At the end of last season, it seemed like the Sixers would have some issues heading into free agency.
Mike Scott, Dwight Howard, Danny Green, and Furkan Korkmaz were all free agents. With $100 Million tied up in Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and the soon-to-be disgruntled Ben Simmons, the outlook wasn’t the best for the team.
Fast forward through the first thirteen games of the season, and it looks like the Sixers have made some of the better decisions in the league. Ben Simmons has yet to play a game, and the Sixers have been on a bit of a losing streak due to a number of players being held out in Covid protocols.
But, when they were at full strength, minus Simmons, this Sixers team has looked like one of the top teams in the league. If anything, Simmons not being on the team has really allowed players like Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and Furkan Korkmaz to get more minutes than they normally would. It’s resulted in a much more cohesive unit that hasn’t really lost anything without having Simmons in the lineup.
The free-agent class didn’t look too overwhelming, but the Sixers have really pulled amazing value with their four signings.
Danny Green, who was a must to bring back, came back to the team on a two-year, $20 million deal. Green is shooting 39.8% on three-pointers, and that’s not far off of what he shot last year. His minutes and scoring are down, but he’s shooting three fewer shots per game from last season, and he’s still a quality defender who’s not been asked to play almost thirty minutes per game like last season. The veteran brings shooting, quality defense, and leadership to a still-young team.
Furkan Korkmaz has had a tough go the past few years as he went from not being tendered a contract to asking for a trade. Then hitting free agency after showing some good shooting and an improved defense toward the end of last season. Korkmaz surprised a lot of people and re-signed with the Sixers on a very team-friendly three-year, $15 million contract. What’s made a difference this season is Korkmaz, with Simmons being out, has seen his minutes bumped up.
Just slightly over twenty-six minutes per game, and Korkmaz is averaging 12.1 points per game, shooting just under 41% from the field, and even though his 35.8% mark from three-point range is a little low, he’s come through with timely scoring and quality minutes for the team.
Where he’s really stepped up is his defense and the effort he’s putting in. Most of his numbers are up across the board, and that’s a result of the increased load he’s been carrying. Korkmaz will remain in the rotation and can continue to develop into the instant offense and designated shooter off the bench.
Georges Niang had himself a couple of good years, the past two in Utah. When signed, he looked like a good-sized forward that could take the spot Mike Scott was leaving and, hopefully, provide some quality three-point shooting. What Niang has done is produce career highs as he’s at 12.5 points per game on 22.9 minutes per game. 44% from the field and 40.5% from three-point range have where Niang has really come through for the team.
His rebounds per game are right in line with Scott’s from last season at 2.8 per game but, he adds a quality shooter, giving the team more options and minutes and tripling Scott’s scoring output. Niang was a perfect pickup for the Sixers and for what they needed.
The last player that the Sixers signed is Andre Drummond. After the interaction between Drummond and Embiid over the past couple of seasons, you wouldn’t think that this was possible, let alone likely to work out well. It’s been the complete opposite of what anyone could have predicted. While Drummond isn’t the defender, athletically, like Dwight Howard was, he’s a much better backup to Joel Embiid.
At twenty-eight years old, that’s the much older Howard, who returned to the Lakers after his single season in Philadelphia. He’s provided a reliable backup that’s helped keep Embiids minutes down early in the season. Now, with Embiid out under the league’s Covid protocols, Drummond has been starting. In those three games, even though losses as the team is missing quite a few players, Drummond is averaging 12 mpg, 19 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in just over 33 minutes per game.
That wouldn’t be the case with Howard, as Drummond is still a quality center in the league. If Drummond and Embiid remain healthy throughout the season and the playoffs, this duo will be a nightmare for opposing teams. Drummond has been way more than advertised, acclimated with the team and Embiid, and has been holding his own when the team needs him the most.
The Sixers have been missing Matisse Thybulle, Isaiah Joe, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid the past few games. That’s tough for any team; coupled with injuries to Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz, the Sixers have taken some moral victories of late but need to actually get back in the win column this week.
If the free agents provide any relief, it will be that the team is deeper, more rounded, and better suited to compete deep into the playoffs again this season.