76ers

5 forwards the Sixers should target in free agency

5 forwards the Sixers should target in free agency

We’ve looked at free-agent options for the Sixers among veterans (see story) and guards (see story).

Now here’s a breakdown of forwards on the open market that could help the Sixers.

Kevin Durant
Haha. A team can dream, right?

Andre Iguodala
Durant’s teammate is a more realistic option as reports have already stated that the Sixers are interested in a reunion with the swingman (see story).

It makes sense for the Sixers. Iguodala spent the first eight seasons of his NBA career in Philadelphia and still possesses the same defensive ability, rebounding and passing that he made a staple of his game over that time.

On the offensive end, Iguodala has been able to show improvement even with more than a decade in the league. He averaged just 7.6 points last season, but the forward shot 52.8 percent from the field (highest mark of his career), 36.2 percent from three-point range (second-highest mark of his career) and 70.6 percent from the free throw line (highest mark since 2009-10).

At age 33, it remains to be seen how much Iguodala has left in the tank. And you definitely have to think he would prefer to remain with the juggernaut Golden State Warriors.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt the Sixers to make a phone call and gauge his interest in a return.

Danilo Gallinari
If it’s scoring the Sixers are going for, Gallinari could be their man.

The Italian combo forward has always been a consistent force on the offensive end. Gallinari has averaged double digits in scoring during eight of his nine seasons in the NBA.

Last season, he led the Nuggets with 18.2 points per game to go along with 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Gallinari also connected on 44.7 percent from the field and a career-high 38.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Defense and injuries have always been issues for “Gallo.” He was a key cog for a Denver Nuggets team that finished 29th in defensive rating a season ago and has played only 70 or more games twice in his career.

While those warts are glaring, Gallinari’s overall production outweighs them. The 28-year-old ranked 31st in the entire league in 2016-17 in real plus-minus, which measures net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions.

In the end, a veteran player that can operate offensively on both the low block and perimeter is an attractive piece. Gallinari’s ability to play either forward spot would open up even more options for Brett Brown’s lineup. That’s the type of guy the Sixers should take a serious look at in free agency.

Serge Ibaka
How about a good mix on both ends of the floor? Two-way players do exist and Ibaka is among the better ones.

Ibaka has primarily been known for his defense throughout his career. He was named to the league’s all-defensive first team three times. Plus, the 6-10 forward has finished in the NBA’s top 10 in blocks per game for seven straight seasons (league leader in 2012 and 2013).

While that part of Ibaka’s game has been a constant, he has made tremendous strides on offense since coming from overseas. Ibaka entered the league as strictly a bruiser near the rim and has progressively added to his skill set. 

He averaged 14.8 points last season split between the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors. He shot 48.0 percent from the field and a career-high 39.1 percent from three.  

At 27 years old, there doesn’t appear to be much to dislike about Ibaka — except the potential price tag. Ibaka will absolutely be looking to cash in this offseason. The Sixers have money to spend, but that doesn't mean they should go overboard for the veteran.

Otto Porter Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic
The Washington duo of Porter and Bogdanovic are the only restricted free agents on the list but could be worth the trouble of having to deal with the Wizards potentially matching an offer sheet.

Porter enjoyed a breakout season in 2016-17. He put up career highs in points (13.4), rebounds (6.4), steals (1.5), field goal percentage (51.6), three-point percentage (43.4) and free throw percentage (83.2).

At just 24 years old, Porter would be a strong fit to grow with the Sixers’ young core for the foreseeable future if they are able to pry him away from D.C. Highly unlikely, but worth a try.

Bogdanovic provides less efficiency, but a massive amount of experience from playing all over the globe. The 28-year-old Croatian recorded 13.7 points a night last season on 44.5 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from three with the Brooklyn Nets and Wizards. 

With the Wizards still looking at a possible trade for Indiana Pacers All-Star Paul George and an owner in Ted Leonsis that has maintained a stance of avoiding spending into the luxury tax, the Sixers might be able to snag either Porter or Bogdanovic.

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

BOX SCORE

Ben Simmons scored a career-high, Joel Embiid recorded a double-double, and still, the highest praise was directed to an unlikely player after the Sixers’ 107-86 win over the Jazz: Amir Johnson.

“He was the MVP of tonight,” Embiid said. 

Johnson embraced the ultimate role player mentality. He didn’t know until shortly before the game if he was going to start in place of Embiid or come off the bench. Embiid, who had been dealing with left knee soreness, ended up playing. So Johnson waited for his name to be called and stepped right into action. 

