76ers

The 5 best signings in Sixers history

The 5 best signings in Sixers history

When researching the best signings in Sixers history, one thing is evident: They haven’t made that many.

The most successful eras of Sixers basketball were mostly made possible with draft picks and trades. You could even make the argument that the top two players on this list weren’t actually signings … but we’re counting them.

After looking at the five worst, today we look at the five best signings in team history.

Honorable mention: Marco Belinelli/Ersan Ilyasova

The 2017-18 Sixers were making a somewhat surprising push behind a second-year Joel Embiid and rookie Ben Simmons. But the team was lacking in bench scoring. All that changed when the team added Belinelli and Ilyasova, two veterans bought out by struggling teams.

Belinelli went on to have arguably the best stretch of his entire career. It was somewhat of a homecoming for Ilyasova, who had success playing with the Sixers the year prior. The duo was a huge part of the team going on a 16-game winning streak to close the season and earning the East’s third seed.

5. Robert Covington

Then-GM Sam Hinkie expressed regret over not signing Covington as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee State. Hinkie’s former boss Daryl Morey scooped him up for the Rockets instead. Houston waived Covington in October of 2014 and Hinkie pounced.

Say what you want about Covington, but from a pure value standpoint, this was a tremendous signing. Covington went on to earn First Team All-Defensive honors in 2017-18 and helped the team earn its first 50-win season since 2000-01. He was part of the trade that landed the Sixers Jimmy Butler.

4. JJ Redick

In the previous offseason, Bryan Colangelo unsuccessfully tried to use the Sixers’ expansive cap space to land a veteran free agent. At that point, Embiid had yet to play a game and Simmons had just been drafted. After the league saw 31 games from Embiid and knew Simmons would be coming back healthy, the Sixers would have better luck.

Brett Brown sold Redick on the idea of playing with Embiid. It wasn’t just talk. The two-man game between the dominant center and sharpshooter was lethal. Redick had his two best NBA scoring seasons with the Sixers, averaging 17.6 points a game. In just two seasons, he made the sixth-most threes in franchise history at the fourth-highest percentage (40.7).

3. Steve Mix

Many of us grew up listening to “The Mayor” Steve Mix as the analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff. Before that, Mix had a winding 13-year NBA career. Drafted by the Pistons in the fifth round in 1969, Mix spent parts of three seasons in the NBA and played one game in the ABA. After he failed to make the Sixers out of training camp in 1972, he dominated in the Continental Basketball League.

After that run, the Sixers signed him for the 1973-74 campaign. He went on to play nine seasons in Philly, becoming an All-Star in 1974-75. While Mix played on some excellent Sixers teams, he was unfortunately on the other bench with the Lakers when his former team won it all in 1982-83. Mix is 12th all-time in franchise history in win shares.

2. George McGinnis

McGinnis’ story is a little complex and even got a little ugly at one point. The big man was drafted by the Sixers in the second round in 1973. McGinnis, who left school in 1971 to play professionally, was already an All-Star in the ABA. His first choice was to play in New York and the Knicks signed him to a deal against the league’s rules. After commissioner Larry O’Brien disapproved the contract, McGinnis signed with the Sixers as a “free agent.”

McGinnis made two All-Stars teams with the Sixers and averaged 21.6 points and 11.5 rebounds a game in three seasons. He helped the Sixers regain respectability in the late 1970s. He was also a part of the trade for Bobby Jones, who became an integral defensive piece for the Sixers.

1. Julius Erving

We can quibble over whether Erving was a “signing,” but the reality is the Sixers were the highest bidders for Dr. J’s services in 1976. The ABA-NBA merger had left the Nets in a bad place financially. The transaction doesn’t say Erving was “traded,” rather he was “sold” to the Sixers. We’re counting it.

The rest of the story doesn’t take much explaining. Erving was an 11-time All-Star, the 1981 NBA MVP and won the franchise’s last championship in 1983. Erving is arguably the greatest Sixer of all time.

