As the NBA free agent frenzy of 2010 kicks-off, the Philadelphia 76ers have two deficiencies that they should look to shore up. First and foremost the team obviously needs to improve the frontcourt which I have already written on. Now that Samuel Dalembert is in Sacramento, the Sixers could use another center or PF-C combo player that can pull down rebounds and alter shots.
However, with the lack of talented big men on the free agent market, the 76ers might choose to spend their money elsewhere. If the Sixers do not address the frontcourt via trade or MLE, then the club should look to fix its horrendous outside shooting. This has been a huge issue for the 76ers over the past couple of seasons and it’s something Philadunkia wrote about extensively last year.
We’ll be the first to admit that not all the blame for the Sixers poor shooting from deep lies with General manager Ed Stefanski. After all, Stefanski thought he had addressed the 76ers three-point shooting woes with the addition of veteran sniper Jason Kapono in summer 2009. Unfortunately, Kapono fell victim to Eddie Jordan’s insane rotations in 2009-10 and one of the League’s best 3-point shooters found himself anchored to the bench for nearly the entire season. When Kapono actually got some tick, he looked rusty and appeared to lack confidence. So legitimate questions still remain as to whether or not Kapono can fix the Sixers problems from behind the arc and his mind-boggling $6.64 player option that he will certainly pick up makes him an expensive question mark.
Considering that neither Evan Turner nor Andre Iguodala can stroke it from the outside consistently, the questions still surrounding Kapono and the enigma that is Jodie Meeks, it seems to make sense that the Sixers would look to find an outside sharpshooter on the free agent market.
The player that makes the most sense for the 76ers is former Sixer Kyle Korver. Last year with the Utah Jazz, Korver shot 53.6 % from downtown, which is a career high. Over his entire career, Korver is an acceptable 41 % three-point shooter. Additionally, the acquisition of Korver would open up opportunities for both Turner and Iguodala. He commands the respect of the defense with his deadly shooting and this would allows Iguodala to exploit his opponents using his athleticism and Turner to facilitate the offense or be a scorer.
Could a reunion take place between the three-point specialist and the team that drafted him? Yes, and it is very feasible. If the 76ers front office plays its cards right, Korver will be an afterthought in this historic free agency class. Hopefully then Stefanski could swoop in under the radar and get Korver for the low price of the MLE.
Obviously Korver would be the best fit, but if he goes elsewhere there are other players on the market. One player that has fallen off the scene due to playing for the lowly Washington Wizards is unrestricted free agent Mike Miller. A couple of years ago, it was crazy to think that Miller would settle for a MLE. However, his last two years saw him average only 9.9 and 10.9 points per game; the two lowest totals of his entire career. On the other hand, he set highs in rebounding by putting up his two highest totals with 6.6 rebounds per game in 2008-09 and 6.2 in 2009-2010.
However what makes Miller so attractive to a team like the Sixers is his ability to shoot the rock, distribute the basketball and get open shots for his teammates. In his 11-year career, Miller is a 46.4 percent shooter from the field and 40.5 from long range. On top of that, he averages 3.2 assists per game, which makes Turner and Iguodala extremely dangerous without the ball. While the 76ers would love to get their hands on a player of Miller’s ilk for the MLE, we should remember that he made over $9 million last year so there is a chance that a team with a lot of cap room which fails to land a superstar in free agency could give him an outrageous contract. In fact according to ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande, Miller has already, “sat down with the Heat, Clippers and Knicks…” The Cavs are also said to be in the mix and thus Miller coming to Philly seems like a long shot.
A potential diamond in the rough of this free agent class and for a team like the 76ers is Clippers small forward Travis Outlaw. Certainly, Outlaw is not the “sharpshooter” that the Sixers are searching for since his career three-point shooting percentage is only 36.3 percent. However, he did shoot 38.1 percent from the three-point arc this past season. Additionally, if you remove his first four seasons in the NBA, where he was still learning how to transition from the high school game to the NBA then his percentage is a more acceptable 38.2 percent from downtown. Besides three-point shooting, Outlaw gives the Sixers a small forward with tremendous size at 6-foot-9, he can score off the bench (9.5 points per game average for his career) and plays solid defense.
More importantly, if the 76ers can sign Outlaw for the mid-level exception then he could become the starter at small forward. This would allow the 76ers could dangle Iguodala on the open market to obtain a center that can make a difference in the middle of the paint like Chris Kaman (Ric Bucher says the Clippers came close to acquiring Iguodala at the trade deadline last year.) since they would have Iguodala’s replacement at a fraction of the price. Plus Outlaw is only 25 years old and can still improve his all-around game.
A couple of players who could be signed for less than the mid-level exception (possibly the veteran’s minimum), but still make an instant impact on the Sixers are Anthony Morrow and Eddie House. In a short period of time in the association, Morrow has made a name for himself as a deadly assassin from the outside. Over his first two seasons, Morrow has torched the nets from the outside as he shot 46 percent (226-491) from three. Unfortunately, Morrow is a restricted free agent so the Warriors have the chance to match any offer the Sixers throw his way. Nevertheless, the Sixers would love to get their hands on the 6-foot-5 shooting guard because he would drastically improve their bench scoring [13 ppg last year] and takes pressure off both Iguodala and Turner. Moreover, it permits the Sixers move Kapono’s expiring contract [$6.64 million] for some other pieces.
As for House, he is not the player that is going to have name scroll across ESPN’s bottom line when he signs, but his playoff experience and his three-point shot is a valuable asset to the 76ers. During his 10 year NBA career, House has tickled the twine from downtown at a respectable 39 percent. While his three point shooting would certainly benefit the Sixers, his experience is just as valuable to a very young squad. He was never the “go-to” guy or “The man,” but he was won a championship and knows what it takes to win one.
Ultimately, fans should not expect much from the 76ers during the free agency period unless the franchise manages to unload Brand or Iguodala’s enormous contracts. Sadly the Sixers are not going to be big time players in a fantastic free agency class, but we hope can still strengthen their three-point shooting and inside game with possible MLE bargains or trades.