With the third pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Sam Hinkie and the Philadelphia 76ers selected Jahlil Okafor. Many reports leading up to draft night speculated the Sixers would select the point guard from Ohio State in D’Angelo Russell if he was available. The problem was, Russell was taken by the Los Angeles Lakers right before the Sixers at number two. So the Sixers did exactly what they did in last year’s draft, which was taking the best available player in Okafor. The selection of Okafor leaves the Sixers with three high-potential big men in Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and Joel Embiid.
Having the trio of big men began the circulation of questions regarding the health status of Joel Embiid and whether or not his setback is serious, how Hinkie would build the roster around the front court with a clear need at the guard position, or if Hinkie would even keep all three since he has a past history of trading guys like Michael Carter-Williams who seem to be a piece to the puzzle but in Hinkie’s mind are viewed as a trading asset.
“I think we have a number of players that we’re proud to have on our team and that complement players of all sorts of different styles,” Hinkie told reporters at his press conference on Friday. “I think Robert Covington is one of those that can compliment a low post player like [Okafor], or who can complement a guy who plays slightly more pick and roll like Nerlens, or a guy like Joel.”
As of now, Hinkie does not plan on moving Okafor, or any of the Sixers’ big men for that matter. That could change once free agency hits. The biggest questions that Sixers’ fans are asking are whether they will have to sit through another 18 win season, and how Hinkie plans to address the team’s need at guard.
Team Need: Guards
It’s tough to tell this early in the off-season if the Sixers plan to tank for a third consecutive year. If they end up having Okafor, Noel, and Embiid at the start of the season, that’s a solid frontcourt despite the youth that would lead Sixers’ fans to believe that the team could hit 30 wins. However, the draft is over and the NBA is on the cusp of free agency, and Hinkie is in the position to make moves.
When asked about free agency on Friday, Hinkie said, “I think we’ll be out there and we’ll have discussions, but we’ll have to be discerning too. We’ll have to be reasonable about it and the kinds of players we want to go after.”
Hinkie definitely has the cap space to be active in free agency if he choses to. Without factoring in having to sign their 2015 draft picks, the Sixers are $6.1 million under the cap, and are projected to have between $29.5-$33.4 million in cap space for the 2015-2016 season.
The Sixers have guards Isaiah Cannan, Tony Wroten, Glenn Robinson III, Hollis Thompson, JaKarr Sampson, and second-round draft pick J.P. Tokoto on the roster for the upcoming season. Hinkie uses the word “asset” to describe a majority of the players on the Sixers roster. At guard, there are plenty of assets, but no definite NBA starter.
Looking at the 2015 free agency class, there are few top proven NBA players that would be willing to play through the rebuilding process and wait two or three years to contend. That’s a major issues that faces Hinkie. Attracting free agents will be a tough sell. A few names that jump out include Reggie Jackson, K.J. McDaniels, and Austin Rivers.
Jackson has already been offered a qualifying offer by the Detroit Pistons, and all sources are pointing to him staying in Detroit. The Sixers have the money to throw at Jackson to draw him to Philadelphia. He is young enough to where he can mold together with the pieces the Sixers have in place during their rebuilding process.
K.J. McDaniels is an intruiging name considering the Sixers traded him to the Houston Rockets at the trade deadline. If Hinkie pulls this off and brings McDaniels back to Philly, it would be one of his best moves yet.
Austin Rivers could stay in Los Angeles to continue his career under his father with the Clippers, but if he doesn’t, the Sixers have a chance. Rivers had flashes in the playoffs and throughout the tail end of the regular season of being a reliable backup point guard.
The Sixers need to accelerate the rebuilding process and begin to put a competitive NBA roster on the floor for 82 games. Focusing on the guard position will be Hinkie’s primary focus in the off-season, which he can do through free agency or via trade. Either way, look for Hinkie to be active as the NBA’s off-season heats up.
*All stats on team cap space courtesy of basketball insiders*
Featured image source: Michael Perez/AP Photo