Report: Sixers, Caleb Martin have ‘had discussions’ in free agency

Caleb Martin, 76ers Sixers
Miami Heat’s Caleb Martin (16) tries to get past Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The free agency rumors continue to fly as the Sixers have been connected to yet another free agent of the Miami Heat.

After being connected to Haywood Highsmith early Wednesday morning by the Philadelphia Inquier’s Keith Pompey, it was then reported that the Sixers had held discussions with the forward above Highsmith on Miami’s depth chart, Caleb Martin, according to Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald:

“As The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey just reported, the Philadelphia 76ers have had discussions with Heat free agent Haywood Highsmith. The 76ers have also had discussions with Heat free agent Caleb Martin as they scan the free-agent market for options to fill their roster, according to a league source.”

Martin has been a key player in the Heat’s postseason over the past two seasons, averaging just under 12.5 points per game and playing a high level of off-ball defense. Losing him would be no soft blow to Miami, but they may very well not have a choice due to the team’s proximity to the second apron.

Per Jackon and Chiang:

“The most the Heat can currently offer Haywood [Highsmith] or Martin while remaining under the ultra-punitive second apron is a contract with a starting salary of about $7 million with a maximum of 8 percent raises each season.”

Meanwhile, Philadelphia can create more than $9 million in cap space by waiving Paul Reed. It’s worth noting that there is no possibility of a sign-and-trade involving Reed for Martin, as the Heat are above the first apron. Reed would need to be traded in a deal where Philadelphia takes back little to no salary, which makes the concept of him being waived outright the most likely scenario.

Martin’s regular-season contributions have been criticized at times, which admittedly is fair. Martin shot just 34.9 percent from deep on 3.6 attempts, whereas in the playoffs, that number skyrockets to 44.0 percent on five attempts per game. Shooting off the catch, there’s a similar trend from the very same 34.9 percent in the regular season to 43.8 percent in the playoffs.

Those gripes are fair; however, Philadelphia’s problem has been the underperformance of role players in the playoffs. Having a player known for the exact opposite would be a positive for the Sixers.

As far as reading other tea leaves, fans were quick to notice that newly acquired star Paul George went so far as to follow Martin on Instagram. George is a known socialite in basketball circles, and rumors have already circulated of his willingness to recruit to Philadelphia.

For now, it’s little more than a coincidence but a fun one to keep an eye on.

The Sixers still have one remaining spot in the starting lineup to fill and limited financial flexibility to do so. While some would like to see Philadelphia target a true power forward, the wing market is far more fertile between Martin, Highsmith, and then additional potential targets, including Gary Trent Jr., Saddiq Bey—who is still recovering from a torn ACL—and Reggie Bullock, among others.

K.J. Martin also remains a worthwhile name to keep in mind. As The Athletic’s John Hollinger correctly pointed out, the Sixers may be able to take advantage of a bit of a financial loophole, giving them a player who can play a role early on and serve a greater purpose ahead of the NBA Trade Deadline:

Martin only has a $2.1 million cap hold, and the Sixers have full Bird rights on him. Thus, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Philadelphia use up the other projected $59 million of its cap room on other players and then retain Martin on a new deal. He likely isn’t worth as much as this valuation shows due to his lack of shooting, but he’s also only 23.

Filling out the remainder of this roster will not be an easy task, but utilizing Reed’s non-guaranteed deal and K.J. Martin’s cap hold could go a long way to obtaining a fifth starter. In the case of potentially waiving Reed, it could even lead to the acquisition of Caleb Martin.