With rumblings and rumors about who fits with whom, who may be traded, and who is a piece for the future, things at Sixers HQ are buzzing as usual. Debates about which big man should or will be the odd man out continue to rage on Twitter, sports radio, and the blogosphere. Perhaps just as vital, no one is really sure which Sixers further down the roster are capable of acting as a sweetener in a trade and which aren’t worth a thing.
With that in mind, let’s cycle through the players currently under contract in Philadelphia, as well the cornucopia of draft picks collected during the Process, and rank according to their value at this point.
#22. Carl Landry
“Come on in, Carl. Have a seat. Yeah, I don’t know how to say this, but no one wants you. Despite the home fans chanting M-V-P for you during a game this season, you just didn’t do nearly enough for anyone to want to pay you $6.75 million dollars next season.”
“No, you are right. You’re an expiring salary! That used to mean something. But with the new CBA and the rising salary cap, that’s not really something other GMs are fighting over. Sorry, bud.”
#21 (tie). Second Round Picks!
The Sixers Kingdom famously made 2nd rounders their greatest import during the Hinkie era. Oddly, because of the Ish Smith trade last year, they don’t have one until 2018. Even more odd, the Sixers own other teams 2nd round picks as late as 2021. Not sure how long that is from now? Do the math on how old you’ll be when that draft occurs.
#20. Isaiah Canaan
Canaan’s shooting and…other talents (?) come at a reasonable price of $1.2 million next season. On the other hand, that’s guaranteed money for a guy who at times struggled to find the court on a 10-win team.
#19. Kendall Marshall
Ranking Marshall above Canaan may raise a few eyebrows, but this one is more about contracts than play. Marshall signed the “Hinkie Special”, a four-year non-guaranteed deal. He’s under team control through the summer of 2019, but they can cut him at any time without penalty. For a team in flux, that’s a bonus.
Do I also think Marshall still has productive days ahead of him in the NBA? I do! And I haven’t been drinking!
#18. Nik Stauskas
Stauskas arrived in the NBA as a shooter with some spring in his step offensively, but little chance to be a plus defender in the pros. Thus far in his career, the back half of that sentence hasn’t mattered since Stauskas also hasn’t made shots. In two seasons, he’s made 33 percent of his threes (League average this year was over 35 percent).
It’s early and he’s only 22. Not to mention, those two seasons occurred on teams that went a combined 39-125. Not great.
Add in say…Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and Stauskas should see some open looks. If he can’t make them this year, he may never start making shots. Coincidentally, this is the final guaranteed year of his rookie contract.
#17. TJ McConnell
Take everything I said about Kendall Marshall above, but add in competent play this season. McConnell showed the ability to defend in the NBA, get your offense started, rebound very well for his size, and some limited shot making ability. For a guy with three more non-guaranteed years on his deal, that’s a nice resume.
#16. Richaun Holmes
Holmes’ contract is guaranteed this upcoming season, with two more non-guaranteed years following. He wasn’t spectacular this year, though he showed flashes. In reality, he will likely struggle to fit in with a team that has a host of promising forwards and centers.
A smart team should look to move a second round pick for Holmes on draft night, nabbing an athletic small-ball five-man on a team friendly contract.
#15. Hollis Thompson
Now we go from the latest Hinkie Specials, to the original. Hollis is moving into the fourth and final non-guaranteed year of his contract. Less team control decreases Thompson’s value, but his play on the court makes up for it. As much as he may frustrate Sixers’ fans, Hollis’ numbers don’t lie. He’s a 39 percent 3-point shooter, with a big sample size. Not to mention, his shooting this season was…clutch? Hardwood Paroxysm created the chart below to find the NBA’s best “closers” and Hollis scored incredibly well.
So he’ll give the Sixers (or another team) value next season before cashing in a bit the following year.
#14. Oklahoma City’s 2016 First Round Pick (26th overall)
After what felt like decades of fake trades including this pick as the throw-in sweetener, it finally comes to fruition this month. For a fairly week draft up top, the back half of the first round features some nice talent. Guards and swingmen like DeAndre’ Bembry, Tyler Ulis, Caris LeVert, Demetrius Jackson, and Patrick McCaw could all be in play.
#13. Miami’s 2016 First Round Pick (24th overall)
Those names and more would also be in play at #24, where the Sixers are also picking. Given the amount of young players already on the roster, I’d expect the front office to look to trade one (or both) of these picks or use one on a draft-and-stash player. That could mean a young European or a player like pseudo-high schooler Thon Maker who is willing to play a year or two in the D-League.
#12. Jerami Grant
It was really nice to see Grant receive some national recognition when he was named to the USA Basketball Select Team for this summer. He’ll spend the offseason scrimmaging with the world’s best and receiving coaching from Gregg Popovich and Jay Wright. He’ll enter next season with two years more years of team control, but an unknown role as the team continues to add to the frontcourt (Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, and potentially Ben Simmons).
One of the centers and likely one of the forwards will be the odd man out as the roster shuffles. Again, a smart team in need of an athletic four should kick the tires on Grant’s availability.
#11. Robert Covington
When Covington’s name was floated as possibly being part of a package headed to Atlanta for Jeff Teague, this tweet caught my eye:
Bob Covington gave the 10-72 Sixers a season of 12.8/6.3/1.6 (points/rebounds/steals), on 35/35/79 shooting. That FG% and 3PT% may seem low, but only 11 players shot more longballs than RoCo last season (he tied Kevin Durant with 482 attempts). He did all of this while making a measly-by-league-standards $1 million last season.
By my rough count, Robert Covington would have started for 21 other NBA teams this season, with a bottom-dollar contract at 25 years old. That’s not a trade toss-in. That’s real value. The Los Angeles Clippers would kill for a Robert Covington.
