5 centers the Sixers should target in free agency

5 centers the Sixers should target in free agency

The Sixers have their starting center in Joel Embiid. In fact, they already have another two centers in Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes. That frontcourt logjam hasn’t gone away since the trade of Nerlens Noel. 

Still, there will be centers (and forward-centers) on the free-agent market who can help the Sixers for an array of reasons. 

Nene knows what it takes to last in the NBA. He and Mike Dunleavy have the longest tenures of the 2002 draft class. 

Nene, 34, doesn’t need to be in the spotlight at this stage in his career. Last season, he came off the bench in 59 of his 67 games as the Rockets started younger centers. 

He averaged 9.1 points (career-high 61.5 percent from the field) and 4.2 rebounds. He bumped up those numbers in the postseason to 10.0 points (70.6 percent from the field) and 4.7 boards.

Aron Baynes
Just like the case for Patty Mills (see story), the Brett Brown connection continues with Baynes. Brown coached Baynes in Australia and with the Spurs. 

Since his three years in San Antonio, Baynes played the past two seasons with the Pistons. He declined his player option to become a free agent this summer.

Baynes, 30, averaged 4.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game last season. He was reliable, appearing in 75 games, and came off the bench in all but two. Baynes would be a veteran option to back up Embiid (or be a backup to the backup). 

Kelly Olynyk (restricted)
Embiid likes to joke about his desire to play point guard one day. Olynyk did just that until he hit a growth spurt in high school. The seven-footer has a combination of backcourt and frontcourt skills that can spread the floor. 

Olynyk is coming off a postseason run with the Celtics in which he scored 26 points in the deciding game of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Wizards. He averaged 9.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in his fourth season. 

Olynyk, 26, is not hesitant to pull up for a three. He shot 35.4 percent from long range on 192 attempts during the regular season. 

Mike Muscala
Like Olynyk, Muscala fits into the Sixers’ search for versatility. At 6-foot-11, 240 pounds, he can play the four and the five while stretching the offense.  

Last season, Muscala shot a career-best 41.8 percent (46 for 110) from three-point range. He averaged 6.2 points (50.4 percent from the field) and 3.4 rebounds.

Muscala, 25, has been a role player his entire four-year career with the Hawks and would be comfortable as a reserve. He played 70 games last season, starting just three. 

Zaza Pachulia
Would Pachulia leave the opportunity of defending a title for a younger team vying for a postseason berth?

Pachulia brings both veteran know-how and championship-winning experience. He is a traditional big man (he has attempted just 26 threes in 14 seasons) and posted 6.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in his 14th season. 

Pachulia, 33, could be a go-to for Dario Saric like Ersan Ilyasova was last season. Pachulia has seen Saric play overseas and is familiar with the development of his game. 

"You could see he was a young, talented kid, smart," Pachulia said of Saric last season.  

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

After a relatively quiet offseason, the Sixers’ roster has suddenly turned into musical chairs over the past few days.

In are Mike Muscala and Jonah Bolden. Out are Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Richaun Holmes.

Not exactly earth-shattering moves, but moves nonetheless.

Of course, all of those changes were directed at the Sixers’ bench. That’s because the team already has one of the best starting rotations in the entire NBA. The Sixers’ five-man combination of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid was plus-21.4 points per 100 possessions in 600 minutes of action together last season.

The reserves were a different story. The Sixers’ bench was among the league’s worst scoring-wise in 2017-18 before buyout veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova pumped life into the group. With that duo on the squad, the Sixers posted a 20-3 record to close out the regular season and made quick work of the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Those results changed against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Sixers’ bench was exposed defensively and smothered on offense in the five-game series.

“I’ve said on record, and I’ll say it again, I believe that anything that kind of matters, you’re probably going to bump into the Celtics,” Brett Brown said during the Sixers’ exit interviews. “So they’re always going to be sort of on our mind in relation to how do you compete with them?”

Competing with the Celtics and beating them are two very different things.

Did the Sixers’ tinkering with their bench put them any closer to knocking off their longtime rival? That’s a tough one to answer right now.

Despite shipping away Anderson, Luwawu-Cabarrot and Holmes, you can argue that the Sixers’ second unit will still be more athletic next season. A fully healthy Markelle Fultz will likely start out as the sixth man, and we know he’s got some incredible bounce to his game. Zhaire Smith already gave a glimpse of what type of athlete he is during summer league. And while 31 years old, Wilson Chandler can still rise up to throw it down.

Defensively is where that athleticism should really shine for the latter two. The rookie Smith has continually said defense is his best skill as he was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team during his lone season at Texas Tech. Chandler possesses the ability to defend both forward spots and takes pride on that end of the floor.

Meanwhile, Muscala and Bolden aren't anywhere near leapers of Holmes' caliber. However, they are still bigger bodies that have the ability to move their feet to keep up with their man. That’s in addition to known hustlers T.J. McConnell and Amir Johnson putting forth their maximum effort guarding opponents.

But is that enough when a healthy Celtics team gets its projected roster back and rolls out a reserve lineup of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes?

If the Sixers are unable to contain Boston’s talented starters and deep reserve blend, they might really run into problems trying to keep pace with offense of their own now that they lack a serious three-point threat outside of Redick. Belinelli and Ilyasova, who both departed moments into free agency, gave the team a one-two punch off the bench that could drain shots from anywhere. Now the only serviceable shooter in a backup role is the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Muscala (a career 37.8 percent shooter from long range). Kyle Korver, anyone?

The bench reset was necessary if the Sixers planned on getting to the next level. Is it enough to put them on the same level as the Celtics or will they remain green with envy?

We’ll see.

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Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

The Sixers are not quite done making moves this offseason.

The team on Friday sent big man Richaun Holmes to the Suns for cash considerations. The Sixers also signed 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden to a four-year deal, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the trade and Bolden's signing.

With these moves, the Sixers’ roster remains at 15 players, but that could change if the team finds a way to rid themselves of Jerryd Bayless’ contract — say, in a trade with Cleveland (see story).

The writing has been on the wall for Holmes. Now entering his fourth year, the 2015 second-round pick struggled to find a role in Brett Brown’s rotation last season with a healthy Joel Embiid and veteran Amir Johnson in the fold. While he offered energy, athleticism and weakside rim protection off the bench, Holmes lacked discipline defensively, something Brown hasn’t tolerated during his tenure.

Bolden will essentially take Holmes’ spot on the roster as a developmental big. With quicker feet defensively, Bolden has more versatility to guard fours. While his summer league performance was underwhelming offensively, Bolden did impress defensively, especially against No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. It’s important to note that the third and fourth years of Bolden’s deal are not guaranteed, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Drafted by the Sixers out of Bowling Green State, Holmes flashed at times but was only able to get into 48 games this season, averaging 15.5 minutes a contest. He averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 156 career games with the Sixers.

A native Australian, Bolden attended UCLA for one year before heading overseas to play for FMP Beograd of the Adriatic League. As a draft and stash this past season, Bolden played for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and tested his skills in the EuroLeague. He averaged 7.2 points and six rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game. He’s shown flashes of a jump shot but shot just 31 percent from three this season abroad and 24 percent in summer league action.

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