Philadelphia 76ers roster made significant changes in the 2016 off-season. Now, with player contracts expiring, it’s time to project who will be retained for the 2017-2018 season
Philadelphia 76ers president Bryan Colangelo inherited a team with plenty of assets but few decision points in the 2016 off-season. He started with a team with a 10 win 72 loss record, so changes were inevitable.
But he adopted a curious strategy. He publicly announced to the league that he wanted to deal at least one of three centers: Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Nerlens Noel. The curious element were these: (A) He made the announcement public before negotiating with any teams. (B) Two of the three centers, Embiid and Okafor, were recovering from injury and were placed onto minutes restrictions.
Eventually, the team will need to repeat the process. Let’s see who is at risk of leaving the team, and what options the team will have of restocking the roster:
Nov 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) controls the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 102-101. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Players Looking At The Door PART ONE
The Philadelphia 76ers currently have five players with contracts which expire at the end of the 2016-2017 season. They are as follows:
I Power Forward Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova was obtained in the trade which sent small forward Jerami Grant to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In exhange, the Philadelphia 76ers received Ilyasova and a 2020 first round pick (1-20 protected). He is in his ninth NBA season, and has been sharing the starting role with rookie Dario Saric. The move was originally though to be somewhat of a salary dump and draft pick move, but he has assumed the role of second leading scorer on the team. He has done so though consistent performance. His contract is worth $8,400,000 this year.
II Point Guard Sergio Rodriguez. Rodriguez was signed to a one-year “show me” contract from Euroleague’s Real Madrid. While he had an NBA stint before (2006-2010 mainly with Portland Trailblazers), the team brought Rodriguez to serve as an insurance policy. Fortunate for the team that they did, as the injuries to both Jerryd Bayless and Ben Simmons has forced Rodriguez to start for the team. For now, he is seventh in the NBA in assists, which is far better than expected. His contract is worth $8,000,000 this year.
III Center/Power Forward Nerlens Noel Noel is emerging from his rookie contract and facing a future of uncertainty. In his contract year, he fell to injury at a time when his team has been struggling with minutes and load restrictions with the team’s other centers. In fact, Noel himself rehabbed his entire first season, but established himself as a strong defensive centerpiece to any NBA lineup. While he will struggle to find a 30 minute per game role with the 76ers this season, he should find sufficient opportunity to woo suitors into a very competitive bid for his services next season. His contract is worth $4,384,490 this year.
Oct 8, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Hollis Thompson (31) against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavaliers won 108-105. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Players Looking At The Door PART TWO
IV Small Forward Hollis Thompson Thompson is the lone Philadelphia 76er with the longest tenure of playing for head coach Brett Brown on the current roster. While his overall role of starting games has decreased over time, Thompson has been slowly improving his overall game. His 40.5 percent shooting from three-point range is much better than the team’s 35.1 percent average. With recent struggles at the position from Robert Covington, Thompson has enjoyed a more significant role coming off the bench, a role he seems to thrive at this season. His contract is worth the bargain price of $1,015,696 this year.
V Point Guard T.J. McConnell McConnell earned a spot on the roster in the 2015-2016 season by outhustling, outplaying, and “outhealthing” other point guards in the preseason. The performance surprised many, as he was one more undrafted prospect signed by former president Sam Hinkie to round out the roster. In many ways, he is the poster child to the Hinkie tenure with the team. In just his second season, he has been placed at the bottom rung of point guard rotations, but he continues to play a strong role in assist (at 4.8 /game despite under 20 minutes average) and he is second with 1.46 steals per game.
On the other hand, McConnell leads the team with assists per turnover at 3.15, good for twelfth in the NBA. Meanwhille, he is a smaller point guard, standing just 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. He does not attempt many shots, but shoots at a 44.9 percent clip when he does. His contract is worth the bargain basement price of just $874,636.
So these are the departing players. What can the Philadelphia 76ers use to fill these roster holes?
Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; A general view of a video board displaying all thirty draft picks in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The team is also 98% assured of getting the Los Angeles Lakers pick first round pick, albeit in the range of 10-15. Based on the depth of the draft next year, that will have a good chance of yielding a solid contributor or perhaps even a future starter.
As a matter of fact, with two first round picks, there are more options for players from the second round. Perhaps they might be dealt to improve the position in future draft picks? Perhaps the team might execute a draft / stash practice, similar to that which drafted Furkan Korkmaz at 26 in the 2016 NBA Draft, only to encourage him to play in the Euroleage.
On the other hand, the team may select raw talented players, enroll them in the summer league program, and allow them to compete for a spot on the team. Much like the way the team encouraged Shawn Long, Cat Barber, Dionte Christmas, and James Webb III to take a role with the Delaware 87ers.
Despite the potential attrition of five players, the team is not at great risk of losing starters. Saric will be the heir apparent in the power forward role. Ben Simmons will likely begin his reign next year at the point guard role. Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid will be healthy enough to take the full load at center. That will allow Richaun Holmes to split his bench time between center and power forward roles. When the dust settles, it will be the small forward role of Hollis Thompson, already thin, which will be the challenge to fill going forward.
Oct 6, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward James Webb III (23) an forward Richaun Holmes (22) and forward Shawn Long (36) in a game against the Washington Wizards at Wells Fargo Center. The Washington Wizards 125-119. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Filling holes: Part Two Development League
The Philadelphia 76ers had a surplus of solid young NBA talent in the preseason of 2016-2017. As a result, the team ended up placing five players onto the roster of the Delaware 87ers this season. That list includes James Webb III, Cat Barber, Shawn Long, Dionte Christmas, and most recently, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.
As it stands, the team finds expiring contracts at center, power forward, small forward, and two at point guard. Can the team restock the shelves from the 87ers?
As a matter of fact, yes. Yes they can. If you want to learn more about the rules regarding NBA teams and D-league call ups, I suggest you check out a previous article here. Right now, the only player on the Delaware 87ers exclusive to the Philadelphia 76ers is Luwawu-Cabarrot.
If no NBA team poaches the prospects from the Delaware 87ers, those players would likely be the first in line for consideration for next year’s 20 man roster. That would mean guards Dione Christmas and Cat Barber, center/power forward Shawn Long, and forward James Webb III would be 76ers once more. Since they are apart of the team’s extended network, the players would be more familiar with the 76ers style of offense and defense. It’s a strong cast, and they could take it to the next level next season.
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
International House of Opportunity
Bryan Colangelo tends to seek talent for the NBA from international teams. Right now, that is a guaranteed link to both Furkan Korkmaz and Vasilije Micic, who are Euroleague prospects awaiting their opportunity to compete in the NBA.
Micic is finally getting playing time, and producing. Playing at both guard positions, he has been putting up some solid numbers so far. He is averaging 10.9 points per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor as well as from three point range. He is also contributing 2.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on an average of 28.4 minutes per game.
Furkan Korkmaz is a 19 year old 6-foot-7 185 pound guard as well. He was the runner up in the 2016 NBA Draft as a “3 and D” prospect, behind Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. In the Turkish BSL league, Korkmaz delivered on that potential with a 56.2 percent shooting accuracy from three point range. He also contributed on defense, despite only getting 13 minutes per game.
With little effort, either Micic, Korkmaz, or both players could be signed to the Philadelphia 76ers next season. Since the team has already committed to Ben Simmons as the point guard of the future, either prospect would bring height, versatility, and outside shooting to the team.
The Philadelphia 76ers may not have much interest in retaining many players next season. The team currently boasts the top two rookies in the NBA. That’s particularly newsworthy when you realize that top draft selection Ben Simmons has not yet played a basketball game. With a young rookie core of Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, the team may be content to add young talent who will mature and develop alongside their young stars.