#10. 2019 Sixers First Round Pick
By the late 2010’s we’d hope this pick is late lottery or, *gulp* not in the lottery at all. Best of all, that doesn’t mean the Sixers days of picking in the lottery are over, because…
#9. Sacramento’s 2019 First Round Pick (unprotected)
The Heist of the Century (Nik Stauskas and years of draft and lottery goodies for “Sure, we’ll take Carl Landry”) lives on. Much in the same way the Celtics were able to compete this year and still count on a top pick courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets, the 2019 Sixers could be in the playoffs or playoff hunt but relying on the dreadful Kings, who may be without the expiring-in-2018 DeMarcus Cousins, to add another piece to their building roster. Even if the Kings are decent, but not playoff bound, the Sixers will happily send a representative to the lottery to hope Sac-town’s unprotected balls bounce the right way.
#8. 2018 Sixers First Round Pick
Again, with this young roster, the team should improve and the picks should get worse. Not to mention, in the trade market, the further away a pick actually occurs, the less value it can fetch.
#7. Dario Saric
Breaking up a string of draft picks in the rankings, it’s Philadelphia’s future favorite swashbuckler:
The Croatian sensation has been on a roll for his Turkish team this spring, with all indications he’ll play in Philadelphia next season.
He’s a 22 year old prospect, with a high basketball IQ and improving skills. The only real question that remains is how well he’d fit next to a certain Australian-born future top pick. They’d no doubt fit better than Okafor and Noel ever did, so for now, that’s not of true concern.
#6. 2017 Lakers First Round Pick (top 3 protected in 2017, unprotected in 2018)
Long lauded as one of the league’s most valued trade assets (it was originally traded for Steve Nash), the Lakers pick has just missed conveying the past two drafts. With a top two pick and enough cap room to sign a max-level player, the Lakers are expected to at least pull somewhat away from the cellar next season. There are some wishful Sixers fans who will happily remind you that the mid-lottery next year looks even stronger than the top five this year. We’ll see how we feel after seeing some of the highly-touted freshman play NCAA level basketball.
In the end though, save for a miracle trade or Kevin Durant making a very odd decision, this should be a future lottery pick in a strong draft.
#5. Nerlens Noel
#4. Jahlil Okafor
Let’s handle the Log Jam Tandem as one entry, because you could bust plenty of capillaries in your eyeball arguing about which one is better or more valued at this very moment. At he end of the day, we’re looking into which is more valuable to both the Sixers and other teams.
For the Sixers, it’s a toss up. A healthy Joel Embiid is the best big man the Sixers currently have. Willingness or ability from either of these two to work alongside Embiid or as backup to Embiid makes either of them endlessly more valuable to the Sixers. Okafor’s attitude and lack of versatility would lead you to believe he’s not the answer there. Nerlens Noel makes more basketball sense as a rim protector in the second unit and rangy defender alongside Embiid for short stretches, but he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. He won’t fetch a max contract, but a salary north of $15 million is absolutely in play.
That’s a bit more than I’m willing to pay my third big who comes off the bench.
How other teams prefer Noel and Okafor is likely a case-by-case basis. I’d cut off part of my pinky toe for a survey of the other 29 GMs, asking which they like better. Some would love Noel’s rim protection and defense. Others would take Jahlil’s offensive prowess.
When push comes to shove, it’s Nerlens’ contract that moves the needle for me. I’m personally a little more in favor of what Noel brings to the table, yet one or two years of that versus three to four from Okafor seems to tip the scale.
#3. 2017 Sixers First Round Pick
This ranking is my way of saying the Lakers will likely take a bigger step forward next year than the Sixers. It’s tough to say pre-draft, as we aren’t positive who each team will select or any trades they may make. Not to mention the craziness of free agency lies ahead.
Even if the Sixers really shift the stick into “Win Now” mode, the unprotected nature of their pick makes it more valuable than the Lakers selection in 2017.
This pick ranks higher than Noel and Okafor for a few reasons. First, even if the Sixers win 15 more games this year (the highest swing any team made this past season, made by the Knicks and Hornets), they’ll still only have 25 wins and likely select in the top five. Moreover, the top of next year’s draft projects as a very strong group of prospects. Any player taken in the top half of the 2017 lottery, on a rookie contract, looks like a better prospect than the two current Sixers bigs, for now.
#2. Joel Embiid
Again, when talking Embiid, value to the Sixers is very different from value to the league.
If I’m the Sixers, Embiid is as good as untouchable. There are, obviously, unrealistic exceptions, but for the most part, after waiting out the storm with Embiid, letting his value actually blossom elsewhere is a scary proposition.
Until this year’s NBA Draft Lottery, the Process essentially rested on Joel Embiid’s shoulders (or foot). If he is able to grow into a star, it was all worth it. However:
Ben Simmons Uh, I mean, 2016 Sixers First Round Pick
Assuming the Sixers take Simmons, he inches out Embiid for two reasons.
Even if Embiid’s ceiling is higher, Simmons’ chances to reach his maximum potential or at least come close are greater than the chances Embiid does so. Simmons is not a sure thing, no draft pick is. Yet his path to potential stardom is blocked only by his ability to develop in today’s NBA. Embiid’s injury concerns outweigh the chances Simmons basketball or attitude flaws derail his career.
Which brings us to their floors. There is a chance, whether we want to admit it or not, that Joel Embiid never steps onto an NBA court. Or he could float around battling injuries like Greg Oden did. The worst case for Simmons is far better. If he fails reach superstardom, Simmons could likely develop into a Lamar Odom-type creator off the bench (complete with off-the-court issues of his own).
Ok, where did I go wrong? Let’s hash it out in the comment section below.
Header image via Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org, Rush The Court, ESPN.com, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.