By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
With the start of free agency just a week away, there are plenty of rumors swirling around the NBA about who will go where. Naturally, with the Sixers currently having the cap space to go out and spend money, there are a multitude of players that have been linked to Philadelphia. Some of these players will command a maximum contract. However, other players may be looking at teams who are in their prime, such as the 76ers, and could take a cheaper contract if it means playing for a championship caliber team.
Obviously, the main plan of this offseason for Elton Brand and the Sixers front office has been to re-sign both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Brand made that clear after he swung each deal, for Butler in November and for Harris in February.
The players that will be mentioned in this article are players that would most likely only take contracts in a range of money that would place the Sixers out of signing both Butler and Harris. With there being a possibility, however small, that the Sixers lose out on Butler, Harris, or both, it is key for the Sixers to have a back-up plan. According to a multitude of NBA insiders' rumors, the Sixers have options.
ALERT ALERT ALERT— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) June 21, 2019
WOJ SAYS KAWHI WILL TAKE A MEETING WITH THE SIXERS pic.twitter.com/bf5wvjBDyo
Oh, how the tables have turned. According to ESPN's Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Kawhi Leonard "May very well take visits in free agency with" the 76ers. Wojnarowski reported this live while he was covering last Thursday's NBA Draft on ESPN. The implications for Philadelphia and the rest of the league here are huge. While Leonard has mostly been linked to the Toronto Raptors as well as both Los Angeles teams, a star free agent in the prime of his career wanting to take a visit with the Sixers is quite notable.
Leonard would fit perfectly with the Sixers. He can play any forward position or possibly even line-up as a big shooting guard. He is a prolific scorer who also plays defense with a tenacity that is rare in this league. He has won two NBA Finals MVP's (2014, 2019) as well as two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards (2015, 2016). He has received first team all-NBA honors in 2016 and 2017, as well as making second team all-NBA this past season. He is the type of player that can take over a game (as Sixers fans just painfully witnessed) while also making every player around him better. He wouldn't hinder either Ben Simmons nor Joel Embiid from their abilities if they shared the court together.
Are the Sixers the current front-runners to land Leonard? Absolutely not. Could that change? Absolutely. The NBA free agent landscape is an ever-changing place where anything can happen. Always expect the unexpected. The fact that Leonard is even willing to take a visit with Philadelphia gives the 76ers a shot. Sometimes, a shot is all you need. If you don't believe that, just take a look at Leonard's shot in game seven against the Sixers (no, I am not over it).
No, I am not intentionally doing a list of players that have dominated the Sixers. According to Wojnarowski, "Horford is prepared to enter free agency to find a three or four year deal elsewhere." In other words, he is not likely to resign with Boston. That alone should be cause for celebration for Joel Embiid and the 76ers. But, according to Shams Charania of the Athletic, Philadelphia is one of the four favorites to land the free-agent big man.
This would be an interesting fit. Depending on what else the Sixers would do in free agency, Horford would most likely start at power forward. He could also find himself playing center while Embiid is not on the floor. Horford is a stud of a defender who is relentless in his man-to-man defense, while also possessing an extremely efficient offensive game. Horford is a career 52.5% shooter from the field while also shooting 36.8% from beyond the arc, an impressive number for a big man.
While Horford is 33 years old and is sure to command a decent amount of money, this could be a risk worth taking for Elton Brand. Horford's veteran leadership would be welcomed on a Sixers team with two young superstars. Combine that with his efficient, team first play style and Horford could be a good match for the Sixers.
According to 94WIP's Howard Eskin, the Sixers have interest in signing two-time NBA champion Danny Green. Green would fill a huge need for this Sixers team: a wing who can shoot the three ball and play defense. The most important thing to take away from this is that if the Sixers were to sign Green, that would likely signal the end of the Sixers' interest in resigning JJ Redick.
While Green would likely cost more than Redick, there are notable upsides. Green is three years younger than Redick, plays the same position and blows him out of the water on the defensive end of the floor, and that's putting it mildly. Green was a member of the NBA's all defensive second team in 2017.
Green also shoots the three ball exceptionally well, as he shoots 40% for his career from beyond the arc. So, in theory, the Sixers would be adding a player that can do everything Redick can do while also playing high caliber defense. Green would be a welcomed veteran addition who fills a big need for the Sixers. Sign me up.