Note: This article draws from several sources. First, The Sports Geeks has compiled a free agent list, which will be featured on this site soon. The NBA Geek and Nerd Numbers are the source of “per 48 minutes” stats and effective position, Draft Express has lots of information on college players, Hoops World provides salary data, ESPN’s free agent list compiles who is or may be available, and Team Rankings has NCAA Win Score. The rest of it is my fault.
Note 2: [r] = restricted free agent; [u]=unrestricted; [p]=player option
The State of the Union
The 76ers’ new ownership team dramatically improved the fan experience—from re-signing fan favorites to hiring teams from EA and Broadway for the in-arena videos to slashing prices.
But this summer they face some interesting roster decisions. The elephant in the room is the amnesty provision. Elton Brand is paid lots of money for what he provides. That’s not to say he’s not good. To show what I mean, I used Wins Produced and salary to compute the price per win the 76ers paid in 2012.
One problem with the chart is that I used cumulative wins. A good player who didn’t get minutes is unfairly punished. But Brand played starter minutes, and still cost twice as much per win than the next most expensive rotation player, Hawes—who missed half the season. So while he produced the second most wins on the team, it should be possible to find more wins with the $18M he would be earning next year. I don’t believe he is tradable, so what should the Sixers do?
It pains me to say it but he should be amnestied.
Blowing it Up
Elton Brand isn’t the only person coming off the books (in my plan). Spencer Hawes, Jodie Meeks, Lavoy Allen, and if he opts out, Lou Williams, all come off the books this summer. After my release of Elton Brand the total team salary is $32,444,792 for the following roster (in its entirety):
Philadelphia will be needing more than five players, so some acquisitions are in order.
First, Lavoy Allen [r] should be retained and will likely be very cheap. Allen showed starter-level potential in his rookie campaign and there’s no reason to believe it was a fluke. He rebounded in college and rebounding is the stat that is most likely to translate to the NBA, so it’s not surprising that he grabbed 13 rebounds per 48 minutes in year one. Combine this with excellent defense—nationally noted during his battles with Kevin Garnett’s elbows—and it’s a no-brainer re-signing at the price he’ll receive.
The other free agent big man is Spencer Hawes [u]. Did I mention Hawes missed half the season? While his first half showed promise of improvement, he played true to prior form when he returned from injury. There is little reason to re-invest.
Lou Williams [p] will probably receive a pay raise, and the Sixers would be wise to allow another team to make that move. Pairing a $7-$10M bench scorer with an $8-$10M bench energy guy (Thad Young) would tie up one third of the cap on the sixth and seventh men.
If a 4th or 5th guard is needed, Meeks [r] should be very cheap. It’s not impossible that his 3 point shooting woes were not just part of, but partially produced by, the dysfunctional offense on the floor in the 2nd half of the season. Given a situation where sets are run, passes come on time, and playing time is regular, perhaps he will find the stroke he showed in his first 1.5 years. But he’s not an essential piece, especially if the price is much more than the minimum.
At this point, the Sixers still have tons of cap room. They clearly need both a guard and big. I’m going after Brandon Rush [r] at SG. Why someone who averaged not even 10 points per game this year?
Putting his numbers in context, per 48 minutes, Rush scored 18 points on 63% True Shooting. While this was more efficient than his previous career scoring, his 3 point percentage has been consistently good and there’s no reason he can’t be this good going forward. He also grabbed 2.5 stocks (steals + blocks) per 48 this year. Finally, he’s a career 7 rebounds per 48 player from the SG position. Given his history, his attachment to the Warriors, and his somewhat low minutes and point totals this past year, he is the kind of player who will be undervalued and should be targeted. He’s a restricted free agent but I don’t believe his price becoming too expensive. Ramon Sessions [p] is another guard I would target, if he opts out.
There will leave plenty of budget for a big man. I see two main candidates: center Javale McGee [r] and forward/reality TV star Kris Humphries [u]. Javale doesn’t have as long of a track record rebounding the ball but at 5 blocks per 48 minutes he certainly puts on a show. Unfortunately he’s also well-known for other forms of in-game entertainment.
*don’t blame me for counting, mathematical, or spelling errors in the video, it’s not mine.
**watch #2, if you watch any.
Kris Humphries provides entertainment more with his off-court exploits. Currently he’s suing Kim Kardashian for an apology. But while he’s on the court, he has a nose for rebounds. Unlike McGee, who will likely require a long-term contract, Humphries is coming off a one-year deal and may take another one. I would sign Humphries, hopefully for something cheaper or similar to his one year, $8M deal this past year.
Ryan Anderson [r] is a player who I’m not convinced fits Philadelphia’s style, but every team should look into him. I’m also not sure the style of an 8 seed in the Eastern Conference should prevent signing a good player. At 24 years old he is probably going to be the best stretch 4 in the league for years. He’s over 39% from 3 for the past 2 years and grabs league-average-power-forward rebounds. He perfectly captures the advantage of the stretch 4 by holding his own on the boards while taking conventional PFs out to 3 point land and wreaking havoc. For instance, Ryan Anderson pulls down 11 boards per 48 compared to Steve Novak [u], who plays the same role and grabs only 5 boards. Adding a stretch 4 may actually work well if Collins adjusts those long 2s from big men which his offense generates into 3s from Ryan Anderson.