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How to watch Sixers at Rockets: Storylines, live stream, game time and more

How to watch Sixers at Rockets: Storylines, live stream, game time and more

For the first time since the 2011-12 lockout year, the Sixers will play fewer than 82 games in a “regular” season. Their 73rd and final game before the postseason is Friday night against the Rockets.

Joel Embiid (left ankle soreness) and Glenn Robinson III (left hip pointer) are questionable, and Russell Westbrook is out for Houston with a right quad strain. 

Here are the essentials:

When: 9 p.m. with Sixers Pregame Live at 8
Where: AdventHealth Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

All about Monday 

Health and “spirit” are the two things Brett Brown has consistently said he hoped the Sixers would have intact for the postseason. The team’s health is significantly compromised with Ben Simmons out after undergoing surgery on his left knee, which is probably more important than an intangible quality like spirit. That said, the Sixers’ morale doesn’t seem too bad given the circumstances. There’s been a little time for everyone to wrap their head around Simmons’ injury and what it means, and the starting lineup enjoyed cheering on the reserves in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors.

The Sixers’ first-round series vs. the Celtics begins Monday night (see series schedule). It sounds simple enough … but just get to tip-off of Game 1 with the healthiest version of the current team. 

Is hot outside shooting sustainable? 

Before the NBA’s hiatus, the Sixers were shooting 36.2 percent from three-point range. They’re at 40.6 percent in Disney World, and Joel Embiid and Shake Milton are the only rotation players below their season averages from long range. 

That large of an increase is likely attributable to a small sample size, at least in part, but it does seem that players like Al Horford, Furkan Korkmaz and Alec Burks are comfortable and shooting with confidence. Perhaps it will carry over to the playoffs. 

Small-ball prep 

The Rockets will finish either No. 4 or No. 5 in the Western Conference, a distinction that means very little when there are no true home games. It would therefore be unsurprising if minutes were limited for Houston’s key players. 

One thing that will be interesting to watch regardless is how the Sixers will handle a team without a conventional center. Houston is an extreme practitioner of small ball, but the Sixers’ top lineups will generally be larger than the Celtics’. Horford’s perimeter defense will be tested by Boston.

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NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

The Sixers haven't even started the playoffs, but a potential offseason storyline is already bubbling up.

Kings guard Buddy Hield has been long tied to the Sixers as a potential trade target, from insider chatter to fan speculation, to his accidental (?) fueling of those rumors when he liked an Instagram post earlier this year with a hypothetical trade moving him to Philly.

So when the Kings' season ended Thursday, and Hield was asked if he's comfortable with his role off the bench in Sacramento heading into next season, his answer raised some eyebrows.

Including, I'd imagine, some in Philadelphia.

Here's what Hield had to say:

[Hield] provided a series of short answers during a Zoom session with reporters and offered a cryptic response when asked if he could be content with his role going into next season.

"Y'all know me," Hield said. "Y'all know how I talk. Y'all know how I feel. Y'all can read me well, so I'll let y'all answer that yourselves."

Pretty spicy. That doesn't sound like someone who wants to stay where he is!

Hield signed a four-year extension with Sacramento last October, but the Kings regressed in their first year under head coach Luke Walton, and The Athletic reported in February that Hield, unhappy with his role, might be eyeing a move elsewhere.

It doesn't sound like Hield's concerns about his role have changed much since then. If he's unhappy, he could theoretically ask for a trade - or Sacramento could pre-emptively try to get something for the still-young shooter.

I examined the potential fit back in April, including the hypothetical Hield-for-Horford deal from that fateful Instagram post:

In terms of contract length and salary hit, the Hield and Horford deals are strikingly similar, and Hield's game would be an instant improvement for the Sixers' offensive spacing: he's a two-guard who shoots a career 41.1 percent from deep, and can create his own shot. Plus, he's substantially younger than Horford.

Will the move happen? If the Kings deem their relationship with Hield unfixable, it's possible. Horford hasn't fit well in Philly, but he's still a savvy veteran with a good track record. And Hield would certainly check the boxes for the Sixers' front office.

Hield shot 39% from deep this year on 9.5 (!) three-point attempts per game, is a career 41% three-point shooter over 315 games, and would be a perfect match for the Sixers. 

We'll see.

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