Delaware 87ers Prospects Worth 10-Day NBA Tryout

With ten-day NBA contracts soon returning to the NBA reality, don’t be surprised to see Delaware 87ers prospects get a call up to the NBA. With any luck, it could be to the Philadelphia 76ers

The Delaware 87ers received solid prospects this year, courtesy of the Philadelphia 76ers.  They were the young talent who did not make the final 15 roster, despite a spirited effort in the summer league and preseason. From Dionte Christmas, Shawn Long, Cat Barber, and Brandon Paul, they simply did not make the cut.

You see, this was the year that the team sought veteran reinforcements, because veterans win games. The team signed three veterans in free agency, and the NBA applauded. Finally, the team that tanked had turned the corner. Tanking no more. There is just one thing wrong with that scenario. The Philadelphia 76ers are not on a winning streak folks.

Slow Start

The troubles began this year when the season started, but the 76ers had 20 percent of the team injured: rookie Ben Simmons, free-agent Jerryd Bayless, and veteran Nerlens Noel.  Three players at three different positions. It was painful, but not debilitating.

Still, the team had to work around minutes restrictions of Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Gerald Henderson as well. And yet, the team improved. The line-up remained constant, and the players began to understand one another. Meanwhile, rookie Joel Embiid began to launch himself into the national spotlight as the NBA Rookie of the Year prospect.

Oct 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Sergio Rodriguez (14) and guard Gerald Henderson (12) talk during a break against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 103-97. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Foundation Built Upon Sand

When the Philadelphia 76ers shopped in the free agent market, many of us were relieved. The team had amassed plenty of salary cap space, and we’d hoped to convert some of that liquidity into a talent boost for the team to help them climb in the win column. Despite the heroics of sometime-playing rookie center Joel Embiid, the team is banged up and struggling. The team has lost free agent Jerryd Bayless for the season.

Adding insult to injury, the team discovered that free agent Gerald Henderson out for at least two games with a sore hip.

And finally, to top it all off, the Philadelphia 76ers just lost the services of free agent Sergio Rodriguez to a sprained ankle.

If you are keeping score, the Philadelphia 76ers have just entered the second third of the 2016-2017 season, and all three veterans are out. That’s 0-3. Meanwhile, the Delaware 87ers were playing our prospects, developing them. Growing them into NBA ready players when the Philadelphia 76ers hit tough times.

Oct 11, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown reacts during the second quarter i the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Tough Times

Tough times indeed.

The team is in a hard spot now. Too many battered in the back court. But the team does have alternatives.  And from what we’ve seen with the comatose activity in the trade front with the surplus of Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor with the emergence of a healthy Joel Embiid, don’t count on help coming by way of another team just yet.

But the team is getting crushed under the weight of injuries now.  Jerryd Bayless, signed to a three year contract, is lost for the season. Sergio Rodriguez is injured now. Gerald Henderson is injured as well. Ben Simmons won’t be back for a month at the earliest.  And in the midst of trying to find HEALTHY bodies, the team has tossed the burden of getting playing time meted out between the three centers at both center and power forward positions.

That dominoes effect of pushing Dario Saric to the three and Nik Stauskas to the one is challenging enough with a relatively healthy roster. But now it’s impossible. The team needs more flexibility than the current roster allows. The team needs help in the back court. Should Rodriguez and Henderson recover, the team may need a small forward, or even power forward.

This team needs to consider freeing up a roster spot for ten-day contract players. Tough decision, but tough times mean tough moves.

Dec 18, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Hollis Thompson (31) looks to pass as Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris (12) defends during the first quarter of the game at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Move Who?

Well, we can eliminate a couple players. Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons cannot go. Without a solid trade offer, the team cannot part with Ersan Ilyasova, Nerlens Noel, or Jahlil Okafor either. The team is likely stuck with the three free agents of Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez, and Jerryd Bayless – if not for their injuries, then for the sake of uncertainty. That’s nine players.

Since the shortage is in the backcourt, T.J. McConnell and Nik Stauskas are safe as well. TLC is too young and still has a promising upside. If the team is going to swallow a poison pill, the player would fall between Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes, and Hollis Thompson. Covington is too good defensively and is versatile.

Holmes is young and is showing great promise. Hollis Thompson, a veteran of all of head coach Brett Brown’s seasons with the team, is the player who has fallen considerably this year so far.

Jun 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo during an introduction press conference at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Parting Is Not Sweet, Just Sorrow

Thompson is not without NBA marketable skills.  While we have seen a decline in his playing minutes, he remains a dependable perimeter shooter. Perimeter shooters will always find a place on an NBA team.

Hollis Thompson would compliment the Brooklyn Nets, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat, the Phoenix Suns, and on and on.

Who the 76ers get in return doesn’t make or break this deal.  The key is to end up with a roster opening.  If the team can package a deal to emulate a salary dump, all the better.  If they Sixers can take on an overpaid player to cut, then they can get a solid draft pick for their troubles.

Once the team has a roster slot, they can begin trying out a player on a ten day contract. For now, that would mean a back court player. But over time, when veterans or Simmons heal, the team can turn attention to other lineup areas.

For now, let’s see who is playing lights out for the Delaware 87ers.

Sep 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Anthony Barber (5) during media day at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Solid Prospects

Beginning January 5, 2017, NBA Teams can begin signing players to ten-day contracts. Whether or not the Philadelphia 76ers are in position to do so, these Delaware 87ers will likely see time in the NBA soon:

Guard Cat Barber

15.6 PPG/47.9% FG/ 51.7% 3PT/ 3.8 RPG/ 4.0 APG

Delaware 87ers Cat Barber was thought by many to have earned a spot on the roster prior to his being cut by the team to make the fifteen man roster limit.  But Barber was not sent away very far, as he was instantly signed on to the Delaware 87ers.

He is always a scoring threat, something which the Philadelphia 76ers could use as they begin to bring on Ben Simmons.  While 6-foot-1 and just 175 pounds is not the physical simulation of Simmons, Barber has a quick burst, a nice change of direction, and uncanny handles on the ball.

Barber’s presence on the court forces defenders to come to him. He can score in bursts, and thereby take the pressure off his teammates in crunch time.  He can drive to the basket, and in the instance where he relieves T.J.McConnell, is a great change of pace.

Guard Dionte Christmas

17.6 PPG/47.2% FG/ 46.2% 3PT/ 3.3 RPG/ 3.2 APG

Dionte Christmas was the player signed just as the preseason was winding down. Assigned to the Delaware 87ers, the 6-foot-5 190 pound shooting guard is playing very well and scoring second best on the team, just behind Shawn Long.

While he is a shooting guard, he could pick up minutes there to allow Nik Stauskas to slide to the one position.  But more than freeing up Stauskas, he can deliver some badly needed offense to the team right now.  Without Joel Embiid, the team struggles to find an offensive go-to guy.

Christmas would be happy to step up in that situation.  You see, he had a one-year run in the NBA in the 2013-2014 season with the Phoenix Suns. Since that time, he has been working hard to open that door for opportunity once more. With the 76ers so badly beaten up in the backcourt, this could be Christmas’ chance to show up large and in charge to the NBA.

Philadelphia is in a tough spot.  Tougher yet if the team commits to a veteran’s salary in a long term deals that hinders retaining their own players. But the need is here and now.

Perhaps it’s time to tap the Delaware 87ers. They have some talent, and it’s always nice to promote from within.

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