Last offseason the Philadelphia 76ers showed interest in swingmen Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard, both of whom were restricted free agents at the time, but both rebuffed the Sixers’ requests for meetings. One would presume that Philadelphia was looking to lock up a player the caliber of a Butler or Leonard to a substantial, long-term deal, which would have finally dispelled the notion that Philadelphia was not willing to cough up big bucks in free agency.
During Sam Hinkie’s tenure as general manager, the Sixers have exhibited a puzzling restraint when it comes to inking lengthy deals with free agents. Instead of beefing up their barren roster with quality free agent signings these past few summers, Philadelphia has hoarded draft picks and has agreed to deals with fringe NBA-ers in hopes of maintaining financial flexibility for when they truly un-hatch their plan.
This offseason things will be different according to head coach Brett Brown, who promises that the Sixers will be in the free agent mix come summertime.
#Sixers Brown: ‘We’re definitely going to be in the free agent game.’
— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) March 9, 2016
Philadelphia will have a surplus of cap-space which will enable them to sign a notable free agent or two, but the question “who really wants to play for the Sixers?” must be posed. Philadelphia’s image around the league has been somewhat tarnished thanks to the turbulence they’ve experienced in these last several seasons, and veterans yearning for victories won’t even give rise to the idea of donning a Sixers uniform thanks to the franchise’s instability.
The Sixers should pursue players such as Kent Bazemore, Dennis Schroder or Allen Crabbe, guys who have shown they are capable of thriving in the NBA, but have not been tapped as starters for prolonged periods of time and are eager to prove they are suited for such a role.
Philadelphia actually tried to execute a Schroder swap involving Nik Stauskas, Ish Smith, an expiring contract + a draft pick at the trade deadline, which is indicative of how they plan to ramp up their free agent activity this summer. Schroder would’ve been a nice get for the Sixers, but he and Smith, Philadelphia’s current starting point guard, are eerily similar stylistically as they are both quick, attacking guards that can distribute but are unreliable with their outside shooting.
Would it make sense for the Sixers to pay a guy like Schroder the boku amount of cash he’s looking for when they could re-up with Smith at a much lesser price? Smith’s play with the Sixers has warranted a guaranteed contract this summer, and he’ll get it whether it be with Philly or someone else.
With Joel Embiid and Dario Saric slated to jump into the fray next year, the Sixers’ roster will look completely different next season than it does now. Swaying free-agents to come to Philadelphia over other cities may be an arduous task, but being active and aggressive is what it’s going to take for the 76ers to get out of this rut. Maybe some players will be persuaded by the aforementioned young talent on this roster, while others may be petrified of being a centerpiece on the league’s laughingstock.
Either way, fans must be encouraged at the Sixers are tired of being stuck in the muck and are looking to hasten their rebuilding process by bringing in talent via free agency. Establishing a culture and foundation is important for any sporting franchise, and this summer is when the building blocks may begin to stack up in an orderly fashion for Philly.