justin anderson

Sixers complete trade for Mike Muscala, sign Jonah Bolden

Sixers complete trade for Mike Muscala, sign Jonah Bolden

For a team without a full-time GM, the Sixers have been awfully busy.

The team on Wednesday announced the trade for Hawks big man Mike Muscala and the signing of 2016 second-round pick Jonah Bolden. As part of a three-team deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to Atlanta, the Sixers sent swingmen Justin Anderson to the Hawks and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Thunder.

In Muscala, the Sixers get a stretch big that can help mitigate Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica backing out of his agreement to sign with the team. A five-year veteran out of Bucknell, Muscala has shot 38 percent from three in 243 NBA games.

“Mike Muscala joins our program at a fantastic stage of his career,” head coach and interim GM Brett Brown said in a statement. “He has enjoyed some NBA success and his upside in the future is extremely bright. 

“We will use him both as a backup five and, at times, a power forward. His ability to shoot the ball and the energy with which he plays will help our basketball team.”

Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot are first-round picks — Anderson by the Mavericks, Luwawu-Cabarrot by the Sixers — that haven’t quite panned out. 

Anderson, acquired in the Nerlens Noel trade, has provided physical defense but has been inconsistent with his jumper. Luwawu-Cabarrot flashed at the end of his rookie season but struggled with injuries and inconsistency as well last season.

With the Sixers, Anderson averaged just 16.7 minutes, scoring 7.1 points a game in 62 games. Luwawu-Cabarrot played in 121 games with the team but averaged just 6.1 points in 16.5 minutes per contest.

“We thank both Timmy Luwawu and Justin Anderson for their contributions in growing the 76ers strong culture,” Brown said. “They are fantastic people, extremely dedicated NBA players and will be missed. I believe their new situations will afford them the opportunity to find themselves and give them every chance to stay and grow in the NBA.”

Brown and company have always preached patience but were obviously ready to cut ties with two young players in Anderson (24) and Luwawu-Cabarrot (23).

The Sixers have been patient with Bolden since they drafted the Australian in 2017. The 22-year-old spent a season at UCLA before opting to play overseas. The Sixers stashed Bolden this past season with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. 

Bolden’s shot hasn’t come along like maybe the team had hoped, but he’s impressed by being an active and versatile defender.

“We have been following Jonah Bolden for a while and are very excited to bring him into our program as a young, up-and-coming prospect,” Brown said. “He experienced positive growth and development last season at Maccabi Tel Aviv, a team led by Neven Spahija, who is a friend of our program and an excellent coach. 

“Jonah’s style of play is that of a modern-day player and we’re thrilled to grow our team with him.”

There may be more moves coming with Jerryd Bayless still on the roster. The Sixers are likely to buyout or stretch his deal if they’re unable to trade him.

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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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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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