After a turbulent year, the 76ers offseason will be critical. Decisions must be made on a new coach as well as finding a way to revamp the roster and put life back into the franchise. So with these tough decisions to be made, I will give my attempt (and be followed by the other PSN staff) at putting on the shoes of Elton Brand, or Josh Harris, or Alex Rucker, or Ned Cohen, or whoever actually calls the shots in the organization.
This has been a name on my radar since his departure from Brooklyn earlier this season. After outperforming expectations this season with the injury-riddled Brooklyn Nets, Atkinson was canned seemingly due to not seeing eye-to-eye with Kyrie or KD. Atkinson likes to run an offense that emphasizes playing up-tempo and prioritizing taking shots at the 3 and the rim. He did a great job creating a culture in the Nets organization and he should be a pleasant change to the voice in the building.
What impresses me most about Kenny Atkinson is his ability to develop players. He has taken players like Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris Levert, Joe Harris, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrow (*sigh) and found a way to get the absolute most out of them. D’Angelo Russell also had the best season of his career this season after previously being looked at as a disappointment. This is extremely appealing considering the lack of growth from Simmons and Embiid of late as well as the potential for guys like Mattisse or Shake Milton.
If there is not some sort of trade this off-season, the Sixers have zero chance of being legitimate contenders next season. They have very little money to play with at the moment and there is not a single fix that can mend this roster together. If I were Elton Brand, I would be giving the Sacramento Kings a call:
Kings Get: Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, Zhaire Smith, 2021 First-Round Pick (Top 15 protected).
Sixers Get: Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III
On the surface this looks like a lot. The Sixers will be dumping Horford’s contract (and the rest of his over-the-hill career) along with an inconsistent and poor fit with Josh Richardson. While J-Rich flashed at moments and his value should be rather high after the Orlando performance, he has just as many games where he doesn’t show up. He isn’t a particularly good shooter and does not play off Simmons well, which needs to be made a priority.
It hurts to give up Matisse. He will develop into a top-tier defender and is just such a lovable guy. Unfortunately, you have to give up to get something and Matisse is probably one of the most valued players on our roster. Zhaire still has a ton of potential but is a major question mark at this point, given the injury and health problems. The Sixers do not touch their core and put together a fairly compelling offer with this.
The Kings will be looking to dish Hield in a similar way to the Sixers with Horford. Like Horford, Hield was given a four year $106 million deal this offseason and could not hold on to the starting job for the Kings. For Buddy, it was also a matter of fit in the offense. While he still managed to put up decent numbers (19.2 ppg), he also did not fit cleanly in the King’s fast-break driven offense and had some issues with coach Luke Walton, which spilled into the media. Buddy is best at catch-and-shoot opportunities and is a deadeye from deep. While he isn’t overly impressive at creating his own shot, when he gets hot he can absolutely take over a game. Buddy will play off Simmons very well and Simmons will have a catch-and-shoot shooter that will rival the impact JJ Reddick had.
Harrison Barnes is a solid three and D role player for the Kings. He also posts a fairly hefty contract and it should not be expected for the Kings to be excited to give him up. However, the Kings have plenty of shooters and the cutting ability and defensive prowess of Matisse Thybulle should intrigue the Kings. Sacramento’s offense is also a much better fit for Zhaire Smith where he can use his athletic ability in a more effective way. Richardson could also be more effective with the Kings and he should have done enough this season to intrigue them.
The Kings were one of the few other teams that showed interest in Al Horford last offseason. The team is fairly young and it is very possible the front office could talk themselves into him being a mentor for Harry Giles while still having something left in the tank. The draft pick is the little cherry on top of the deal. If all goes according to plan, the Sixers will be a top tier team and the Kings will get that late first round pick. If the plan backfires and the team will be forced to blow things up even more, the pick will fall right back into our pocket.
Marvin Bagley III might be the toughest sell in this deal. The big man has always been oozing with potential but has yet to fully put the pieces together. The Kings seem to be more invested in Harry Giles who has a similar skillset and position, which could make Bagley the odd-man-out. Bagley also has been injury-ridden and appeared in just 13 games this year. Despite this, he has the potential to develop into a really solid big man who would compliment Embiid fairly well. His athleticism and ceiling have never been a question (He was formerly the number one ranked recruit coming out of high school) and he is now showing signs of developing his shot.
The Sixers hands are fairly tied this off season. With over $147 million already on the books, they have roughly six million dollars to play with largely due to a mid-level exception. It is also fairly up in the air exactly what the cap will look like due to the pandemic and the uncertainty of when fans will be able to return to arenas. They will be priced out of any major starts but finding a key role player or two would make a major difference.
