At this point in time, we still have not heard word from the Sixers on their plan with regard to president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo. The Twitter account saga will eventually end, but time will not stop and time is of the essence for the organization with the next month being of utmost importance with regard to the team's future. Whether or not Colangelo stays, the fact remains is the draft is just over two weeks away and free agency is just over three weeks out on July 1. The Sixers have two picks in the draft, a number of roster decisions to make and the opportunity to lure top-tier free agents with the cap space at their disposal. Thanks, Sam.
With a handful of important issues facing the Sixers, the writers of Sixerdelphia game their thoughts on some of the things surrounding the team right now:
Who will/should the Sixers retain in free agency?
Brandon Apter (@bapter23) - The one big issue for the Sixers at the beginning of the season was the lack of production from their bench. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot wasn't doing enough and neither was Justin Anderson. Amir Johnson was just a back-up there for defense, so there were very few shooters at the team's disposal early on. I think it would be nice to see at least one of Belinelli or Ilyasova return, but I'd prefer Belinelli since Jonah Bolden could join the big man mix next season.
JJ Redick was the big name the Sixers signed to a one-year deal prior to the season and all signs point towards both sides wanting him back in Philadelphia. I think his $23 million deal was just the first step in a verbal long-term agreement. If the Sixers bring LeBron James or Paul George in, it wouldn't be surprising to see Redick come back for two years, making $6-8 million annually. His family is in Brooklyn, they aren't going to content and neither will the Knicks, so it is tough to see him venturing too far from his family this late in his career.
Jesse Larch (@JJLarchSports) - I think that the Sixers will prioritize returning JJ Redick. They've proved once already that they view Ersan Ilyasova as an expendable player after trading him away a season ago and Marco Belinelli, as effective as he was, creates a logjam on the wing with younger players like Fultz, TLC, Korkmaz, and Anderson waiting to emerge behind him. Redick was a key not only on the court but in the locker room, and I think that his huge contract last season was given to him with the understanding that he would need to take a pay cut to return. I think J.J. loved his time here enough to do just that.
Josh Liddick (@JoshLiddickTalk) - If it’s a matter of who “should” the Sixers retain, the answer has to be everyone. However, it’s obvious that with the impending free agency class, which the Sixers will most likely spend big on a big-name free agent, being able to keep all three key players from last season is pretty slim.
All three players had specific roles. JJ Redick helped improve outside shooting dramatically in the starting lineup, while veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova helped solidify the bench for a playoff run. Belinelli’s acrobatic 3-point shot attempts coupled with his scoring outbursts really aided the Sixers in getting past the Heat in the playoffs. There were nights when the entire bench struggled, but Belinelli was putting up close to 20 points a game nightly. Ilyasova is the same way, his defense was important for the Sixers when he was on the floor. He doubled as a starting center in moments when Joel Embiid was unable to play. Even though he struggled in the playoffs to make any sort of impact, both him, Belinelli, and Redick proved all year just how valuable they are to the depth of the Sixers.
Connor Tustin (@TUSTdoit) - Obviously, I think a lot of this decision is weighing on what happens with the whole Lebron to Philly fiasco. Who can we bring back and at a reasonable price? I would personally love to see JJ Redick back in a Sixers uniform. I just thought he fit in so well with the young team from a leadership aspect on and off the court. He also posted some really impressive career bests at his age. But of course, he would have to take a bit of a pay cut to come back here. Do I think he will do it? Yes, I actually think he may. His statements at the closing press conference seemed like he really wanted to be invested in the future of this team. As for Marco Belinelli and Ersan Illyasova, I could see one leaving and one going. I would like to see Ersan be the one remaining because of his play on both sides of the court. Belinelli really never did anything impressive for me (or anybody) on the defensive end.
What are your thoughts on LeBron to Philly?
