In less than a week, Brett Brown will be the coach of a team with the two frontrunners for NBA Rookie of the Year.
Joel Embiid and Dario Saric were both named finalists for the ROY award this year, which will be announced next Monday night, and the Sixers will pair the sensational duo with 2016 No.1 pick Ben Simmons — who missed his entire rookie campaign with a slow-healing Jones fracture in his food — and soon-to-be 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, who the Sixers are moving up in Thursday’s draft to get.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) June 18, 2017
No matter what you once thought of Sam Hinkie or The Process or all the years of tanking, that’s in the past now. It worked. Maybe a little bit by accident and maybe a little bit longer than most (read: all) parties involved expected, but The Process worked.
The Sixers have a transformative NBA player in Embiid and two No. 1 overall picks to pair with him, both in positions of need. If healthy — a huuuuuuuge if— the Sixers have a core that can grow together for years, and with more cap room than any other team in the league, the Sixers are suddenly an attractive landing spot for top free agents.
Even after the deal with the Celtics to move up to No. 1 is completed, Philly still has three first-round picks in the next two years, plus 6-foot-7 wing player (and shooter) Furkan Korkmaz, who was taken late in the first round last year and said on a recent visit he is eager to play in the NBA soon.
This is not the first time we’ve said this, but the Sixers are about to have too much talent. From where the franchise has been, even at the end of last season, this is a great problem to have. But what Bryan Colangelo does with the rest of the roster will determine when (read: if) the Sixers can go from a roster full of potential to an actual contender.
Fultz Changes Everything
Now, look, you’re going to hear a lot about this kid in the next four days. He’s really good. He’s widely considered the best player in the draft, he has far less baggage than Lonzo Ball and he’s at the one position the Sixers really, really need.
(Zach Harper from Fanrag Sports did a detailed breakdown in May of what Fultz and Ball will bring to the NBA. Stop reading this and read that. Or read this then go read that. But definitely read that if you’re looking for a crash-course on what this kid can do.)
As good as Fultz is, he’s not the next LeBron James. He may not even be the next Ben Simmons. The Celtics are willing to trade the rights to Fultz because they either covet another player in this draft more, or would rather package more top picks for a win-now veteran.
All that’s to say, the kid is 19, like Simmons was last year, and he has the potential to become a big star. But if you think he’s going to walk in and dominate the NBA on Day 1, this is not that draft class, and he is not that guy.
In in two years, however, when Embiid is 25, Dario Saric is 25, Simmons is 22, Fultz is 21 and most of the other roles players are under the age of 25, the Sixers will have three more first-rounders, five more second-rounders and have a ton of cap space to sign whatever free agent they want.
No, Fultz isn’t LeBron, but he might be the guy that makes the Sixers attractive enough for LeBron to come. Or Kevin Durant. Or any number of star free agents who will be on the market in 2018 or 2019.
This is how the Warriors were built, only Golden State used smart drafting to find players who weren’t all lottery picks, while the Sixers took a different route — tank you very much — to build their core. A superteam? First they have to show they can become a winning team.
Sixers Salary Cap & Free Agency
The Sixers don’t have a player on the roster making more than $9 million, and have three players — once Gerald Henderson’s team option for next year is declined and he’s cleared off the books — making more than $5 million. Sergio Rodriguez was making $8 million, but he inked a one-year deal last offseason and there’s no chance he’ll be back.
Embiid is making $6.1 million next season and is a restricted free agent the year after, so what the Sixers do with him may determine how much money they have to re-sign other players and sign key free agents both this summer and next.
J.J. Redick’s name has been linked to the Sixers for weeks. He’s exactly the type of shooter the Sixers need and they have the space to pay (read: overpay) for his services. Also, he’s 32 years old and hasn’t been to the NBA Finals since his third season with Orlando. He made $6.9 million last season — hey that’s about two million less than Henderson and Jerryd Bayless each made last year — so whoever signs him is about to give him a raise. Maybe a big raise.
