Trade rumors dominated Draft week, distracting everyone from the overwhelming likelihood that the Golden State Warriors will win the 2018 NBA Championship no matter where Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Kristaps Porzingis play.
The Sixers, however, are building to succeed in the 2020s, when the Warriors should begin to decline. Bryan Colangelo has displayed an encouraging awareness of that timeline during the past week.
At Monday’s press conference, Colangelo was “talking about maintaining max flexibility for 2018 free agency for when [the Sixers’] core is ‘more ready’,” according to Sixers writer Derek Bodner.
Colangelo’s mindset is similar to the the thought process I touched on in my article on the Kevin Love rumors. Trading for Love and his max salary would limit the Sixers’ optionality in future trade and free agency periods. Colangelo would be wise to reserve that cap space for 2018, when the Philadelphia roster should be closer to contending and more desirable to free agents.
Colangelo’s quote offers some insight into his plans for 2017 free agency. If he is set on preserving max contract space for the Summer of 2018, the Sixers’ rumored interest in veterans like Kyle Lowry and J.J. Redick, not to mention restricted free agents such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Otto Porter, may be overblown. Let’s take a look at some cheaper free agents that could contribute similar production.
First of all, on the topic of Kyle Lowry, the Sixers no longer need a free agent point guard. Markelle Fultz is now under team control for the next nine years, the first four of which will be extremely affordable. Hallelujah.
Utah Jazz small forward Joe Ingles comes to mind as an alternative to Redick. They recently matched up during the Clippers-Jazz first round series, and Ingles held Redick to 9.1 points per game and 34.6% from behind the arc, compared to 15 points per game and 42.9% in the regular season. Granted, Ingles only averaged 6.5 points per game in that series, but that’s why he’s cheaper.
Ingles could fill a role as a spot-up shooter. He shot 44.1% from three last season, and 83.3% of his three point makes were assisted, meaning he operates well off the ball. He also provides more playmaking than Redick, as he averaged 2.7 assists per game in the regular season and 3.3 in the playoffs, including 11 assists in Game 4 against the Clippers. Ingles AST%, 17.1, doubles Redick’s, which is 7.8.
Ingles is also a better defender than Redick. He bests J.J. in almost every advanced defensive statistic. If you place more value in the eye test, watch Game 7 of the Clippers-Jazz series. Ingles holds Redick to 3 points on 1-5 shooting in an elimination game. Excluding Game 5, when Redick scored 26 points in a loss, the rest of the series was not much different.
Redick is obviously a better scorer and even a more feared shooter, but Ingles creates value in several other areas, which should not be overlooked. On top of that, the Sixers could probably sign the 29-year-old Ingles to a three-year contract worth between $30 and $36 million. A three-year deal for the 32-year-old Redick would cost closer to $60 million.
Unfortunately, signing Ingles will be a difficult task. He loves Utah and will prioritize signing with the Jazz in free agency, according to the Jazz blog Purple and Blues. Ingles is also a restricted free agent, meaning the Jazz can match any offer sheet he signs.
However, Jazz starters Gordon Hayward and George Hill are also free agents. Utah will likely focus on signing them before turning their attention to Ingles. If Hayward and/or Hill sign elsewhere, Ingles may not be as attracted to Utah, and vice versa.
If the Sixers want to sign Redick, they should not pass up on him in hopes that Ingles will spurn Utah. Redick is certainly more likely to come to Philadelphia. Ingles is merely an option if Colangelo indeed balks at the idea of paying Redick $20 million per year.
Another wing that I like is Jonathan Simmons of the Spurs. He is restricted as well, but San Antonio could end up occupying themselves with re-signing Patty Mills or chasing bigger fish like Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry.
Simmons only averaged 6.2 points per game for San Antonio this season, but he has played well in big games, averaging 15.3 points per game in this year’s Western Conference Finals. He also had a breakout game on opening night of the 2016-17 season, scoring 20 points in a beatdown of the Warriors.
Simmons is an athletic two guard who gets a large portion of his shots (34%) at the rim, where he is a solid finisher. He also uses his athleticism well in transition, where he could benefit from facilitators like Simmons, Fultz, and Dario Saric.
He will struggle to crack starting lineup because of his shooting (29 % on threes), but he could be a valuable bench player who brings energy on defense and the fast break. For the right price, the Sixers should target Simmons.
Again, if the Sixers are looking for a high-level starter at shooting guard, they are going to have to pay up. There is no way around it. If they are looking for a filler before splurging next Summer, however, former Sixer Justin Holiday of the Knicks could play that role. Holiday played 9 games for Philadelphia at the beginning of the Process, before bouncing around to Golden State (won a ring), Atlanta, Chicago, and New York. He finally earned a consistent role with the Knicks last season, playing in all 82 (!!!) games.
Holiday averaged 7.7 points per game while shooting 35% from three for the Knicks. He can create his own shot in the mid range and get to the rim as well. His 6’6 frame and 7’1 wingspan help him to finish over taller defenders on offense and contest shots on defense.
His experience with the Knicks could have changed him, but earlier in his career, Holiday had a defensive-minded attitude, which partly came from playing with the 2015 Warriors. About his defense, he said, “That’s been my mentality since I remember. The way you win games is with defense. The reason the Warriors team was successful is we played defense well as a team and individually.”
Overall, Holiday is an offensively talented guard who plays hard on defense and has promising physical tools. He has also only played a full season with a single team twice, and one of those seasons was with the Knicks. I could see him improving in a stable environment with more minutes.
Signing Redick, Porter, or Caldwell-Pope would improve the Sixers this season. However, it would decrease the possibility of a fourth star coming to Philadelphia in 2018. Next summer’s free agent class includes LeBron James, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins, to name a few. The Sixers waited four years to complete their young nucleus. They can wait one more year to make a splash in free agency.