Apter: I've been torn on this subject pretty much since the #LeBronToPhilly trend began. Who wouldn't want the best player in the world? That's very true. As an avid supporter of the process though, part of me wants to see the Sixers build this organically and win a title. Heck, the Warriors did it with Curry, Thompson and Green, so why not the Sixers? Well, we aren't quite to the talent level of that trio yet, and the NBA is a league run by superteams and LeBron. If I want a title, I'm bringing LeBron to Philly, but at this point in his career, is he really content with playing off ball and helping lead the young group to the promise land? I want the face of the Sixers to be Embiid and Simmons. You add LeBron, the title opportunities go up, but we saw how much influence LeBron has had on roster decisions, etc. That won't be a thing in Philly. Ultimately, I think he ends up staying in Cleveland and to be honest, the Sixers' biggest need is a wing player that can shoot the ball. They already have plenty of drivers.
Larch: I do not buy into the beliefs that he is a cancer or that he would clash with Ben Simmons. Cancers do not go to eight consecutive NBA Finals and LeBron led the NBA in points off of cuts to the basket, showing that he is effective without the ball in his hands. I think the Sixers current core plus LeBron James is a roster fit to take down the Warriors' dynasty. The Sixers would be irresponsible to not at least make an offer.
Liddick: I have been a vocal supporter of LeBron James coming to Philadelphia since last July, when I wrote an article declaring the possibility of King James taking his talents to the Sixers a year later. Throughout last season, watching the Sixers succeed in the Eastern Conference without a third star, my thoughts on LeBron coming never changed, but lessened just a bit.
Unlike others, I never had disinterest in LeBron James and always welcomed the possibility of the Sixers signing arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time. The Sixers proved a lot when they fell to the Celtics in five games in the semi-finals. They showed that they need another star in the lineup to compete with these more powerful teams, whether it be LeBron, Paul George, or Kawhi Leonard. Of the three, I think LeBron is the better choice, because after the way he’s played in these playoffs, it’s apparent just how ready he is to move on from being the sole focal point of a team’s offense. By teaming up with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid next season, he can do just that and still have the same, or more, success next season and beyond.
Tustin: This is tough for me, as I don’t think there is any debate to who the best player in the history of the league is anymore. It’s simply LeBron James. So why wouldn’t I want him in Philly? With such a young team, I don’t want to see LeBron come in and just take over, screwing up the ever-increasing chemistry. However, there have been some rumors floating around that LeBron wants to play more of an off-ball role moving forward anyway, which in that case, I would be more than happy to welcome King James to Philly. So my final answer on the LeBron to Philly case is that I would certainly be more happy to have him rather than upset. At the end of the day, he is the GOAT and I don’t think any sane basketball fan wouldn’t want him on their team.
Beyond the big names in free agency, what lower-tier players should the Sixers target to fill out their depth?
Apter: I think bringing back Belinelli and Redick would be a good thing for the team's depth, without question. Beyond those two, I think they could look at Boston's Aron Baynes as a back-up to Joel Embiid while also exploring guys like Will Barton, Wayne Ellington and Tyreke Evans or a vet like Jamal Crawford that can shoot and lead. Their ability to sign other free agents rests on whether they sign a LeBron or Paul George, but one thing is for sure, they will need more bench shooting depth because you cannot rely on TLC, Justin Anderson, Furkan Korkmaz and Richaun Holmes to provide that.
Larch: I LOVE Will Barton's game, and I think he would bring a lot that the Sixers were lacking last season. Barton plays with a confidence in himself that allows him to get hot at any time. He is always the agressor, he can handle the ball or play off the ball, and he is an active defender. I think he would flourish in Brett Brown's scheme. Barton is at the top of my list if the Sixers miss out on one of the big fish. Other names that I like are Avery Bradley (health permitting), local products Tyreke Evans (if he is not too expensive), and Wayne Ellington. If they add a big man I'd like Ed Davis. He is unheralded but he was a difference maker defensively for the Trail Blazers last season in his minutes off of the bench, and the Sixers struggled defensively last season when Joel Embiid left the floor. Davis could fix that.
