Philadelphia 76ers: Grading Every Move of the 2018 NBA Offseason

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After years of rebuilding, the Philadelphia 76ers showed the NBA that The Process could end up being worth it after all. Cornerstone players such as Joel Embiid and Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons showed why they were worth the wait after each player missed previous seasons due to injuries. After a three-year stretch of winning 58 total games, the Sixers would go on to finish 52-30 in the 2017-18 season, which was good enough for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Philadelphia would go on to beat the Miami Heat 4-1 in the first round, giving the franchise its first playoff series victory since the 2011-12 season. However, like in that 2011-12 season, the Sixers suffered the same fate as they lost their 2nd round series to the Boston Celtics 4-1.

While the Sixers gained a ton of playoff experience in the franchises first playoff run in six seasons, they also were exposed by the Celtics in different areas on the floor such as lack of shot creating and wing defenders. Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova, and even JJ Redick struggled in the series on both sides of the ball due to their one-dimensional skill sets.

The series showed that the Sixers needed to improve their depth on the wing, and also try to acquire more versatile players in the offseason to try to close the gap on their division rivals. Going into the summer, many Sixers fans believed that the franchise would come away with a star quality player, such as LeBron James, Paul George, or Kawhi Leonard. Even the team’s Head Coach, Brett Brown, told the media at the end of the season that the franchise will be “star hunting”.

LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Paul George stayed in Oklahoma City. Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors.

Many fans are upset at the fact that the franchise struck out on landing a star via free agency and/or trade up until this post, however, the team did not stand pat and do nothing in the offseason.

Here is a look at the moves the team made this summer:

Losses: 

  • Marco Belinelli (signed with San Antonio)
  • Ersan Ilyasova (signed with Milwaukee)
  • Justin Anderson (traded to Atlanta)
  • Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot (traded to Oklahoma City)
  • Richaun Holmes (traded to Phoenix)

Grading the 2018 NBA Draft Selections

Zhaire Smith

On draft night the Sixers drafted Villanova forward Mikal Bridges with the No. 10 overall pick. A move that many predicted given Bridges fit with the Sixers as a scorer on the wing who can defend, comparable to current forward Robert Covington. However, the Sixers had other plans as they would go on to trade Bridges to the Phoenix Suns for Zhaire Smith and the rights to the Miami Heat 2021 first round draft pick.

The move shocked many, but the Sixers were reportedly big fans of Smith in the pre-draft process, and the 2021 first round pick has the potential to be a big asset going forward.

Smith brings a ton of upside to the Sixers as a very athletic wing player, who can defend and finish at the rim right away in the NBA. His jumper is still far away, but Smith has been working to improve his form and become a more reliable outside shooter. Going into the 2018-19 season, it is likely for Smith to carve out a small bench role early in the season, similar to Justin Anderson’s minutes in the rotation last year.

Being patient with a player and developing his game is nothing new to the Sixers and that is exactly what is going to happen with Zhaire Smith this season. While some fans would prefer to have a more NBA ready prospect in Mikal Bridges, acquiring the Miami Heat pick made the deal a success in my eyes.

Grade – B

Landry Shamet

With their second pick in the first round, the Sixers selected Landry Shamet out of Wichita State. Shamet will compete for a spot in the rotation during training camp and the preseason, and he will do so with a skill set the Sixers needed last season. Last season at Wichita State, Shamet averaged 14.9 points while shooting an impressive 44% from beyond the arc on just under six attempts from three per game.

Shamet will likely slot in behind TJ McConnell on the depth chart, and is not likely to provide much of an impact in his rookie season.

Grade – C+

Grading the Free Agency Additions

Wilson Chandler

While the Sixers didn’t acquire the star wing player many hoped for, they still were able to bring in a good veteran who will upgrade their forward depth next season. The Sixers traded a 2021 second round pick and the rights to swap 2022 second round picks for Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, who is entering the final season of his current contract.

Chandler, entering his 11th season, is a very solid addition to the Sixers rotation and will likely slot right into Marco Belinelli’s minutes in the rotation. In his career, Chandler has averaged 13.4 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, and 1.8 assists per game, while shooting 44 percent from the field and 34 percent from beyond the arc.

He brings good size and length defensively to help the Sixers against the likes of the Boston Celtics given his ability to switch pick and rolls and guard both on the perimeter and the post.