Obviously, any GM that doesn’t call up Steve Nash [u] this summer is liable for malpractice, but Nash has already hinted he’s looking to stay home or chase a ring with a super-team so the 76ers are out of that race. He’s still 90% of the old Steve Nash and worth any contract he’s paid this summer. I’d call him up and pitch something along the lines of how great the team defense behind him will be, the team loves to run in transition, we promise we’ll draft a three-point shooter, etc. Not a terrible argument, but it probably can’t top “Hey, we have LeBron and Wade.”
As you can see from my plan above, I see no need to trade Iguodala, but it’s a popular sentiment and he might himself ask for a change of scenery. Were he to leave, Gerald Wallace [p] is considering opting out and may provide similar services for the $8M range. But if we’re pleasing the Trade Iguodala instinct, why would we sign a similar player?
I’m ignoring the various trade scenarios because there’s too many and they’ve swirled for so long that obviously many are false. Put me down as against the ones involving volume scorers or big men who don’t rebound; concerned about Gasol’s impact on the cap*; and downright intrigued by the Calderon/Davis/lottery pick deal. That one can’t be real.
*If the Lakers decided they absolutely have to move someone to escape the soon-to-be-punitive luxury tax, why, from a negotiating power perspective, should someone give them an All Star?
When the Dust Clears
Taking a sampling of the above moves, and adding a backup or two, the team would be left with this:
|PG||Jrue Holiday||Delonte West|
|SF||Andre Iguodala||Evan Turner|
|PF||Kris Humphries||Thad Young|
|C||Lavoy Allen||Nikola Vucevic|
That’s easily doable under the cap and it should be possible to persuade those players to come here.
Among the players who may be available in the first round, there are a few bigs who look like they could be rebounders in the NBA. Arnett Moultrie (6’11” C) led the SEC in rebounding. Royce White (6’8″ PF) was second in the Big 12 in rebounding, racked up 5 assists, a steal, and a block, and would certainly fit the Sixers’ profile—short frontcourt, tall backcourt. (As you can see I’m trying to build a team where they can reasonably put 5 players on the court between 6’6″ and 6’8″.) Of course, he’s listed at 270 pounds so he should be able to hold his own under the basket. Draftexpress reports that White even brings the ball up the court and scores many of his points in isolations, and on a team filled with positional versatility, why not add an overweight, undersized PF who’s a combo guard at heart? Charles Barkley approves.
For whatever reason, UNC star Tyler Zeller is listed as falling to just before the 76ers spot. Obviously if he slips to Philadelphia he should receive very strong consideration.
In the backcourt, there are two SGs I’m interested in—both John Jenkins and Marcus Denmon make 3s and score efficiently. Denmon will likely be available at the Sixers’ second pick, but I have an irrational attachment to him so I’m not afraid to pick him with the first one. James Brocato at Wages Of Wins talked me into it pretty easily: “…he’s effiecient from the field, he’s efficient from the line, and takes great care of the basketball.” Sign me up! As Brocato points out, shooting guard “is without question the weakest position in the NBA.” You can’t spend a late first/early second on someone who was awesome in college at the worst position in the NBA, just because they’re an inch or two smaller than standard height?
In the “if they trade Iguodala” category, Draymond Green is a guy who looks like he should be able to rebound and shoot threes. However as a 6’7″ “F”, he may not be the best fit for a team paying Iguodala and Thad Young.
Two additional interesting SG prospects who may have range are Orlando Johnson and Allen Crabbe. They also fill other stat categories, suggesting a variety of tools they can use to find a way to be productive in the NBA.
Finally, Kevin Jones led the Big East in rebounding. He appears to be undervalued given his double-digit WS versus his second-round grade.
Here’s who we can add via the draft, added to a minute allocation with the players on my roster from above. I selected players available, +/- 3 spots, based on the current mock at Draft Express.
Obviously this is just a way to see if there are possible ways to distribute minutes. As the season goes on, perhaps Holiday or Turner will earn more minutes, Denmon or Crabbe will show they need more time on the bench, Zeller will become a starter, a center will lose time to Humphries and the team will go small more frequently.
This team starts two players who weren’t on the team last year, but I believe it’s the correct path forward. Multiple shots are fired at the hardest-to-fill positions in today’s NBA—shooting guard and center—and the roster has lots of flexibility. While the 76ers will still lack that elite scorer, the team retains its strong defensive profile and compliments it with added post presence and rebounding from Humphries and Zeller. That’s a big step forward. Since I made this improvement without long-term, high-priced contracts, when a difference-making scorer does become available Philadelphia will be ready to move all in.