Liddick: I fully expect the Sixers to sign cheap deals to bring back both Belinelli and Ilyasova, but in the case that the Sixers cannot extend Redick, they will need to look elsewhere. SG Will Barton is an interesting target, as Jesse Larch continues to be a firm supporter of him. He helped the Nuggets get on the brink of making the playoffs last year, and showed that he can be a real threat shooting the ball outside. If Markelle Fultz still isn’t ready to take on the duties at the 2 next season, Barton could be a nice fill-in for the time being in the starting lineup. While his shooting is more shaky than what Barton can bring to the table, Marcus Smart is another intriguing option for the Sixers. Even if he doesn’t start every night, his defense off the bench is what made him so valuable to the Celtics. Smart is easily considered one of the best lockdown defenders in the NBA and would elevate the Sixers’ defense even more than it is right now.
Tustin: I think the biggest need for the Sixers, at the moment, is they need some more depth at the wing. After a somewhat lackluster performance from Robert Covington and Marco Belinelli against the Celtics in the playoffs, I think the Sixers really need some solid bench support at the wing. Covington has always been somewhat streaky, but I’m not really that concerned about him long-term. He will bounce back like he always does and give the Sixers a solid defensive presence. That being said, the Sixers need someone who can play at both ends of the floor. Even though Belinelli can make some real circus shots, I think we all can agree he does next to nothing to help the Sixers defensively. If we are talking about lower-tier name players, I think the Sixers should take a hard look at Wayne Ellington. I think he could be a good, veteran guy to come in and help bolster the wing position for a younger Sixers team.
What effect, if any, will the Bryan Colangelo saga have on the Sixers and their ability to attract free agents?
Apter: This is very hard to project, because for the top-tier free agents, it shouldn't matter who the GM/president of basketball operations is, it should matter what the roster is and the opportunity to win multiple championships. I don't think that LeBron James or Paul George will be scared by the Colangelo situation, whether he's fired or not, but it might be hard to attract the mid-level guys if a top-tier one doesn't want to come here or goes elsewhere. The team will have Brett Brown at the forefront of free agency, and that should help them, no matter who is in charge, because that is who they are going to sign-up to play for. All this being said, I think the organization would be foolish to move forward with Colangelo because the risks of this going wrong far outweigh the good he could/might do if he stays.
Larch: I think this is a very individualized issue. If Colangelo is dismissed, and I expect that he will be, the damage should still be minuscule because the person with questionable trust will not be a factor in the organization. I do not think a LeBron James cares about the GM as much as he does the roster. A lesser Superstar (like Paul George) who is still growing his star may be more concerned by this ordeal. In a weird way, I think the bigger that the player is, the less the incident matters, but players with smaller brands will be more cautious about the Sixers.
Liddick: That’s the question, isn’t it? Personally, I’d like to believe that LeBron James will look past the general manager’s faults and sign with the Sixers anyway purely based on the team’s talent and potential. However, I just don’t think it’s going to be that easy.
If the Sixers keep Colangelo, he’s going to have a very tough time convincing agents that this whole Twitter situation isn’t going to affect the players they are representing. Relationships between Colangelo and previous connections have a very strong chance of failing, which is why I don’t believe the Sixers will end up being successful whatsoever with bringing in any free agents this summer, especially if players who are currently signed by the team don’t trust their own general manager.
If the Sixers decide to fire Colangelo, which I believe is the right move, the Sixers will need to find a new general manager for the draft and free agency, but ownership will have a chance to get someone that can tailor to their needs and attract free agents that way. The Sixers are in a serious predicament, and we’ll see what happens once decisions are made.
Tustin: I honestly don’t think it should make too much of an impact on the Sixers offseason, IF he is let go soon. Now if the Sixers continue to let this thing linger and he ends up staying, I think there may be some negativity towards signing with a team surrounded by drama. The last thing players want is to come to an organization that is drowning in negative media attention. If the Sixers clean this up fast and bring in a new general manager within the next few weeks, I don’t think Eric Jr. and company will have an impact on Philly as a free agent destination.