76ers

Sixers free-agent fits: Small forwards — Superstars, Barnes, Parsons and more

Sixers free-agent fits: Small forwards — Superstars, Barnes, Parsons and more

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. We've already analyzed point guards and shooting guards. Today, we'll break down small forwards.

Sixers small forwards for 2016-17
Robert Covington (guaranteed — $1,015,696)

Jerami Grant (guaranteed — $980,431)

Current SF situation
When you're a 10-win team, you need help just about everywhere. Small forward is no exception for the Sixers.

Covington worked hard all last offseason to become a more well-rounded player and it paid off in some aspects. He grabbed a career-high 6.3 rebounds and was a much better on-ball defender than the previous season. However, with more freedom the three-point specialist's offensive production actually dropped a bit. Covington's points (13.5 to 12.8), field goal percentage (39.6 to 38.5) and three-point percentage (37.4 to 35.3) all took a dip in 2015-16.

Grant took the next step in his progression last season, but there is still a long way to go. The 22-year-old increased his scoring to 9.7 points per game and rebounding to 4.7 a night while also bumping his field goal percentage from 35.2 percent to 41.9. He also proved to be one of the game's emerging defenders with 1.6 blocks a game (12th in the entire NBA). But with the Sixers already having so many players operating in the paint, they would prefer Grant to step outside to develop his jump shot. That didn't go well at all, as he managed to sink just 35 of his 146 three-point attempts (24.0) a season ago.

The Sixers could get a boost on the wing if international prospects Dario Saric or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot join the club. Luwawu-Cabarrot is more likely to strike a deal, but either way it will be tough to ask a rookie who is also new to the United States to come in and contribute at the game's highest level right away.

Reach free agent(s)

LeBron James and Kevin Durant
Nope. Not going to happen. Moving right along.

Possible fits

Harrison Barnes (restricted)
Yes, we saw the memes with Barnes' face Photoshopped onto milk cartons and trash cans after the Finals. They were both hilarious and semi-accurate after a postseason performance in which he averaged 9.0 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting. However, we're not ready to write Barnes off after a rough two-month stretch and reportedly neither are the Sixers. Barnes, 24, proved to be a key cog of the Warriors' high-powered machine. He put up a career-high 11.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 38.3 percent from three-point range. That level of consistent floor spacing with the ability to grab rebounds (4.9 per game) and still slash to the rim is exactly what the Sixers need. The big question is will they get that same package or was that just the benefit of Barnes playing with a star-studded Golden State team that won a record 73 games during the regular season?

Nicolas Batum (unrestricted)
Perhaps the most versatile of all the free-agent small forwards, Batum had a strong first season in Charlotte. The Frenchman averaged a career-high 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 35.0 minutes a game for the up-and-coming Hornets. Batum would be a huge upgrade for the Sixers as he doesn't need the ball to be effective, uses his length to play lockdown defense and drains enough three-pointers to keep defenses honest (career 36.0 percent shooter from long range). At 27 years old along with a wealth of NBA and international experience, Batum would instantly be a leader for this young Sixers group. But without ever winning on the top levels of competition, Batum might opt for a more championship-ready team than the rebuilding 76ers.

Chandler Parsons (unrestricted)
A source close to Parsons told ESPN last week that the small forward would be "all ears" during free agency after declining his player option with the Dallas Mavericks. Parsons doubled down on that notion with an Instagram post. He will likely only start listening once the max offers cross his agent's desk. Parsons, a 2011 second-rond pick, has worked his way into being one of the more well-rounded players at his position. He posted 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the Mavs while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from three. Parsons is the classic 3-and-D player the Sixers have been coveting for years ... if he's healthy. He has been shut down in each of the past two seasons with knee injuries, which both led to surgeries. The Sixers would need to be absolutely certain Parsons is back to full health before throwing that kind of money at him to sign in Philly.

Kent Bazemore (unrestricted)
The name may not be the sexiest out there, but he can ball. After going undrafted and biding his time with the Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks for several seasons, Bazemore broke out in his first consistent stint as a starter in 2015-16. In 27.8 minutes a night, he put up 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals. The 26-year-old Bazemore's athleticism fits right into Brett Brown's desire to get out and run while his defensive intensity would boost a team that needs all the help it can get on that end of the floor. A bonus is the fact he can sink shots from beyond the arc when left open (35.7 percent from three-point range). Doubtful that he will ever turn into a guy you can count on for 20-plus points a night, but would still be a pretty solid fit in a Sixers uniform if they miss out on their other top targets. 

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said. 

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid would like to play 48 minutes every game. The Sixers are looking at a maximum of 20 for opening night.

"I don't really know if there's a solid number," Brett Brown said Monday after practice. "I can tell if you were to choose a number, it's somewhere in the teens."

Embiid was hoping for more playing time on Wednesday against the Wizards, his first regular-season game since Jan. 27 (left knee surgery).

"I didn't know about that, but that's very disappointing," Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. "I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today's practice and tomorrow's practice."

The Sixers are being cautious with Embiid, who has both a lengthy history of injuries and a massive new contract extension. He clocked 15 minutes in both of his preseason games last week. Embiid felt he could have played twice as many minutes.

While the Sixers aren't ready to go as high as 30 minutes yet, they could exercise some wiggle room based on the flow of the game.

"There will be some minutes restrictions, but it's also a judgment of how is the game being played, not just looking at rote, rigid number," Brown said.

The NBA's new timeout rules could impact Embiid's playing time. The updated format changes include a decrease in the maximum number of timeouts allowed (18 to 14), 75-second team timeouts and fewer timeouts in the final minutes of the game. 

"One of the things that we're doing this year unlike previous years is there's a little bit of a looseness in relation to it doesn't have to be rigid if the game didn't dictate some track meet," Brown said. "This is like I'm coaching in the London Olympic Games again. The game moves. I can have guys at a scorers table for two minutes with no stoppage. So sometimes the torrid pace of a game doesn't favor Jo where you go flying up and down."

In addition to individual games, it remains to be seen if Embiid will be cleared this season for back-to-backs. The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games this Friday and Saturday against the Celtics at home and the Raptors in Toronto.