Even with all the speculation and rumors, the overwhelming sense from NBA reporters around the country is that the Sixers will be aggressive in trying to #RunItBack.
But every team needs a Plan B and beyond.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe was on JJ Redick’s podcast and mentioned that he believes the Sixers starting five will be “Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, and Player X who I don’t know. Not Tobias Harris.” It makes sense if you buy into the whispers that Harris would like a bigger role. On several teams, he could be the No. 2 option offensively.
This might help explain the Sixers’ interest in soon-to-be former Celtic Al Horford. Horford declined his player option with Boston and is seeking a longer-term deal. The Sixers’ interest was reported earlier and yet again on Friday. The number that’s been put out there is four years for $112 million. That might be a little steep for a 33-year-old. His fit with the Sixers makes sense as a guy that can play with and back up Joel Embiid and do both at a pretty high level. Either way, Horford’s departure will hurt the Celtics on both ends of the floor.
We’ve mentioned other power forwards the team could target, such as Paul Millsap and Rudy Gay. Millsap is older so he would represent a cheaper option, but an upgrade defensively over Harris. He’s also used to not being a primary option on offense so he should be able to embrace his role here. Gay would be one of the cheaper options as a starting four. He shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three last season, both career highs. While his defense did improve under Gregg Popovich, he’d be a downgrade there.
Even if you’re a Ben Simmons detractor, you have to acknowledge that his versatility on defense gives the team’s starting five plenty of options. Even if Harris walks, the Sixers don’t necessarily have to replace him with a traditional four. They could go after a wing or guard and make it work.
They could look into building a bully defensively and signing defensive maven and known pest Patrick Beverley. Beverley won’t come cheap, but he’d fit in very nicely next to Simmons thanks to his ability to shoot the three at an elite clip.
The wing market is flush with players that could help in the shooting department. Terrence Ross, Danny Green and Reggie Bullock are all starting-caliber players that can shoot the three at a high clip.
While the Sixers’ best option is still likely bringing Harris back, they’ll have options if he walks.
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