His backup, Marreese Speights, who is defensively challenged and suddenly injury prone has found himself warming the bench for the majority of Philadelphia’s first three games (an average of five minutes per game). Since Hawes and Speights have been unable to handle the center duties, Elton Brand has spent significant time at the 5-spot over the first three games and done an admirable job. However Brand is not the answer for 2010-11 nor the long haul. The old-timer Tony Battie got some playing time at center in the 76ers contests against the Hawks and Pacers and was serviceable. Battie has seen 19 total minutes on the floor and tallied three points, four rebounds and a pair of blocks, but again the Sixers can not rely on him to start and see major minutes each night.
It’s clear the 76ers need to look elsewhere at the five position. A low-post presence is key to compete in the East against the likes of Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and the O’Neal’s in Boston. Even taller average players like Roy Hibbert will be able to have their ways offensively against Philly on the interior. The 76ers missed out on numerous opportunities this summer to sign a big and it’s killing this team right now. So whether it’s through free agency or via a trade, the 76ers will have to start making phone calls for a player who can bang in the post and fix this problem now.
Lets take another look at some of the players available in free agency and potentially through trade who can plug the hole in the middle for the 7-6.
Emeka Okafor – After being injury-prone early on in his career for the Bobcats, Okafor has played every game in the last three seasons. Now with the New Orleans Hornets, Okafor has been a good rebounder and solid defender. The Hornets are always looking to clear out big contracts (Okafor makes $11.4 million this year and 4 yrs. left) and moving Emeka to the Sixers would give them cap space and aloow them to bring in some pieces next year in order convince Chris Paul to stay. The Sixers could package Speights (2 yrs. @ $1.7 million) , Hawes (expiring $2.9 million) and Kapono (expiring $6.6 million), but acquiring Okafor would leave the Sixers cap strapped for years.
Antonio McDeyss – With newcomer Tiago Splitter and Dejuan Blair’s increasing role, the Spurs might be willing to part ways with the 36-year old veteran. McDyess is ideally a power forward but has played center in the NBA. However, at his age this would just be a quick fix for the 76ers. Maybe the Spurs would take Hawes and Speights in exchange for McDyess (2 yrs. @ $4.8), but we doubt it.
DeSagana Diop – The Charlotte Bobcats have had a hard time finding a role for the seven-footer in the rotation. When they signed Kwame Brown in the offseason to backup Nazr Mohammed it seemed certain Diop would be on his way out. Diop is a good defensive presence in the middle and limited offensively, but could be an upgrade for the 76ers. Diop has two years left on a deal that averagess $6.8 million per, so maybe MJ and LB would take Kapono expiring $6.6 million deal for him. Or maybe the Sixers wait until after November 23rd when Darius Songalia’s trade restriction expires and they send Songalia ($4.8 expiring) and Speights to Charlotte for Diop.
Chuck Hayes – The Rockets just signed Erik Dampier and seems like Hayes could be expendable, especially with Yao Ming returning. Hayes is undersized, but is an excellent defender in the post and pesters opposing bigs. He won’t blow you away offensively but will be a gritty defender, solid team player and fighter on the boards. Hayes had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 39 minutes Wednesday night, so I know this is a long shot, but just maybe the Rockets would take a younger guy who is under contract through 2011-12 like Speights for Hayes (expiring $1.9 million).
Kevin Love – There have been rumors and of course denials that Love and T-Wolves head coach Kurt Rambis are not on the same page. Perhaps the Sixers can take advantage of the growing rift between the two. There are a number of combinations Rod Thorn could try in order to pry Love out of Minnesota, but most likely any deal for Love would have to involve a #1 pick. So let’s start by offering Speights, Jodie Meeks (2 yrs. @ $760K) and a Lottery protected #1 for Love. Thorn could also see if the Wolves would simply take Hawes and a a Lottery protected #1 for Love, but that’s probably a huge reach. So when that deal gets turned down the Sixers could propose Speights, Hawes and a Lottery protected #1 for Love. If that doesn’t fly, then as a last resort, how about we send Thad ($2.9 million) and a Lottery protected #1 to Minny for Love?
Free Agency –Are these guys better than Hawes and Speights? Who knows, but they should at least be given a shot right?
Josh Boone – He started 28 games last season for the lowly Nets and averaged four points and five rebounds a game. Right now he is the best available free agent since Dampier has been gobbled up by the Rockets. Boone has good size and runs the floor well, he has no perimeter game though and can’t stretch the floor. My Philadunkia colleague Tom Sunnegren supported picking up Boone back in August.
Earl Barron – Was an NBDL all-star last season and a third-team all-NBDL selection. He has very good length at 7-feet, but has failed to prove himself at the NBA level.
Dwayne Jones – Jones was last seen rocking a Suns jersey in the preseason. He was an NBDL all-star last season and is an excellent defensive presence.
Jake Voskuhl – Plays with intensity and is active on the boards. Signed with the Clippers in September but was only seen once in the preseason.
Chris Mihm – Wasn’t on an NBA roster last season but could be serviceable for the 76ers. He isn’t a great defender like the other guys on this list but is polished on the offensive side of the ball.
Magnum Rolle – Was cut by the Indiana Pacers prior to the start of the season. My colleague Kevin Jones was in Orlando for the summer league and thought he’d be a contributor right away for the Pacers. Rolle runs the floor well, has a great spin move on offense and is a solid shot-blocker.
The 76ers could very well roll the dice on any of these prospects early on in the season. A trade will seem more likely as we get closer to the deadline and teams are more interested in making roster moves. Some might think it’s still early in the season to make a move, but why not? In a very competitive East a slow start for the 76ers can not be tolerated, so any risk taken could be a valuable change later down the road.