Building the Sixers Bench Through Free Agency

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns
Apr 5, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Jamal Crawford (11) dribbles against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers are in a so-far so-good situation this season. The team’s record does not quite reflect where they expected to be, but there are many bright spots nonetheless. Aside from a couple of rough games against the Raptors, Joel Embiid is having another All-NBA caliber season. Ben Simmons’ stats are down, but he has become an invaluable defender and has already exceeded his career amount of made three-pointers. Additionally, Matisse Thybulle is a stud of a rookie. Even still, this team is far from perfect.

The Sixers’ bench leaves much to be desired. Thybulle is quickly becoming the prototypical “three-and-D” player the team imagined when they traded a small ransom for him. James Ennis has looked as solid as ever and Trey Burke has been a spark plug in the few games he has played. The bench has plenty of holes though, Mike Scott is having a down year, Furkan Korkmaz provides nothing but hollow stats, and the team lacks a go-to scored off the bench.

Adding a reliable scorer clearly could be key to a deep playoff run. Where things get a little less clear are when you ask, who is available? And who can the Sixers afford? Depending on if you choose to add through free agency or the trade market, you could have completely different answers. One thing to keep in mind, if you go the trade route, most players who were signed this summer cannot be traded until December, some who were signed a bit later cannot be traded until January 15th.

Free Agents

The place to start is also the place with the fewest quality options. At this point in the season, NBA free agency is essentially bare bones. The good aspect is that it wouldn’t cost you more than a contract. You have to wonder though, can these players help my team? There’s always a reason they remain unsigned this late in the year. Players who retired but could still play were not considered.

J.R. Smith

Might as well start things off with a bang. The ever-interesting vet has been an explosive bench option over the past 20 years. Smith can be a shooter, a scorer, or a slasher any given night (yes they’re all different). He may not be the most gifted defender, but his athleticism, even at 34 years of age, helps make up for that. With an ability to score inside and out, Smith is versatile enough to still play in the NBA the question is whether or not he can keep his head in the game.

As I said, there is a reason players remain unsigned this long. Carmelo Anthony, who was recently signed by the Portland Trailblazers, is the exception, not the rule. Smith has a history of being streaky, spacey, and controversial so he doesn’t exactly come without baggage. Smith tends to go about things his own way to a careless fault, which could be an issue especially on a team with such young stars. Elton Brand and the Sixers may feel it worth the risk if they feel desperate for post-season success.

Joe Johnson

Iso Joe, the man, the myth, the legend. Johnson had a quick return to the NBA before the season signing with the Detroit Pistons. Johnson’s career with the Pistons was short-lived as he was cut before the start of the season. The Detroit Pistons haven’t exactly been the shining example of front office success so take Johnson being cut with a grain of salt.

Johnson has been a scoring threat for most of his career and like Smith, can attack the game in a variety of ways. The draw-back on Johnson has been his regression, though not a surprise it has come rather quickly and it’s fair to wonder if he can be an NBA level talent again. Johnson put on a show in the Big3 which led to him drawing interest before the start of the season but in a league where the athleticism is nowhere near that of the NBA, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Joe Johnson deserves better than to crawl to the finish line of his career but he may not have much of a choice at this point.

Jamal Crawford

39-year-old NBA combo guard Jamal Crawford has been one of the most impressive scorers in the entire league since he entered it in 2000. Able to slice and dice the opposing defense, Crawford could seemingly score at will. Never the most efficient scorer, Crawford was always more so a quantity over quality type of scorer.

Questions loom about whether or not Crawford can still play but if you ask him, he’s good to go. Frankly, Crawford is baffled when he thinks about why he isn’t currently on an NBA team. It is understandable why he’s available though. While he certainly has the reputation, his age and approach to the game would give most, if not all, teams concerns. Teams value efficiency now more than ever and that could be what keeps him off an NBA roster.

Conclusion

Could the Sixers improve through free agency? Sure, they could add a scorer to their bench who could get them 10 points on a good night. To make any kind of meaningful improvement the Sixers should be looking at other rosters for improvement. The issue they’ll face is their lack of tradable contracts. Many Sixers players were signed or resigned this offseason and those who were, have either extremely high or extremely low salary numbers.

A trade would be nice but free agency is certainly more realistic, the only question is if any of these guys would even be an improvement. Comment who you would like to see the Sixers sign if anyone and be sure to mention anyone available that wasn’t mentioned.

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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