The Sixers have an exciting roster and have the money, but other teams have a better chance at giving him a title. Dallas, San Antonio and New Orleans are all options for him, if he chooses not to stay with the Clippers. And while the West is much harder to win than the East, it’s not like the Sixers are making parade plans in the next two years.
Alas, let’s say the Sixers do sign Redick and draft Fultz, here’s what the roster would look like for Brown.
Player – Position – Minutes-Per-Game in ‘17
- Joel Embiid – Center – 25.4* (*- Minutes restricted)
- Ben Simmons – Point Forward – 0.0
- Dario Saric – Forward – 26.3
- Robert Covington – Small Forward – 31.6
- Richaun Holmes – Forward/Center – 20.9
- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot – Small Forward – 17.2
- Jahlil Okafor – Forward/Center – 22.7
- Justin Anderson – Small Forward – 21.6^ (^- With Sixers. 14.4 overall)
- Shawn Long – Forward/Center – 13.0
Total minutes – 178.7
Player – Position – MPG in ‘17
- Markelle Fultz – Point Guard – n/a
- J.J. Redick – Shooting Guard – 28.2
- TJ McConnell – Point Guard – 26.3
- Nik Stauskas – Shooting Guard – 27.4
- Jerryd Bayless – Point Guard – 23.7** (**- 3 games with Phila. 21.3 mpg career average)
- Gerald Henderson – Shooting Guard – 23.2
- Sergio Rodriguez – Point Guard – 22.3
Total minutes – 151.1
Overall minutes – 329.8
Total minutes in an NBA game (48 minutes at five positions) – 240 minutes.
(Update: It was pointed out that the way I worded this, the numbers don’t properly illustrate the minutes for every game. As we showed in our Sixers Big Man Tracker all season, the NBA averages minutes per game just for the games a guy plays. So Embiid averaged 25.4 minutes per game, but really less than 10 minutes per game the Sixers played last season. In other words, we were trying to make a point, but there may technically be more minutes available.)
Take Henderson’s minutes and Rodriguez’s minutes and give them to Simmons and Fultz and take Long’s 13 minutes and split them however you want between the two rookies and Embiid. That’s still 90 minutes per game too many, or 18 minutes — a quarter and a half per game — at each position.
Scrape away Okafor’s minutes, figuring the team deals him in the off-season for future draft picks or only plays him when Embiid or Holmes can’t until he’s dealt, and the Sixers are still too heavy on minutes.
Will they sign Redick and ask him to play less than he did for the contending Clippers? Will T.J. McConnell be caught in a numbers game, with so many primary ball handlers — Simmons and Fultz need the ball — and Bayless making so much money? McConnell deserves minutes, but he cannot shoot well enough to be on the floor without the ball in his hands.
And what about Nik Stauskas, who will surely get fewer minutes next season than he was asked to play at times last year. But if a player like Redick came in, Stauskas would become expendable?
Sixers Projected Lineup
If everyone is healthy — hahahahahahahahah, I know — this is what the Sixers lineup could look like by mid-season.
- C – Embiid
- F – Simmons
- F – Covington
- G – Free Agent Shooter TBD (Redick)
- G – Fultz
If every starter averages 28 minutes, that’s only 100 minutes left for the entire bench.
- B – Bayless
- B – Saric
- B – Holmes
- B – TLC
- B – Stauskas
- B – Anderson
- B – McConnell
That’s 14-plus minutes per game for each of those guys. How is that going to work? And that’s only 12 players. The Sixers can roster 15 guys, plus add two more two-way players from the D-League. So there’s more room for talent. There’s room for Okafor, even. There just aren’t enough minutes.
The math doesn’t work, unless McConnell or Bayless don’t play at all, or unless Stauskas plays 20 fewer minutes per game than he did last year.
Remember, THIS IS A GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE. Brown won’t be complaining about having too much talent to put on the floor. And finally, after all these years, it’s not all at center. Trust the Process, indeed.