Joe Harris- SG/SF
It would be surprising if Harris does not get an offer that the Sixers would not be able to match. However, Harris is exactly what the Sixers need. Hopefully some dancing around the cap and connection with former head oach Kenny Atkinson will help him find his way to Philly. Harris has a super quick release and is automatic from deep. The former three-point champ has a career 42.6% average and is effective shooting off a screen or on the move in addition to catch-and-shoot opportunities. The void left from JJ Reddick is still there and even with the help of Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes, you can never have enough shooters.
Who knows what position Ben Simmons ends up being listed at this year. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter. Whether he is listed as a PG or PF he will still be getting defensive boards and taking it coast to coast on a regular basis. Raul Neto was the only true PG on the entire roster last year which proved to be a problem. Augustin is about as true of a PG as it gets and he can effectively run the offense when needed. In his last season with the Orlando Magic, DJ averaged 10.5 points and 4.6 assists. While last year was a down year percentage-wise, Augustin has shot the ball over 40% from three for most of his career.
The 28-year-old combo guard has begun to establish himself as a key role player in the league. He can handle the ball fairly well and is a solid shooter. Galloway could fill a role that Burks did this year, but is a better passer than Burks is. This should be a very legitimate option as he should be available after spending the past three seasons with the Pistons.
The Sixers are extremely lucky they have a first round pick this year. Due to the Thunder outperforming all season they managed to get back a pick that had been traded already. In addition to the 21st overall pick, the Sixers also have 4 second round picks at the 34th, 36th, 49th, and 58th spots.
Option 1 Trade Up: Sixers trade up to the 13th pick with the New Orleans Pelicans
Sixers Get: 13th Pick
Pelicans Get: 21st pick, 34th pick, 49th pick, rights to swap 1st rounders 2022
If possible, the Sixers should do everything possible to trade up and get Aaron Nesmith. This guy is the best pure shooter in the draft and should translate perfectly into the NBA. Nesmith knocked down an unreal 52.2% of his threes on 8.2 attempts per game while leading the SEC in scoring this past year. His playstyle is very similar to Buddy Hield and would be another great fit next to Simmons. The most difficult part about this trade will be finding a taker as the Sixers are fairly light on assets but if they can find a way to get their hands on Nesmith they should not hesitate.
Option 2: Stay Put
At 21, the Sixers will largely have to adjust based on how the draft plays out before them. Cole Anthony and Tyrell Terry would both be great names to add but I think it is likely they are off the board when the Sixers’ pick rolls around. Kira Lewis should be looked at as a primary target for the 21st pick. Lewis has D’Aaron Fox level quickness and respectable shooting ability. He stands 6’3 but weighs just 165 pounds which is limiting to his defensive ability. He could serve as a primary ball-handler in the offense and would provide a solid change-of-pace off the bench. Kira played two years at Alabama and has developed as a scorer who can also play off-ball. His engine is his best asset and he brings major value as a spark because of this.
2nd Round Targets:
Payton Pritchard PG/SG: The four-year starter at Oregon has the potential to make the team and earn some bench minutes. His game resembles TJ McConnell but Pritchard is much more developed offensively, especially from deep. It would be surprising to see him sneak into the first round. He has the potential to outplay his draft spot and find a way to stick in the right situation. His toughness and grittiness prove he is a guy you should never count out and the team that takes a chance on him could end being very happy with the results.
Vernon Carey Jr PF/C: Carey was somewhat of a disappointment this year at Duke but still has major potential as a big man. He has a good frame, attacks the basket hard, and is smooth around the rim. He stands 6’10 and 270 pounds and averaged 18 points along with nine rebounds this season. He is willing to do the dirty work on the boards and quietly is one of the most athletic guys in the draft. Give him a chance and he may earn some time as a backup to Embiid.
Mamadi Diakite PF/C: It is largely a mystery where Diakite will end up being selected in the draft. Some experts see him falling just out of the first round while others don’t expect for him to be drafted at all. Diakite bring automatic energy to the court and has elite level defensive potential. His offensive game is limited and 6’9 frame is slightly concerning, but the big man proved to be the anchor in Virginia’s impressive defense over the past two seasons and could find his way onto an NBA roster because of this ability.
Udoka Azubuike C: Few players draw a comparison to Joel Embiid but Azubuike has found himself on this shortlist. While this Kansas big man is unlikely to develop to the level of offensive ability that Embiid possesses, Azubuike has a freakish frame and uses his body extremely well. The amount of improvement he has shown over his four years at Kansas has been impressive and he averaged 13.7 points and 10.5 rebounds this past year. This would be another option to provide backup minutes to Embiid, and this big man is definitely worth a 2nd-round flyer.
This is an extremely important off-season for the Sixers. After the long grueling years of The Process, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are the two key pieces that we have to show for it. Surrounding the duo with players that highlight their abilities and fit well next to them must be the number one priority with every move this off-season. If this off-season is a failure, it will likely be time to blow things up, so the time is now to right the ship. Hinkie didn’t die for this.
Mandatory Credit – Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire