5 Sixers Who Won’t be Here Next Season
The Philadelphia 76ers have a task of turning their roster into something competitive within the next few season, which means many players will come and go.
The Philadelphia 76ers, being a rebuilding team, have a very impressionable and malleable roster. Each offseason, until they really start to be on the edge of competitiveness, the roster is subject to massive changes in who is on the team, and even who is leading the team. The team needs to evaluate not only throughout the season, but at the end of the year, and rid their roster of players that aren’t necessarily allowing them to progress further than the previous year.
There’s no guarantee for most players when it comes to the Sixers. Some will have to fight for roster spots, and others may simply decide with expiring contracts that the team isn’t the right fit for them, or vice versa.
The Sixers and the individual players need to look out for themselves. The Sixers could be a fun and exciting team to be a part of over the next few years, and if they want to attract established, solid veteran players in the free agent market, they’re going to have to get rid of some players from the past few years to make room.
Whatever the reason is for a player or players leaving the team, it shouldn’t be a surprise to fans when any of these five players are potentially off of the team by the time the Sixers tip off next season.
Jahlil Okafor, by some, was seen as a player who could potentially revitalize the Sixers offense once he developed into everything he was supposed to be. Now, a season and 15 games in, and it seems like even the most pro-Okafor personas are backing down on previous statements of high regard for the young center, and it seems like just about no one is on Okafor’s side.
His poor season play has hit an all-time low as of Wednesday night. Okafor played over 20 minutes and scored just 2 points and pulled in just a single rebound.
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Most of the time, though, it’s not a secret — Okafor can score, and he can do it pretty well. Give him the ball, and he’s pretty likely to be able to put two points on the board for you on any given play. He has the ability to face up and shoot from mid-range, drive to the hoop, and even dribble between his legs and potentially cross slower defenders up with ease.
His post game, which has yet to be mentioned here, is even more solid, as he has a variety of moves that are hard to anticipate.
But it’s not going to be enough to justify keeping him around. As a former top three overall pick in the NBA Draft, Okafor is likely to always see himself as worth a fair amount of money, and probably won’t back down in that regard once the Sixers need to deal with him.
The Sixers will essentially have to pay out the nose for a center who is decent on offense but not great on defense, and certainly someone who isn’t really good for getting them rebounds. It just sounds like a bad deal.
With that said, the Sixers still may be able to get a decent value in return for Okafor. Although the market for a young big man right now not named Karl-Anthony Towns is slim to none, as the trade deadline comes around this season, teams may see a use for Okafor as they get closer to the playoff push. With him still on a small-ish rookie contract for a few more seasons, value is plainly seen in Okafor.
Nerlens Noel may have an even higher raw trade value than Okafor, but the added context makes him a very unattractive trade piece. The Sixers might let him walk this summer as a free agent, despite having the ability to match any offer he gets from another team to retain him.
Noel is in the same boat as Okafor in some regards. He’s very talented on one side of the ball, but not so much on the other. Because of that, he’s overlooked immensely because of the incredible young two-way talent the Sixers have in Embiid.
Noel is opposite to Okafor. He has shown promise on defense, but not on offense.
What he also has shown is that he doesn’t particularly have an interest in being a Sixers player any longer. The friction between Noel and the franchise has been made evident throughout this offseason with strange Twitter antics, and then was put on full display during team media day when Noel was the sole Sixers player to not wear some sort of Sixers apparel.
Noel then had a knee issue prior to the regular season that didn’t seem major, but elected himself to have surgery on it and recover largely away from the team. He is back in Philly now, and his progression as a member of the team has been interesting.
His future as a Sixer is far from certain, and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him walking away from Philly this summer and taking his talents elsewhere.
Robert Covington was and is one of the diamonds in the rough that Hinkie supporters often point to when asked who Hinkie found in all of his D-League digging. Covington, prior to coming to the Sixers, was not played much in the NBA, and spent most of his days down in the D-League for the Houston Rockets. Following this season, that may be the case again.
Covington, over the last few years, has been solid from beyond the 3-point arc. He has been one of the most consistent Sixers shooters. That doesn’t make him a good shooter by league standards, necessarily.
So far this season, Cov has struggled immensely from beyond the arc, looking at almost all games except for Wednesday’s. He has shown massive improvement on the defensive side of the ball, but he has stagnated, and even perhaps fallen back in terms of shooting ability, and that’s not good to see.
As other players on the roster like Nik Stauskas and Joel Embiid begin to hit their shots, Covington not hitting them will only solidify himself as a player soon to be gone.
At the very best, Covington will probably pan out to be an average shooter and an average defender, and likely would be a deep bench player on any other team. With Colangelo likely having no attachment to Covington like Hinkie did for a “finders feeling” it seems imminent that Covington will be gone at some point.
T.J. McConnell keeps making a spot for himself on the Sixers changing rosters, but it really seems like after this season there will be no more room for McConnell to go with the team. Who knows, though, we’ve said this before about him. The Sixers are likely to take a point guard in the draft that will take his spot, or sign one in free agency.
McConnell made sense as a player to bring on during the past two seasons. With the Sixers not slated to win many games as it is, bringing a hungry, scrappy, and young point guard who has something to prove never hurts your team. The Sixers got T.J. on incredibly good deals (he’s making less than $1 million this season, and not much more than that in the following two seasons) but they have team options on him in these next two years.
Good deals like this with low-level players such as T.J. will begin to mean less and less to the Sixers as time goes on and they get closer to competitiveness.
McConnell seems like a passionate, likable guy, and I do hope he proves me wrong, but it just doesn’t seem like there’s much benefit in keeping him past this season.
Ersan Ilyasova has not been one of the long-term process players, but he has become a key piece of Colangelo’s plan with the team moving forward. It was tough for fans to see Jerami Grant — a fun part of the process that has grown a lot on the defensive end — go for the Sixers to get Ersan, but it was something that has helped the Sixers a lot in making their offensive unit much more cohesive.
Looking ahead, Ilyasova is a free agent this summer, so there is an open door for him to take his career elsewhere. Right now, he’s basically in a spot where he has to play well with the Sixers because he’s in a contract year, but the Sixers are not the team where he initially signed his current deal, so there’s no guarantee he even considers re-signing with Philly.
Even if he is interested in Philadelphia, there’s not a huge appeal to bringing him back. Ilyasova is a solid stretch four who can mentor the young Dario Saric who mirrors parts of his offensive game, but two have two players on the roster that essentially do the same exact things on offense is a bit redundant.
That’s not to mention that Ilyasova will probably want even more than the $8.4 million his making this season, since the Sixers will have to pay just about everyone in the league more since they have the reputation of being a losing team.
Ersan functions well as a stopgap player for this season. As a seasoned veteran who knows his role well as an NBA player, it made sense to get him for Grant, a player who wasn’t offering much on offense, and quite frankly, wasn’t going to be a key piece of success with the Sixers at any point in his career.
After his contract expires, however, there is little to no appeal for the Sixers to bring him back, especially since the plan is to have Saric move into more of a key role with the team as he adjusts to the NBA over the course of this season.