Hey everyone, the Philadelphia 76ers are officially a professional basketball team. After four years of foundational rebuilding with little-to-no emphasis put on actual vertical growth, the Sixers are now doing that thing that NBA teams do when seriously trying to get good: isolating areas of need and adding the best players possible to fill those gaps.
JJ Redick, veteran swingman formerly of the Clippers, headlined yesterday's free agency haul for the Sixers, and you'd need a pretty big microscope to find the flaws in his signing. Obviously, Redick fits neatly into the Sixers' current void at two-guard, where his long-range prowess -- hitting 41.5 percent of his career threes, including 43 percent on six attempts per game last year -- will be a major boon for a team perennially lacking in shooting and spacing. Redick moves well off screens, is a competent team defender and ball-mover, and has been a model of health and consistency the last three years, hitting 200 total threes in both '14-'15 and '15-'16, and 201 last year. Simply put, his presence on the Sixers should make everything easier for everyone.
And of course, the best part of Redick's signing is likely its length: The Colangelos got JJ for the price of $23 million for one year. $23 mil is undoubtedly a greater annual salary than a man of Redick's considerable-but-limited talents and advancing age (he turned 33 in June) is worth, which is why the deal lured him away from multi-year contracts offered by the likes of Minnesota and Brooklyn. But for the Sixers, who went into the summer with about $50 million in cap space, there's almost no such thing as an overpay on a one-year deal for a player they had their sights set on.
Next year, we'll get a one-season trial run to figure out both how well Redick fits into our lineup and how close we are to being the level of competitive where locking up a complementary veteran like Redick long-term makes sense. If so, great and we'll deal with him then, if not, no harm done in kissing and saying goodbye. There's arguable risk that signing him to such a short deal means he can either wander elsewhere next season or command a more considerable multi-year salary next summer. But such concerns are relatively minor compared to what could've been a cap-clogging three- or four-year deal -- one that saw us overpaying a likely declining shooter in his waning years, making it difficult to both get all our young prospects (and Robert Covington) paid, and improve the roster around them.
Stretching the limits of the "no such thing as a bad one-year deal" theory a little is yesterday's undercard FA signing, Amir Johnson. If the consensus reaction to the Redick deal among Sixers fans was generally unrestrained jubilation, the Johnson deal ($11 million for one year) understandably got more of an "...OK, I guess?"
In a sense, Johnson, a bruising power forward (and occasional undersized center), fills a need in our frontcourt rotation, providing the kind of defense that's mostly absent on our depth chart once you get past Joel Embiid. If you squint real hard at him you could also view him as a floor-stretcher, hitting 41 percent of his threes last year, though on an absurdly low sample size of under an attempt a game. Advanced stats love him. But it's hard to know exactly what kind of minutes will be available for Amir on this Sixers team, which already has to find appropriate PT for Embiid, Richaun Holmes, Dario Saric and (possibly still) Jahlil Okafor -- not to mention Ben Simmons, who may functionally be a point guard but will likely still have to guard bigs on defense.
Given that glut up front, $11 million certainly seems like a lot for a guy who only averaged about 12 points and eight rebounds per 36 minutes last year, and who essentially got squeezed out of Boston's rotation towards the end of last year's postseason. Still, the Sixers had the money to spend -- even with his and Redick's contracts on the books, the team has about $15 mil remaining in cap room -- and were arguably in want of another veteran locker room presence (particularly after waiving Gerald Henderson earlier in the week) and definitely in need for some defensive insurance down low. Eight digits is pretty pricey for that kind of fringe production, but for the Sixers at this point in time, it's a defensible overpay.
Perhaps more exciting than any on-court implications of the Redick and Johnson signings is the mere fact that they're coming here at all. Neither is necessarily a marquee free agent, but both are respected, accomplished vets who've spent the most recent stretches of their careers playing for playoff perennials. As much money as we're giving them, it's still a fair bet that they wouldn't be risking wasting years of their NBA prime (or slightly post-prime) if they didn't think the Sixers were building something legitimate. Newly acquired ESPN franchise player Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Redick is "impressed with [the Sixers'] young talent and enthusiastic about playing for coach Brett Brown," and quotes a text from him that Philly is "where [he] wanted to be." Last summer, coming off a 10-win squad with Embiid still yet to play a professional minute, he probably wouldn't have been so eager.
Now, with Redick (and Johnson, sure), there's virtually no ceiling to how good this team can be next year. Which is not to say that the Sixers will definitely make a huge jump next season: Simmons and Markelle Fultz may take time to adjust to pro ball and to playing with one another, and looming injury concerns with nearly the entire roster (and of course Embiid in particular) will threaten to sweep the legs out from under at any point. But the potential for the Ballers to be not just competitive but really, really good -- like, first-round home-court good -- is real, and considerable: When healthy, a Fultz-Redick-Covington-Simmons-Embiid starting five is as loaded as any non-Cleveland team in the East can boast, with a deep roster of bench guys behind them.
And indeed, if there's yet another ancillary benefit to the Redick deal, it's that it gives us time to be patient with our younger wings. Nik Stauskas was awesome in stretches coming off the bench last year, while Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot really came on towards year's end as a potentially dynamic two-way two-guard. Redick's presence pushes them to the bench, where they should still get decent minutes (and with the Sixers' incoming influx of point guards, some of the best looks of their young careers) in a lower-pressure role to bring their games along. If one of them takes a leap next season, then they could provide a younger, cheaper alternative to Redick moving forward, allowing us to pursue other needs in free agency next summer once J.J.'s contract is up.
Remarkably, that appears to be the whole megillah: If there's a clear downside to these deals, or indeed any moves the Sixers have made of late, it's pretty damn insidious. Aside from the usual creeping dread that comes with rooting for such an injury-prone squad (and maybe just with being a Sixers/Philly fan in general), there's really nothing to feel about the Sixers' current outlook but total excitement and giddiness. Between these signings and the Fultz deal, the Colangelos have managed to build for both the present and the future, without hamstringing the latter in the name of bolstering the former. It's how our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie would've wanted it.