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.

What Sixers need more and less of in second half

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AP Images

What Sixers need more and less of in second half

Now that the dust has settled on the NBA's All-Star festivities, the Sixers will reconvene this week and turn their attention back to the playoff push.

With 27 games remaining in the regular season over a 49-day stretch, it will be a sprint to the finish.

So how can the Sixers capture their first postseason berth in six seasons? Let's take a look at what the team needs more and less of down the stretch.

More: Healthy Embiid
What injury? Joel Embiid shook off right ankle soreness to participate in three events during All-Star weekend as a shining representation of the up-and-coming Sixers.

"There was never really a thought about missing out on any of these events," Embiid said Friday after the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game. "It's my first time, so I'm going to have fun."

The big man is always about having fun, but now it's time to get down to business. Even though the Sixers' competition appears to lighten up after the break, the schedule does not (27 games with six back-to-back sets).

The Sixers are 27-17 when Embiid plays and just 3-8 when he doesn't suit up. They need the center healthy and on the court.

Less: Turnovers
Way less, actually. 

As you know by now, the Sixers have a bit of an issue holding onto the basketball. They simply don't respect each possession enough, evidenced by their 17.5 turnovers per game. That's good enough for dead last in the NBA and it's a full 1.5 turnovers more than the closest team (Los Angeles Lakers).

And it's not just the miscues. Teams are capitalizing, too — the Sixers also rank 30th in opponents' points off turnovers (19.4).

Of the "Four Factors" statistic on the offensive end, which breaks down weighted factors that help a team win a game — shooting (40 percent), turnovers (25 percent), rebounding (20 percent) and free throws (15 percent) — the only category that the Sixers rank outside of the NBA's top 10 in is turnovers.

If they can cut down on the giveaways just a little, it will go a long way toward their goal.

More: Early execution
However, not all of those possessions end up with the Sixers running back on defense after a turnover.

With more legit scoring options on the roster this season than any previous time during Brett Brown's tenure, they have shown the ability to execute a play to perfection for a bucket.

It's a stark contrast to the days when they couldn't even get the ball in on an inbounds play.

That level of scoring punch has been particularly evident at the start of games. The Sixers are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for fourth in the league in first-quarter points per game (28.7) and are even with the L.A. Clippers for seventh in first-half points a night (55.2).

The Sixers must continue to apply that pressure on teams at the outset of games, especially if their woes finishing off opponents is going to persist.

Less: Bad Covington
Ah, the curious case of Robert Covington.

Has any player in NBA history ever looked like they could make a push for an All-Star spot for two months only to appear as if they belong in the G League the next few months?

Covington has always been a streaky shooter, but this season has been extreme. He shot 44.7 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from three-point range in October and November to help secure his multiyear extension. 

Since that point, the swingman has connected on just 37.6 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from long distance.

Whether it's the weight of the big contract or the nasty spill he took against the Cavs in December, Covington hasn't looked the same on the floor in several months. The team needs him to get it together and the sooner the better.

More: Killer D's
While Embiid's presence on both ends and Ben Simmons' wizardry at the point have put the Sixers in position to snag a playoff bid, the team didn't really hit its stride until a certain pairing found its footing: Dario Saric and defense.

Much like his rookie season, Saric struggled to find his role at the start. But that's long in the rearview mirror now. The second-year forward has increased his production each month and has been rolling so far in February (18.6 points, 51.7 percent field goals, 46.3 percent threes, 6.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game).

That surge has coincided with the Sixers' tightened grip on defense. In seven games this month, they've allowed 96.1 points per game on 41.4 percent shooting.

The type of balance Saric offers offensively and the overall lockdown defense won't only make the Sixers a postseason team, it will also make them a tough out. 

Less: Fultz speculation
This is a big deal that the Sixers could make very small with a clear decision on the No. 1 pick's immediate future.

Markelle Fultz reportedly continues to ramp up his rehab workouts for his ailing shoulder, even after team president Bryan Colangelo said earlier this month that the guard could return soon or be shut down for the season.

The franchise should obviously give Fultz every chance to come back and contribute, but that ruling should be made at the first opportunity.

It's after the All-Star break and having that type of deliberation hovering over the team isn't exactly fair to the other players. Not to mention, for a guy that has apparently dealt with questions regarding his confidence, possibly dropping him into the thick of a playoff race doesn't really do him any favors either.

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”