Vonleh and then bring Boban back on a minimum deal. Marjanovic could serve as a “long reliever” of sorts, able to eat up minutes during the season without being used in the highest-leverage moments.

Kyle O’Quinn

Position: big

Where he could help: rim protection, rebounding

O’Quinn has long been a favorite of mine, and would be my top target among traditional centers to back up Embiid. He had a mostly inactive year in Indiana, not playing nearly as much as he has at previous locations. He’d provide stability as a rim protector and a rebounder while also bringing an unexpected passing acumen to the table — I’m already imagining him finding Zhaire Smith on back-cuts going to the rim. O’Quinn has always been an advanced stats darling, and it’s about time a team appreciates what he can bring to the table.

Khem Birch (restricted)

Position: big

Where he could help: rim protection, rebounding

Birch is someone the Sixers had interest in acquiring at the trade deadline last season. He came out of nowhere to solidify himself as a quality backup in the NBA, and should have numerous suitors. He is restricted, however if the Magic retain star free agent Nikola Vucevic, it’s hard to see them matching a Birch offer sheet when they also still have Mohamed Bamba waiting in the wings.

Ed Davis

Position: big

Where he could help: rebounding, rim protection

Sticking with backup center options, Davis is one I like a lot. Despite being just 6’9”, he is a tremendous rebounder who plays like a seven-footer. He gave the Sixers trouble at times in their first-round series against Brooklyn, and is another logical fit to provide some stability when Joel Embiid is off the floor.

Kyle Korver

Position: wing

Where he could help: three-point shooting

After his salary was used in order to help facilitate the Mike Conley-to-Utah trade, Korver could very possibly be waived by the Grizzlies due to the amount of non-guaranteed money in his contract. While Korver’s viability in the playoffs is at least questionable, any Sixers fan knows what he can bring during the regular season: absolutely elite shooting, whether it be on spot-ups, coming off screens, or any other play-type you ask. If Redick leaves, Korver could help fill the void. If Redick stays, the Sixers could try a lineup with the two of them both on the floor that would be torturous to try to defend.

Garrett Temple

Position: wing

Where he could help: perimeter / wing defense

A pursuit of Temple could prove to be wise — it sounds as if he may not have much of a market, and while nothing special, he is a quality wing who defends multiple positions and knocks down threes. For the price he expected to go for, Temple will likely provide positive value for whoever it is that signs him.

Wayne Ellington

Position: guard / wing

Where he could help: three-point shooting

In the same vein as Korver, Ellington would provide excellent shooting, particularly off movement (which is very important). Unfortunately, though, he is an even worse defender. Ellington’s combination of poor athletic tools and lackluster instincts make him tough to trot out in big games, because opponents will begin attacking him, whether it’s with deliberate on-ball actions or running him through screens and forcing him to navigate. He’d help as a piece to round out the bench, but shouldn't be relied on for anything.

Wilson Chandler

Position: wing

Where he could help: wing defense, spot-up shooting


In all seriousness, bringing Chandler back would be far from thrilling, but it does make some sense. Chandler can credibly play either forward position, and while there were weeks at a time in which we all forgot he existed while he was with the Sixers, he is still a rotation-caliber wing.

DeMarre Carroll

Position: wing

Where he could help: spot-up shooting

Carroll’s reputation definitely exceeds his production at this point, as his days as the prototypical 3&D wing are over. His defense has fallen off quite a bit, and he is an alright shooter at best. This wouldn't be the route I would go, but it is certainly a possibility.

Jared Dudley

Position: wing / big

Where he could help: defensive versatility, spot-up shooting

Don’t kill me. I know how much you probably hate Jared Dudley after his verbal and physical run-ins with the Sixers during the first round. Truth be told, I can’t say I enjoyed his antics either. But here is what I can say: he is still an effective basketball player. He defended Ben Simmons better than anyone else did in the postseason despite being at a major athletic disadvantage, is very smart and also can space the floor by knocking down open triples. Against teams going very small, he can also be deployed as a backup center. This wouldn’t be a home run, but it could certainly help a good amount.

Jordan Bell (possibly restricted)

Position: big

Where he could help: shot-blocking, youth

It is unclear whether or not Bell will be restricted, though my inclination is that he will be. In certain situations, he would make sense as a buy-low candidate: he’s young with outlier athletic tools — and after disappointing in Golden State — should see his market value be much lower than expected. But the Sixers are not a team that should take the risk. Bell is much more of a shot-blocker than he is an actual rim-protecter, and given their current roster outlook, it doesn't make sense to take a shot on an unproven commodity.

Robin Lopez

Position: big

Where he could help: rim protection

The opposite of an unproven commodity is Robin Lopez. Everyone knows what he is at this point — someone who can help stabilize a defense to some extent, but isn't particularly mobile. Lopez saw a surprising offensive resurgence last year, though, putting up a career-best combination of volume and efficiency. Lopez would be a fine consolation prize if the other, better options go off the board. But I would rather not have him as the primary backup.

