NBA Summer League for the 76ers begins Friday night against the ever familiar Boston Celtics. In previous summers watching rookies like Jahlil Okafor and Ben Simmons play could be categorized as the highlight of the actual season. It’s different now, after winning 52 games, but there are three first rounders, all guards, the 76ers drafted in the past few years that’ll play in Las Vegas, which makes this particular league fascinating. Will Zhaire Smith handle the ball more than he did during his lone season at Texas Tech? How will Landry Shamet defend NBA-level players? What has Furkan Korkmaz learned from his rookie season?
LeBron James teased Philadelphia Sunday with the reported meeting between his representatives and the biggest decision makers on the 76ers. It was a courtesy, as Brian Windhorst reported after James decided to join the Lakers on a three-plus-one contract. That five-six hour period Sunday where the possibility of James entered the minds of 76ers fans provided a glimmer of hope. But alas, he decided elsewhere. Hours later, Philadelphia signed JJ Redick to a one-year deal, which should have been expected even if James signed with Philadelphia. The waiting allowed for Redick to earn more money. The flexibility remains with the 76ers moving forward. There’s the Jerryd Bayless question. There was $14 million after signing Redick, plus other structured salary options for the 76ers to add depth. Philadelphia then traded for Wilson Chandler, and his $12.5 million salary, Tuesday afternoon in a brilliant move. Not only can Chandler, at 6-8, cover wings, but he’s without question a weapon as a small-ball power forward offensively.
There’s still hope for a Kawhi Leonard trade, but it’s looking more likely San Antonio holds onto the star small forward for a little while longer. As of now, the 76ers project to have a full roster. Including Redick and Chandler, the 76ers have 14 players signed for next season. That doesn’t include Shamet and second-rounder Shake Milton, who have yet to sign. There’s a real chance the 76ers add a veteran big man like Kyle O’Quinn, or bring back Amir Johnson to spot Joel Embiid. Richaun Holmes appears to be focused on backing up Embiid, but he’s yet to prove himself on a consistent basis. Additionally, his contract isn’t guaranteed next season.
It’s not essential Philadelphia collects a star, as head coach Brett Brown put it last month, this off-season. There’s a chance Jimmy Butler is available next summer. There’s a chance (a rather slight one) Klay Thompson is, too. Who knows what disgruntled start will want to be moved 12 months from now. How Fultz plays will determine the course of action for the 76ers, truthfully. It’s imperative the 76ers keep Fultz out of rental talks with Leonard. The fact that Philadelphia hasn’t nudged on that front is encouraging to his progress. You don’t give up on a first overall pick not named Anthony Bennett after a season.
The 76ers play twice this weekend, while their final Las Vegas game before the playoffs begin happens Monday. Milton, unfortunately, won’t be playing, but there’s much intrigue in this year’s roster, probably because of the amount of guards that’ll have a chance to play. Korkmaz found himself injured and rehabbing, failing to develop in Delaware for a chunk of last season. Korkmaz can really shoot the ball, dropping 44 points total points over two games for Turkey during World Cup qualifying action last weekend. The almost 21-year-old swingman only played 80 minutes for the 76ers his rookie season, shooting just below 30 percent from three. He’ll have every opportunity for minutes this season, so the summer league is an ideal time for him to shine. It’s different, this summer league, than in years past. But it’s an opportunity for potential contributors to showcase their abilities. And that makes it fascinating.