Eric Mullin

Give and Go: Which Sixers rookie will have the best season?

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Give and Go: Which Sixers rookie will have the best season?

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 Eric Mullin give their predictions on which Sixers rookie will have the best season.

While I’m not necessarily counting on any member of this Sixers rookie class making a major impact, each player possesses what the team desires in first-year players: potential and versatility.

That’s particularly the case for 2018 first-rounder Zhaire Smith and 2017 second-round selection Jonah Bolden given their defensive prowess. Both players should be able to earn time in the rotation thanks to their strong play on D even as they seek to find their offensive games.

But with Smith coming off a fractured foot and plenty of available minutes in the frontcourt, Bolden is the guy.

The Australian product proved his defense is already one of his best assets over the past two summers with the Sixers. During the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas in July, Bolden averaged 1.5 steals and 1.0 block over six games. More important than the numbers, he looked the part of NBA defender, even helping put the clamps on No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton.

Bolden also has the advantage of being more mature at 22 years old and previously competing against grown men overseas in Serbia and Israel. 

If his offense — mainly his three-point shot — ever reaches a consistent level, Bolden could be a serious dual threat for the Sixers. But for now, the team will settle for a reserve big man that can hold his own defensively and chip in the occasional bucket.

If Smith hadn’t fractured his foot, I think he’d be the easy answer here. But since it's usually not that simple with Sixers rookies and their health, let’s run through the three other choices.

The team’s other first-round pick, Landry Shamet, should have value as a floor spacer and shooter, but there are questions as to whether he can affect the game at all off the dribble or hold his own defensively.

Shake Milton has good size on the wing at 6-6 and shot over 42 percent from deep on a high volume of attempts at SMU. Though it’s tough to expect much from a late second-round pick who signed a two-way deal and will likely spend most of his time in Delaware this season.

Then there’s draft-and-stash Bolden, who had a summer league to forget before signing with the Sixers. Bolden has some intriguing tools and the optimistic projection for him is to be a rangy, three-and-D big, but he has to improve his consistency for that potential to be actualized.

The big question here is if any of these players will be able to crack Brett Brown’s regular rotation. Just going down the roster, there’s at least 10 players that will almost certainly get minutes to start the season (last season’s starting five, Markelle Fultz, Wilson Chandler, T.J. McConnell, Amir Johnson, Mike Muscala). And Furkan Korkmaz is lurking right behind. So unless a rookie(s) really pops early, it’s going to be tough to get consistent minutes.

Since Smith hasn’t been ruled out for the season (if he was it’d be a toss-up between Shamet and Bolden), I’m actually going to go with him and here’s why: He’s the best bet of the rookies to actually play in the playoffs, mainly because of his defensive ability and versatility. This Sixers team has high aspirations. Their most important games of the season are going to be deep in the playoffs. If Smith doesn’t make it back until around the All-Star break, but is the only first-year player to play himself into the playoff rotation, that would still be the best freshman campaign.

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Amir Johnson reportedly finalizing 1-year deal to return to Sixers

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Amir Johnson reportedly finalizing 1-year deal to return to Sixers

One day after adding a wing off the bench by acquiring Wilson Chandler, the Sixers shored up their depth behind Joel Embiid.

Amir Johnson is finalizing a one-year deal to return to the Sixers, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Johnson, 31, re-signed for the veteran's minimum, per Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer, which would mean he will earn $2.39 million next season.

Last offseason, the Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year, $11 million deal. The 13-year veteran would go on to appear in 74 games as Embiid's primary backup in 2017-18, averaging 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game.

Other than Johnson, Richaun Holmes is the only other center option behind Embiid under contract. Though, 2017 draft-and-stash Jonah Bolden, who is expected to join the Sixers in summer league, could come over next season.

If Johnson did indeed sign for the minimum, the Sixers, who are hovering around the salary cap, would still have the room mid-level exception ($4.4 million) at their disposal. Although, Johnson re-signing puts the Sixers at 16 players under contract, and that doesn't include second-rounder Shake Milton or Bolden.

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Sixers reportedly acquire Wilson Chandler, draft considerations from Nuggets

Sixers reportedly acquire Wilson Chandler, draft considerations from Nuggets

The Sixers have made a trade for a wing, but not the one you're thinking of.

The Sixers have acquired Wilson Chandler and future draft considerations from the Denver Nuggets, according to multiple reports.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania was first to report the deal.

Per Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer, the draft considerations the Sixers acquired are a 2021 second-round pick and the rights to swap 2022 second-rounders with the Nuggets, while the only thing the Sixers sent out was minimal cash considerations. 

Chandler, 31, is in the final year of his deal, carrying a salary of $12.8 million that the Sixers will absorb into their cap space. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 10 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31.7 minutes per game with the Nuggets last season, while shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from deep. That came on the heels of a 2016-17 season when he averaged 15.7 points on 46.1 percent shooting from the field, but attempted nearly five more shots per game than last year.

Depending on how much JJ Redick signed for (reported between $12-13 million), the Sixers now have around $1-2 million in cap space. They also have the room mid-level exception ($4.4 million) at their disposal and could create an extra $5.7 million in space if they waive and stretch Jerryd Bayless' expiring $8.5 million salary. 

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