JaVale McGee

Position: big

Where he could help: shot-blocking, rim-running

I amm somewhat skeptical of how McGee’s statistical output translates to the actual games, but his per 36 minute numbers last year were nothing to scoff at: 19.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks on .634 percent true shooting. McGee would not be my first choice, but he also wouldn't be my last. He is what he is, which is a gifted but flawed player. I have no real aversion to this, though it definitely would not be enthralling for me.

Trey Lyles (possibly restricted)

Position: big

Where he could help: floor spacing

Lyles is another interesting buy-low candidate like Bell who has shown flashes of skills that would make him a useful rotation player, but has yet to put it together. As I said with Bell, it’s hard to envision the Sixers deciding to take on a development project at this stage of their roster construction.

Alec Burks

Position: wing

Where he could help: scoring

Burks is an alright player who is a competent scorer and shooter. He fails to wow you in any way, though, and should not be someone a team with championship aspirations is counting on. But as a depth piece, it can't hurt to have a guy who knows how to score.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Position: wing

Where he could help: wing defense, defensive versatility

After being made an unrestricted free agent by a Brooklyn team shooting for the stars, RHJ should have quite a few suitors because of his established reputation as a defender thanks to high-caliber athleticism. He would be an odd fit next to Ben Simmons because he is for the most part a non-shooter, so he probably makes more sense for another team. But if they added Hollis-Jefferson on top of Simmons, (hopefully) Butler, Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle, they would have legitimate depth when it comes to wing defenders.

Rodney McGruder (restricted)

Position: guard / wing

Where he could help: shooting, depth

McGruder has not proven to me that he is worth more than a minimum deal, but that’s what it would take to pry him away from the Clippers, who claimed him on the last day of the season when Miami waived him to duck the luxury tax. His career shooting numbers are volatile, and he is too small to be relied on defensively against wings.

Jeremy Lin

Position: guard

Where he could help: ball-handling, shot creation

Lin would be an interesting add. He’s coming off an NBA Championship, though he did not see any meaningful playoff minutes for Toronto. To be fair, Lin was having a good offensive season for Atlanta before being bought out — he averaged 19.6. points and 6.5 assists per 36 minutes while maintaining high efficiency. Hopefully he would be able to provide a similar punch to the Sixers’ offense off the bench.

Markieff Morris

Position: wing / big

Where he could help: defensive versatility

Morris is another player who quite simply has become overrated. He’s failed to be a positive-impact player on either end for multiple years in addition to battling injuries. However, there will always be a market for an athletically gifted player with good size who has shot well from three-point range in years past.

Austin Rivers

Position: guard

Where he could help: shooting, secondary ball-handling, scoring

It has become popular in recent years to hate Austin Rivers, but I actually remain somewhat of a fan of his game. Combo-guards who can spot up for threes have always appealed to me, and that remains true here. He has some major flaws, but the Sixers could do much worse when putting the finishing touches on their roster.

Ish Smith

Position: guard

Where he could help: ball-handling, scoring, shot creation

I don’t think this ultimately makes much sense as a fit because of the concerns about Ish’s jumper on top of the assumption that there will be teams out there who are more in need of his services. I would be shocked if this reunion took place, but anything is possible, I suppose.

Luke Kornet

Position: big

Where he could help: spot-up shooting, floor spacing

I’m all in on the UniKornet. Kornet is a legitimate three-point shooting threat who stands at 7’1”. He may struggle to hold up consistently as a center on the defensive end, but is playable against most teams. Bringing him into the game to give Ben Simmons more room to operate does not sound like a bad idea to me.

Tier C: only a minimum deal

Anthony Tolliver

Position: big

Where he could help: spot-up shooting, floor spacing

Every single summer, I urge the Sixers to pursue Tolliver, who could be considered a 6’8” version of Kornet (though a sturdier defender). When he was not part of the Jimmy Butler trade, I was crushed. And there might not be room for him in the rotation if Tobias Harris and Mike Scott both return. But Tolliver can be had for cheap, and is not just a great shooter for his position, but a great shooter in general. He’s made over 40 percent of his three-point attempts over the last three seasons on substantial volume, and many of his attempts are from well beyond the three-point line. He provides a unique ability to stretch out the defense to an extreme extent, which could do wonders for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

Mike Muscala

Position: big

Where he could help: floor spacing

Okay, hear me out on this — this may sound crazy, but I think the Sixers should try to bring Mike Muscala back into the fold. Was his short tenure in Philadelphia, all things considered, pretty brutal? Yes. Did he miss every single potentially momentum-shifting shot? If not, it at least seemed that way. But what made Muscala so frustrating was that the team relied on him to be their fifth or sixth best player, depending on Wilson Chandler’s health. But consider this: what if the Sixers have their starter and primary backup locked in at power forward and center, and then bring in Muscala on a minimum to be the fifth big? He can play either position, spaces the floor, and is generally aware of where he is supposed to be and what he is supposed to do. Where is the downside there?

