Unlike the past two off-seasons (aside from signing Kendall Marshall late off-season), Philadelphia will sign a free agent to a contract this July. With the cap spike, Philly has nearly $47 million in cap space (that number could be lower if Dario Saric does sign for this season). The 76ers shouldn’t use most of that this off-season, but they have to use some of it to vastly improve their team, and to reach the salary floor. It’s no secret Philly needs guards and wings. Even though Philadelphia doesn’t have top-level small forwards, the 76ers do have depth at that position. Ideally Philly signs at least two guards. Philly still has to figure out what to do with Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. It’s hard to imagine Philly begins next season with Carl Landry, Okafor, Noel, Saric, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Richaun Holmes on their roster. Embiid won’t play every game, nor will he play major minutes. But still, Philly has eight players (since Jerami Grant logs time at power forward) to play two positions. Something has to change, but in the meantime Philly will address their guards. And here is who I’d like them to target:
Let’s breakdown three restricted guards who’d fit well in Philadelphia:
It’s unlikely Portland lets Crabbe walk. After barely playing his first two seasons, Crabbe played 81 games and averaged 26 minutes a game last season. The career 38.5 percent 3-point shooter would fit nicely alongside Robert Covington and Simmons in the starting line-up. Crabbe’s 3.1 offensive win shares would’ve ranked first for the 76ers last season. If Philly successfully pried Crabbe from Portland, it would be costly. General manager Bryan Colangelo has mentioned before about high-salary, short-contract offers since Philly has to overpay for most free agents.
Ideally Simmons handles the ball in Philadelphia, but that probably won’t happen in his rookie season. Philly desperately needs a point, but unfortunately this crop of free agents isn’t too good. Curry, however, fits the need for a shooter. In his first true NBA season, Curry hit 45 percent of his 3-pointers. It’s difficult to say how much better Philadelphia would be with Seth Curry at point guard, but the 76ers would use a point guard by committee if Okafor or Noel cannot net them a lead guard, and if that’s the case Curry’s a wonderful addition.
The Miami Heat love Johnson. Similar to Crabbe, it’s unlikely a team signs Johnson away. Restricted free agency doesn’t really begin until after the big-time unrestricted free agents decide where they’re playing. Miami has a meeting with Kevin Durant, so depending on what happens there Johnson could be readily available for Philly to sign. Johnson played more point guard than shooting guard last season. Johnson averaged 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 24 minutes per game. His numbers might not sound too attractive, but he’s poised to put up bigger numbers in a larger role. Philly would have to overpay because it’s highly unlikely Miami lets Johnson walk.
Although I prefer the restricted free agents, the unrestricted ones have a higher chance of actually signing in Philadelphia.
Here are five unrestricted free agents guards who’d fit well in Philadelphia:
He won’t be their top target since he’s coming off an Achilles injury. But Chalmers, who might not even sign until later in the summer, could welcome the opportunity to start for the 76ers. He struggled to shoot the ball last season, but found success leading an overachieving Grizzlies’s team after Miami traded him. He’s a career 35 percent 3-point shooter, and has always been a steady defensive presence. It wouldn’t be a major addition, but Chalmers could turn into a viable guard for Philly to win games with this season.
Philly could offer him an absurd one or two-year contract to help them get closer to the salary floor, and also to improve their guards. Bazemore is far from a household name, but the slow-footed back-court fans saw last season would be no longer. He’s not much of a creator on the wing, but he’s a capable 3-point shooter (shot 41 percent on corner threes last season), above average free-throw shooter and averaged 6.6 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Gordon has had a lengthy injury history, but Philly could bolster their offense if they sign Gordon to a one-year deal. He’s a career 38.3 percent 3-point shooter, so he’d help the spacing tremendously. Philly loves to shoot threes, so why not sign a player who’s a pro?
It’ll take a commitment to sign Lin. He wants a long contract, so does Philly really want to invest four years in Lin, especially given the strength of next year’s point guard class? Lin wants to be appreciated, and although Philly would love to sign him to start at point guard it probably would be, I’d imagine at most, a two-year deal.
Deron Williams or Brandon Jennings
I cheated here. But if all else fails, just give a $11 million, one-year contract to either veteran point guard. I’d probably prefer Jennings, but either works as a temporary starter.
As I wrote this, news broke from Marc Stein that Philly would aggressively pursue Harrison Barnes. It’s not shocking, but the rumored Barnes to Philly that circulated since Colangelo took over looks legitimate. I’m indifferent right now. But it really won’t matter what Philly offers if the Warriors match. These next two weeks will be absolutely nuts. Let’s hope Colangelo doesn’t go too spending crazy.