The NBA offseason is well underway for 26 of the league’s 30 teams, and with that comes trade rumors, free agent hopes, mock drafts, and the like. In the Sixers case, the front office’s options to improve the roster are limited (outside of a blockbuster trade). Without cap space to sign free agents, Daryl Morey is reduced to re-signing his own players, signing league minimum contracts, and using whatever exceptions are left at the team’s disposal.
One such exception (and perhaps their only real tool to add to the existing rotation this offseason) is the Mid-level Exception, valued at $5.8 million for taxpaying teams in 2021-22. While the Sixers can use this money on one single player or portion it out to sign multiple contracts above the minimum, the MLE is historically used to add one meaningful piece to a contending roster, and that’s how Morey should employ it this offseason.
Given his limited ability to maneuver the roster, nailing this addition is as important to contending next year as just about any decision the Sixers could make this summer (besides blockbuster trades discussions, of course). While there are a handful of strong free agents for Morey to consider adding with the MLE, my preferred option—if he’s affordable at the $6m AAV tag—is Reggie Bullock.
More perimeter shooting/spacing
Bullock is best known for his shooting prowess, and you can obviously never have too much of that in today’s game. Last offseason saw a major focus on improving the spacing/shooting around Embiid & Simmons, and Morey delivered on that front with additions of Seth Curry and Danny Green, both of whom shot over 40% on catch-and-shoot threes last season. Bullock, who connected at a rate of 42.5% on catch-and-shoot threes for the Knicks this past year, only adds to that.
On-ball wing defense (with size)
Bullock’s appeal to the Sixers doesn’t stop with shooting/floor spacing. What sets him apart from other equally prolific catch-and-shoot threats is his capability on defense, and (more importantly) size on the wing. Bullock isn’t a stopper by any stretch of the imagination, but he has valuable experience defending the league’s toughest matchups, and does a good job of combining length (6’10” wingspan), physicality, and anticipation to disrupt on-ball.
The Sixers obviously have their go-to wing stopper in Ben Simmons, but beyond that they don’t have anybody who can reliably defend on-ball against bigger wings. Matisse Thybulle is as good as they come defensively, but asking him to guard shot creators whom are inches taller than him is less than ideal; and Danny Green, a strong off-ball defender, was often miscast in on-ball roles in an attempt to mask this hole (in turn lowering his impact on that end of the floor). Adding someone with Bullock’s size and ability to defend on-ball will go a long way in optimizing the Sixers perimeter defense—an occasionally leaky area for this team.
Suffice to say, Bullock gives Doc the option to spell Ben on the wing with more adequate size than Thybulle, and with more ability to stay in front than Green.
Looking at the Sixers defensive roles from this past season, a few players were clearly forced into responsibilities that didn’t exactly fit their skillset. Danny Green has mostly been a “helper” over the past few seasons, and George Hill is more equipped at the POA or as a “chaser.” Both players being assigned “wing stopper” based on the league’s tracking data is a clear indicator of where the team’s perimeter defense needs reinforcement—on the wing.
While the headline of Bullock’s skillset is his catch-and-shoot prowess, his appeal to the Sixers has much more to do with filling this need. He won’t be a game-changer on the defensive end of the floor, but he would plug a real hole in the team’s perimeter defense.
Blockbuster trade negotiations aside, if the Sixers intend to “run it back” next season, the Mid-level Exception is essentially the only tool available for Daryl Morey to improve the roster, and using it on a player who fills multiple needs in the rotation is the best he can hope to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bullock is priced out of the taxpayer MLE ($6 million AAV)—they can offer something in the ballpark of 3 years $20 million—but if he can be afforded then this is the exact move they should be looking to make to round of the roster.
(all data courtesy of BBall Index)
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