Frank Kaminsky

Position: big

Where he could help: floor spacing

The logic behind a Kaminsky signing would be the same as that of a Muscala signing. He’d simply provide multi-positional depth while being a floor spacer.

Patrick McCaw (restricted)

Position: wing

Where he could help: wing depth

McCaw has been touted as a prospect with upside for years now, but I still am not sure where that upside actually is — does he have any above-average skills or abilities? Nick Nurse seemed to trust him on the defensive end, perhaps that’s where his calling card is. I do know this, however: in three years in the NBA, McCaw has three rings!

David Nwaba

Position: guard / wing

Where he could help: perimeter defense

Nwaba is a player I was hoping the Sixers would sign last summer, and looking back, I feel good about that call. He may not have been the answer as a defender of point guards, but he surely would have had a good chance of showing value there. He is a tenacious defender, and the right type of guy to pursue when filling out a roster with minimum contracts.

Justin Anderson (possibly restricted)

Position: wing

Where he could help: wing defense

What a glorious return this would be! Anderson is nothing special, but deserves a spot near the end of someone’s bench. He's about average defensively, with the physical tools to improve. The shot has never quite come along — he’s a streaky shooter who so far hasn't been able to maintain consistency.

Jeff Green

Position: wing

Where he could help: athleticism, depth


Justin Holiday

Position: guard / wing

Where he could help: defensive versatility

Justin Holiday used to be a common suggestion as a 3&D wing the Sixers should target, but that noise seems to have finally died down as most have realized that he is not a good shooter nor a good defender. At the end of the bench on a minimum deal this is acceptable, but Holiday should not be a consistent part of anyone’s rotation at this point unless he proves he can at least do one of those things consistently well.

Jonas Jerebko

Position: big

Where he could help: floor spacing

Jerebko makes much less sense than any of the other stretch bigs on this list, simply because he has no chance of surviving as a center, and isn't good enough to warrant any sort of playing time at the four for this team. These minimum players don't have to be rotation pieces, but if they aren't, they should be able to step in at multiple positions if necessary.

Trey Burke

Position: guard

Where he could help: ball-handling, scoring

Burke has a good story — after seemingly being on his way out of the NBA, he lit up the G-League, earning a spot with the Knicks and then proving he has the ability to take over a game at the highest level. The Sixers may decide they'd rather round out the roster with defensive-oriented players than ball-dominant ones, which is fair. But if they want a cheap point guard who can handle and score, Burke could be in play.

Cheick Diallo

Position: big

Where he could help: youth

Diallo is a player who I’ve always had interest in, but he simply has never actually been good. Diallo is not eligible for a two-way deal, but in theory the Sixers could use their final roster spot on him and give him frequent trips to Delaware in hopes that they could help turn his career around. Truth be told, if the Sixers are digging this far into the free agency pool at the center position, something likely has gone wrong.

Stanley Johnson

Position: wing

Where he could help: wing defense, defensive versatility

Johnson, one of the ultimate “if the three-point shot comes along...” players of the last few years, is set to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent after New Orleans did not extend him the qualifying offer. Johnson has very impressive size and athleticism, making him a satisfactory defensive player. But if he isn't a zero on offense, he is less than that. Johnson is a unitasker, but when dealing with minimum contract candidates, many guys are.

Troy Daniels

Position: guard / wing

Where he could help: shooting

Speaking of unitaskers! That's the perfect way to describe Daniels, a very good shooter who really cannot do anything else at an NBA level. Whether or not this makes sense would depend on how the rest of the roster shakes out — is JJ Redick back? Will the Sixers find a Shamet-type backup shooting guard? If the answer to either of these is no, perhaps Daniels has a case to make the roster.

Thabo Sefolosha

Position: wing

Where he could help: wing defense

And now, the last target. Sefolosha, a seasoned veteran, would actually be pretty valuable if he can be gotten for the minimum. His size and IQ make him viable defensively against threes and fours, and he’s made over 40 percent of his threes over the last two seasons. Brett Brown loves veterans who he can rely on to make the right play, and Sefolosha is exactly that.

If you made it this far, I sincerely thank you. I know this kind of long-form content isn’t for everybody, but I hope those who took the time to read will appreciate the work that went into such a massive piece. I figure I may as well leave you with a list of some of my favorite targets for the Sixers based on price, role, etc:

Cory Joseph, Noah Vonleh, Kyle O’Quinn, Delon Wright, JaMychal Green, Luke Kornet, Mike Muscala, Seth Curry, Jared Dudley, Thabo Sefolosha.

Thank you all a ton for reading. Let us know who your primary targets would be. And now we find out if the Sixers run it back.

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