Johnson began the game with five rebounds in four first-quarter minutes. He finished with 13 boards, eight points and four blocks in 21 minutes. Johnson pulled down 10-plus rebounds for the 98th time in his career (see observations)

“I feel like my job is just to find ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “Knowing Joel, Ben and those guys are going to get the majority minutes, but when I come in I want to be effective at the same time.”

The 13-year veteran has been studying game film. Even though he didn’t get on the court in either of the Sixers’ matchups against the Warriors and played a combined 28 minutes in three road games in California, Johnson has been staying ready. 

“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said of Johnson’s defense. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”

The Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year, $11 million contract this summer. He proved what he could do on the court since entering the league out of high school in 2005, but the even bigger draw was what he could add to the locker room. Brett Brown reached out to some of Johnson’s former teammates and the assessments echoed one another. Now the Sixers are seeing what those who played with Johnson were talking about. 

“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. 

“To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

Redick bounces back in 2nd half
JJ Redick is at a point in his career where he isn’t worried about a slow start. He went scoreless in the first half and still ended up with 20 points. 

“Maybe five or six years ago I probably would have been a little more stressed at halftime,” Redick said. “But I just knew there would be some opportunities and stayed patient.”

Brown noticed Redick getting better looks after halftime. He evenly distributed his scoring with 10 points in both the third and the fourth quarters. He shot a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the third. 

“I’m always going to be aggressive. There just weren’t opportunities to get shots off in the first half,” Redick said. “I scored 20 in the second half, but didn’t feel like I was forcing anything. The opportunities were there. Sometimes that happens within a game.”

Simmons, too
Simmons showed the same kind of poise, even more notable because he is a rookie. Simmons shot 2 for 9 in the first half, shook off the early struggles, and scored a career-high 27 points. He scored half of the Sixers’ 28 points in the third quarter off an efficient 7 for 9 shooting stretch. 

“I thought I was going to have more, honestly,” Simmons said. 

Simmons took advantage of the Jazz missing center Rudy Gobert in the middle. He became the only Sixer since 1963-64 to score in double digits in each of his first 16 games. Simmons is averaging 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving rallies Celtics to 16th straight win

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Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving rallies Celtics to 16th straight win

DALLAS  -- Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team's first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Cavs rout Pistons for fifth straight win
DETROIT -- LeBron James scored 16 of his 18 points in the first quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers made 11 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a 116-88 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Cleveland led 73-46 at halftime thanks to an overwhelming shooting performance, an indication that Detroit's stay atop the Central Division might not last much longer. The Pistons still lead the Cavs by a game, but Cleveland has won five straight and scored at least 110 points in eight of its last nine.

The Cavaliers led 27-22 when James went to the bench late in the first quarter. By the time he came back in, it was 50-30. Cleveland's reserves ended up outscoring Detroit's 26-8 in the first half.

The Cavs shot 62 percent from the field in the first two quarters and 11 of 17 from 3-point range. They finished the game 16 of 33 from beyond the arc. Cleveland led 101-62 after three, and the top players for both teams had plenty of time to rest in the final period (see full recap).

Knicks end 10-game slide with win over slumping Clippers
NEW YORK -- Kristaps Porzingis scored 25 points and the New York Knicks extended the Los Angeles Clippers' losing streak to nine games with a 107-85 victory Monday night.

Porzingis outplayed a frustrated Blake Griffin and helped the Knicks snap a 10-game skid in the series with their first victory over the Clippers in five years.

Doug McDermott added 16 points for the Knicks, including a 3-pointer that swung the momentum for good midway through the third quarter.

Griffin scored 21 points but shot just 6 for 17, picked up a technical foul and fouled out with 4:46 remaining. The Clippers (5-11) still haven't won since Nov. 1 at Dallas, when they improved to 5-2.

Patrick Beverley returned after missing five games with a sore right knee and had nine points and six rebounds. But the Clippers are still without fellow guard Milos Teodosic and the rest of their backcourt play was mostly dismal (see full recap).

Oladipo's 29 leads Pacers over Magic for fourth straight win
ORLANDO, Fla.  -- Victor Oladipo had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven steals to lead the Indiana Pacers to their fourth straight win, 105-97 over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.

Oladipo, who played his first three NBA seasons in Orlando, and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for 40 points in the second half, 14 of them during a 16-3 third-quarter run that put the Pacers in command.

Bogdanovic scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half.

Nikola Vucevic had 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Magic, who lost their fifth straight. Aaron Gordon had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Magic finished with 22 turnovers and shot 33 percent in the second half to fall below .500 for the first time this season (see full recap).