The quality of the Sixers’ play at center dropped off drastically when Joel Embiid sat last season.
In free agency, the team will likely aim to find a solid, veteran backup. Players in that category form the bulk of our list of five potential big man targets, although there is one higher-profile name.
Outside of these five players, former Sixer Nerlens Noel is another big man to monitor. He decided Saturday afternoon not to pick up his $1.98 million player option with Oklahoma City for 2019-20, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.
Horford has been linked with the Sixers over the past week after not picking up his player option with the Celtics (see story). He might be Plan B for the Sixers if the team does not re-sign Tobias Harris. As Sixers fans know, Horford is a valuable player who does a lot of things well, including defend Embiid. It would certainly be interesting to see how effective he’d be playing with Embiid. You imagine Brett Brown would try to stagger Horford and Embiid’s minutes to separate the two as much as possible, though Horford’s three-point shooting ability would make playing the pair together tenable. The uncertainty of that fit and the likelihood that the 33-year-old Horford would decline over the course of the lucrative four-year contract he’s reportedly seeking could deter the Sixers.
Unless they sign Horford, the Sixers would be looking for a backup center who can start 15-20 games a season in Embiid’s place and play 15 or so good minutes most nights. It’s not difficult to envision Dedmon, a Process era Sixer (for 11 games in the 2013-14 season), filling that job well. Dedmon has averaged 10.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and one block per game over the past two seasons for the Hawks. He’s gone from taking one three-point shot over his first 224 NBA games to being a legitimate threat from long range (38.2 percent on 3.4 attempts per game in 2018-19). For the Sixers, the 7-footer’s ability to run the floor would also be appealing.
A beloved teammate, the 30-year-old Davis had the most rebounds of any bench player last season and was 17th in the NBA in rebounding despite playing just 17.9 minutes per game. He brings reliable energy and professionalism.
The word "heroic" probably gets thrown around far too often in sports, but Looney’s playing through a costal cartilage fracture in the NBA Finals might merit the term — he gritted through what was obviously intense pain. At 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, Looney is a shade undersized for a traditional center, though he’s adept at handling switching and is well suited for small-ball lineups. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr called Looney “one of our foundational pieces.”
The Magic extended a qualifying offer to Birch, meaning he’ll become a restricted free agent Sunday at 6 p.m. The 26-year-old Birch, who posted 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game for Orlando in 2018-19, is a player who might be worth considering for the Sixers. He had strong advanced defensive statistics (102.7 defensive rating, plus-2.3 defensive box plus-minus) and didn’t have issues with turnovers or fouls, both of which were occasional problems for Jonah Bolden as a rookie.
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