76ers

Sixers have questions with possible extensions looming for Embiid, Covington

Sixers have questions with possible extensions looming for Embiid, Covington

CAMDEN, N.J. — The front offices of professional sports teams are always dealing with a delicate balance of competing in the present and positioning for a successful future.

The Sixers are no different.

As the team officially tips off training camp on Tuesday for what it hopes to be its most successful season in years, there are still some serious question marks about the future of the roster.

The biggest one surrounds center Joel Embiid. Embiid is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. Embiid and the Sixers have until Oct. 16 to reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension. If the two sides can’t strike a deal, the big man will become a restricted free agent next summer.

Embiid, who is currently still rehabbing from surgery for a torn meniscus, finally burst onto the scene last season by averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. However, he knows that by being limited to just 31 games during his career and with the team holding all the cards regarding his immediate future, he isn’t in a position of power during any contract negotiations.

“At the end of the day, I don’t have the leverage," Embiid said. "I’m going into my fourth season and I’m going to be a restricted free agent, so there’s no leverage, they can do whatever they want. There’s been discussions about it. Hopefully, something does work out” (see story).

Embiid isn’t alone. Robert Covington, also coming off both a breakout season and meniscus surgery, is in a similar situation.

The Sixers picked up the fourth-year, $1.57 million option on Covington’s contract in June. That’s a steal considering Covington finished fourth in the NBA in Defensive Player of the Year voting while scoring 12.9 points a night.

The Sixers can't sign Covington to an extension until Nov. 15, the three-year anniversary of when they originally signed him.

“We’ve definitely been in talks and everything,” said Covington, who this offseason reportedly switched agents to the powerful CAA Sports. “Both sides are very open to what is going on. It’s just a matter of the right move that’s to be made. Bryan is playing chess right now with the pieces that he’s adding. Now it’s just making sure that everything stays the way that he pictures.”

Then there’s the curious case of Jahlil Okafor. In just two seasons with the team, the center has witnessed his name in just about every trade rumor imaginable. Okafor, who recorded 11.8 points and 4.8 boards a game in a reserve role a season ago, was apparently so close to being dealt at last February’s deadline that he was held out of two games only to rejoin the Sixers.

Team president Bryan Colangelo would never rule anything out in regards to shipping Okafor, but at the moment all plans are for the big man to remain a Sixer.

“There’s no problem between us and Jahlil right now,” Colangelo said. “If he had his druthers would he be with another club? I can’t answer that question, but I think that he’s happy being here. He’s been treated well. The coaches coach him like they coach every other athlete. 

“Again, any discussion about things that are out there — whether or not he’s been traded or not, whether or not he’s being shopped or not — I can say I have not actively been shopping Jahlil Okafor. … But the narrative is he’s here, he’s going to be an active participant in the things that we’re doing preparing for this season and he’s a part of this basketball team until he’s not.”

While things are a very murky with Okafor, the writing appears to be on the wall for Nik Stauskas as he enters the fourth year of his rookie deal. 

The team specifically targeted scoring from the off-guard position over the summer (drafting Markelle Fultz to play alongside Ben Simmons in the backcourt, signing JJ Redick in free agency and bringing Furkan Korkmaz from overseas). With Justin Anderson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also expected to vie for time at shooting guard, Stauskas’ future in Philadelphia doesn’t exactly seem bright.

“Not at all, no,” Stauskas sternly responded when asked whether his contract status was on his mind heading into the new season.

Injuries too much for Sixers to overlook Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot inconsistency

Injuries too much for Sixers to overlook Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot inconsistency

The Sixers have proven to have extraordinary patience with injuries. They’ve recently stood by as Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz missed chunks or even full seasons.

That’s fine if you’re a top-tier lottery pick expected to be a building block for the franchise. But those same assurances aren’t often afforded to role players.

Hence why reserves Justin Anderson (Atlanta Hawks) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (Oklahoma City Thunder) were shipped away as part of an agreement on a three-team trade Thursday.

Sure, the deal delivered the Sixers a stretch big they were looking for in Mike Muscala and cleared up some of the roster logjam.

But the best ability is availability and Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot simply weren’t available enough last season to justify giving them another shot.

Anderson, who was acquired by the Sixers at the 2017 trade deadline in the Nerlens Noel deal, was hit particularly hard by the injury bug last season. The 24-year-old was limited to 38 regular-season games in 2017-18 because of shin and ankle injuries. Anderson later ended up undergoing surgery for tibial stress syndrome in his left leg last month.

When he was on the court, Anderson wasn’t consistent enough to warrant nightly playing time. His averages were down virtually across the board as the wing was limited to just 13.7 minutes a night, and his 33.0 three-point percentage, while improved, remained below league average.

“Does he fit how we want to play? Can he play fast? Can he make a shot? Does he have a toughness?” Brown asked rhetorically about Anderson when the Sixers first acquired him. “Defense, pace and space. From time to time he shows, yes he can, in all three of those categories.”

But those times were few and far between.

The same thing goes for Luwawu-Cabarrot. The French-born guard looked destined for big things within the organization when he finished his 2016-17 rookie season by averaging 18.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists over the final month.

That level of production proved to be just one of several glimpses for Luwawu-Cabarrot as patellar tendinitis continually held him back. The knee pain popped up again for him during summer league last year and lingered into training camp, which put him behind the eight ball. 

Luwawu-Cabarrot ended up playing in only 52 games as he drifted further and further out of the rotation to the point in which he was inactive on most nights toward the end of the season. He finished with an average of 6.1 points in 15.5 minutes a night on 37.5 percent shooting from the field and 33.5 from three-point range.

“We shut me down like maybe two months ago, and I feel really good right now,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said during his exit interview.

The right now factor is key. There weren’t enough times when the 23-year-old felt good enough to display the burst that made the Sixers use the No. 24 pick on him in 2016.

With both Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot dealing with separate injuries, the up-and-coming Sixers knew they needed to address their bench. That’s why the team aggressively targeted Marco Belinelli on the buyout market and the veteran guard was able to instantly slide into a sixth-man role for the squad.

The Sixers weren’t about to wait for the duo to get things together then and Thursday’s trade shows they’re not about to wait now.

Not for players of this caliber, anyway.

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Source: Sixers will acquire Mike Muscala, send away Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson in 3-team trade

Source: Sixers will acquire Mike Muscala, send away Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson in 3-team trade

The Sixers were involved in a trade with Carmelo Anthony.

Exhale, Sixers fans, Anthony is not coming here. Instead, Anthony is being shipped to the Hawks — who will likely waive the veteran forward — with a 2022 protected first-round pick for point guard Dennis Schroder, according to a report Thursday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Sixers in turn will send Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Thunder and Justin Anderson to the Hawks to acquire Atlanta’s Mike Muscala, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the Sixers' side of the deal.

The move makes sense for the Sixers on a couple fronts. After missing out on Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica, who reportedly agreed to a deal with the team and then backed out, Brett Brown gets a player with a similar skill set in Muscala. The former Bucknell star has great size (6-foot-11, 240 pounds) and the ability to shoot (37.8 percent from three for his career).

It also makes sense from a roster standpoint. The team had a bit of a logjam on the wing and had 16 players for 15 roster spots. By losing two players and getting only one back, the Sixers are now at 15 players under contract. That also includes Jerryd Bayless, who will likely be bought out or stretched, but does not include 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden or 2018 second-round pick Shake Milton.

Muscala had a career year for the lowly Hawks. He averaged 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes a game — all career marks. He also hit 37.1 percent of his threes on 3.2 attempts. A second-round pick by the Mavericks in 2013, Muscala has spent all five of his NBA seasons in Atlanta.

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