The Sixers will enter the 2020 free agency period in a bit of limbo. Will they blow up the roster around Joel and Ben, as I’ve suggested, or will they resort to making minor changes around the two in an attempt to maintain a semblance of consistency?
It’s anyone’s guess right now, and while it’s still to be determined what sort of players they’ll be in free agency, we do know the team at least has their mid-level exception (MLE)* to sign player(s) despite being over the cap—they can also add players on league minimum contracts (which might apply to some of the players on this list).
*the MLE is an option for over-the-cap teams to add players in free agency despite being out of room; ensuring that all clubs have at least some ability to spend each offseason
While a tax-paying team (the Sixers) has a smaller MLE than a non-taxpaying team (roughly $6 million, compared to the full $9 million), we desperately need to use this money to plug holes in our rotation. Here are seven options the team could look at using some of (or all of) their mid-level exception on:
The Sixers desperately need a ball-handler to lead their second unit when Ben Simmons is off the floor, and the preference would be that this player can also excel as a catch-and-shoot threat around Ben—Clarkson satisfies that.
His 40% shooting on 3.4 catch-and-shoot threes per game is ideal to play off-ball, and it’s rare to see a player with these catch-and-shoot numbers also be an elite finisher around the rim. Clarkson’s game has always been predictated on getting to and converting around the rim, and he was one of the more efficient pick-and-roll players in the entire league last year because of it (0.96 points per possession).
You wouldn’t have said this before, but adding a reliable shot in catch-and-shoot situations makes Clarkson the perfect complement to Ben Simmons. 15.6 points on 57% true-shooting in 24 minutes a night is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Sixers bench.
Gallaway is a St. Joes-alum who fits the bill of a combo guard able to work with Ben. He doesn’t create for others—so he’s less of a combo-guard, and more a small shooting guard who can dribble—but he handles the rock well enough to keep a second team offense moving.
Galloway has spent the last three seasons in Detroit as a steady 3-and-D wing, with over 90% of his three-point attempts (4.7/5 per game) coming in catch-and-shoot situations—he shot over 40% on such looks. He’s been a steady shot from deep his entire career, floating between average and above-average, and in a more player-friendly market he would certainly be priced out of this list. But with a lack of overall money available in this offseason compared to next he’ll more affordable than we think, and might be wise to sign a one-year on the MLE given this circumstance.
Rivers doesn’t play a ton of defense, but he definitely gets buckets—something this team sorely needs off the bench. He has a strong isolation game, is a good shooter off the dribble, and anyone who loved what Alec Burks brought to the Sixers would love Rivers’ game. He can likely be had for a hair above the league minimum, and if Burks doesn’t appear interested in returning to Philly than Rivers would be an equal, yet cheaper replacement.
Bring Korver home and I’ll never ask for anything again. Returning to Philly to finish things out running DHO’s with Embiid would be the perfect bookend to a career started sharing a backcourt with Allen Iverson. Bringing Korver back into the fold would obviously allow the next coach to dust off the JJ-packages that ran so efficiently with Joel, and while this isn’t the look for an offense to lean in the way Brett Brown did with Redick, it’s a strong call to have in the arsenal. With a career 43% clip from deep Korver is the sort of sniper that would add instant spacing around Joel and Ben.
It’s unlikely that Milwaukee can retain all of their wings set to hit free agency, and if Mathews is the odd man out and is affordable then he’ll slot right in as reliable, though unspectacular piece on another contender here in Philly.
His days as a starter should be over, but he’s capable of filling 20 minutes off the bench on the wing. A career 38% three-point shooter who plays formidable defense has value, so Matthews’ demand could surprise in free agency, but if he can be had for a portion of the MLE the Sixers would be wise to add a consummate 3-and-D wing.
*backup center if Horford is moved:
Cauley-Stein doesn’t seem prepared to re-sign in Dallas, and he should be looking for a more secure bench role. If the team chooses to move the Horford contract then they should be aggressive in targeting Cauley-Stein.
The appeal here is obviously defensive, where Willie Trill’s shot blocking is desirable with a second unit, and his ability to switch on the perimeter for his size (he’s an incredible athlete) gives him immense value as a second team center next to Ben Simmons. The ability to switch everything with Ben on the floor and Joel on the bench gives us optionality in terms of defensive coverage, and any GM worth his salt will understand Cauley-Stein’s value in that regard.
Leonard is one player on this list who could definitely demand more than the taxpayer-MLE, but that’s not a given, and if a market fails to materialize the Sixers should try to woo him from re-signing in Miami. He’s a stretch big who could log both minutes at the backup 5 and some 4 next to Joel.
Leonard is selective with his threes (2.5 per game) but has connected at a 43% rate over the past three seasons. In terms of adding a backup-big (if Horford is moved) and finding some floor-spacing this is a two-birds one-stone situation. Again, he may like being a nominal starter in Miami, but if he’s open to exploring a role elsewhere Philly should definitely be in the mix.