With NBA training camps set to open in a few weeks, the Sixers appear headed for a familiar situation.
For a third straight season, the team could open camp with a high-profile player that doesn’t exactly fit into their plans.
In 2016, it was Nerlens Noel. “I don’t see a way it can work. It’s just a logjam,” he said at the time about the Sixers’ situation at center (see story).
Of course, Noel was right. The big man was eventually traded to the Dallas Mavericks after 29 games and just 19.4 minutes a night during his final stand with the Sixers in 2016-17.
Last season, Jahlil Okafor was the odd man out. The former No. 3 overall pick reported to the Sixers in better shape and with an open mindset, but the organization had already moved on.
“He comes in and his head’s good and his spirit’s good,” Brett Brown said last October (see story). “And he and I talk all the time, but that is the bottom line. He is not in the rotation.”
The #FreeJah movement finally got its wish when Okafor was shipped to the Brooklyn Nets after a measly two appearances for the Sixers in the 2017-18 season.
Now the franchise is staring at yet another training camp conundrum: Jerryd Bayless.
While nowhere near as big a name as the other two players, Bayless’ contract says otherwise. The veteran guard is set to earn $8.5 million in the final year of a three-year, $27 million deal that hasn’t yielded close to the return expected when he signed. That would make him the fifth-highest paid Sixer for the 2018-19 campaign.
That’s a pretty penny for a guy limited to 39 games a season ago, mainly because of the coach’s decision not to play him.
Bayless started out last season in Brown’s mix of reserve guards, but his lack of consistent shooting (41.6 percent from the field) and spotty defense eventually led to him being glued to the bench (see player evaluation). The 30-year-old played in just one game after Feb. 9 — a one-minute, 44-second run in garbage time of the Sixers’ Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics.
Things aren’t likely to change much regarding Bayless’ status for the upcoming slate, which means seeking outside options make the most sense. He had been connected to a trade for Cleveland Cavaliers sharpshooter Kyle Korver earlier this summer, but those rumblings have died down.
That leaves the waive and stretch provision, which would allow the Sixers to part with Bayless and spread his $8,575,916 cap hit for next season over three years. It hasn’t come to that point yet since reaching an agreement on using the “stretch” can be a bit complex, but after seeing the Los Angeles Lakers recently figure out a way to get from under Luol Deng’s massive contract using the method, anything is possible.
“This whole year from an individual standpoint wasn’t the easiest,” Bayless said during exit interviews. “At the same time, when you’re around a group of guys that we had and the success that we had, it made it easier. I’m really grateful that I was able to be a part of this organization this year. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”
We’re all still waiting.