Each day leading up to Sept. 21, the official start of Sixers training camp, we'll dissect the biggest storylines facing the team ahead of the 2018-19 season.
In today’s Give and Go, Matt Haughton and Noah Levick dissect which newcomer to the team will have the biggest impact.
Everything in me says this will easily be Wilson Chandler. He’s been in the league for a decade and has been a proven contributor at every stop throughout his career.
However, the enormous opportunity awaiting Mike Muscala could set him up to be the most important new face on the Sixers’ roster.
Ersan Ilyasova was a key piece of the team last season once he came aboard following a buyout, but the veteran and his 24.1 minutes per night bolted back to Milwaukee at the start of free agency. Also, while the traded Richaun Holmes was used sparingly, he still managed to see action in 48 games with an average of 15.5 minutes in those contests.
That leaves a boatload of playing time on the table for Muscala behind Joel Embiid and Dario Saric in the Sixers’ frontcourt. His only competition is 31-year-old Amir Johnson, who saw 15.8 minutes per game a season ago, and rookie Jonah Bolden.
Muscala’s ability to bang in the paint and still stretch the floor (his career 37.8 three-point percentage is actually slightly higher than Ilyasova’s 36.6) should make him a favorite off the bench for Brett Brown.
Unless Brown makes a bold, surprising shakeup and decides to insert a transformed Markelle Fultz into the starting lineup, the Sixers’ starters should be the same as last season. That means the newcomers will need to make their impact off the bench.
Chandler should have the most important role to play of the new additions. Yes, Muscala’s floor-stretching abilities should help the Sixers replace the perimeter shooting they lost in Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli. And yes, Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet and Bolden could all contribute at some stage. But I expect Chandler to have more responsibility than any of those players.
Chandler, who hasn’t played fewer than 25.1 minutes per game since his rookie year, will probably begin the season as the sixth or seventh man. Expect Brown to use him both as a traditional three and as a power forward in smaller lineups. While he doesn’t have any standout skill, Chandler should be a solid all-around anchor for the second unit. And though his defensive numbers aren’t the best (111 career defensive rating), his defense on the wing should be an upgrade over Belinelli’s.
There are a few signs that suggest Chandler will be a decent fit in Philadelphia, one being how well he played alongside a skilled, playmaking big man last season in Denver. Fifty-eight of his 281 field goals were assisted by Nikola Jokic, and the two had a 3.4 net rating when they shared the floor. Those numbers hint at Chandler and Joel Embiid possibly being an effective pairing.