Having another veteran in the locker room along with JJ Redick and Amir Johnson, is another big addition to a young core with raised expectations after last season.

Grade – B+

JJ Redick

The Sixers brought back JJ Redick on a one-year deal in the $12 million to $13 million range. Redick was brought in last season to help give the Sixers a knockdown shooter on the perimeter to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and he gave the team everything they could have hoped for.

Averaging a career best 17.1 points, Redick played a huge role in the Sixers run to the second round of the playoffs. He shot 42 percent from three-point range, 46 percent from the field, and was a very good locker room presence on and off the floor for the organization. In the postseason, Redick upped his scoring to 18.2 points per game, despite struggling a bit from beyond the arc where he shot just 34 percent in the playoffs.

Bringing Redick back was always something that fans wanted, and Redick himself seemed to want after saying on many occasions that last season was his favorite in the NBA to date.

Going into this season, the Sixers hope Redick will be pushed for his starting spot by second year guard Markelle Fultz. However, regardless if he is in the starting five or not,  Redick will still play a major role for the Sixers as a knockdown shooter and veteran leader on and off the floor.

Grade – A

Amir Johnson

Last season Amir Johnson was another veteran brought in to be a leader in the locker room. He was never expected to be a major role player for the Sixers, but that didn’t keep him from being a very solid addition to the team, leading to him coming back to the organization this summer on a one-year deal.

Johnson averaged 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season, and was a good player on the defensive side of the floor.

As the team is currently constructed, Johnson should slide right back into his backup center role behind Joel Embiid, and will be called upon for his defense and rebounding.

Grade – B-

Mike Muscala

After Ersan Ilysaova signed with the Bucks, the Sixers attempted to sign Nemanja Bjelica to a one-year deal. However, Bjelica reportedly backed out of the deal due to wanting more money.

The Sixers decided to go another route by taking part in a three-team trade that was headlined by Carmelo Anthony being traded to Atlanta and Dennis Schröder heading back to Oklahoma City. As a part of that deal, the Sixers traded away Justin Anderson (to Atlanta) and Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot (to Oklahoma City), and received Atlanta Hawks Center Mike Muscala.

Muscala averaged 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season, and is a career 37.8 percent three point shooter. He will likely be first in line to fill the void left by Ilyasova when the season begins.

The trade is a sign that the Sixers are confident in their additions, Wilson Chandler and Zhaire Smith, and also Furkan Korkmaz who had an impressive Las Vegas Summer League.

Grade – B-

Jonah Bolden

Drafted by the Sixers in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft, Bolden was a player that the organization and fans were intrigued to see after a solid Las Vegas Summer League performance last summer.

Bolden eventually stayed in Europe for the 2017-18 season, playing for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. He averaged 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds, while playing just over 21 minutes per game.

In a six game stint in the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League, Bolden averaged 6.5 points and six rebounds per game, while shooting just 35 perce from the floor.

The Sixers signed Bolden to a four-year, $7 million rookie contract after trading backup center Richaun Holmes for $1 million to the Phoenix Suns.

While Bolden is an intriguing prospect, the return for Holmes was underwhelming.

Grade – C

Overall Grade and Breakdown of the Offseason

While the Sixers didn’t have the splashy summer that many fans, and even the organization, hoped for it was still a successful summer for the team. As of now, the roster is still filled with two elite young players, good secondary players such as Dario Saric and Robert Covington, and a nice group of veteran players who will help bring solid play on the court and be leaders in the locker room.

Truth be told, the biggest addition the Sixers are hoping to have this summer is a healthy Markelle Fultz. After a bizarre rookie season, Fultz played the last 10 games of the regular season, and played sparingly in the postseason. This summer Fultz has been working with Drew Hanlen on getting his jump shot back, and if he does, the Sixers will potentially add another young star to their roster who will check off multiple boxes of need.

The Sixers, who have been without a General Manager since the NBA Draft, have been smart by not mortgaging the future for a possible rental of Kawhi Leonard, and because of that have the same young core in tact that won 52 games and a playoff series a season ago. There is no reason to think that the Sixers, should not be right back in the conversation come next season as a team who could possibly win the Eastern Conference.

Overall Offseason Grade – B

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