NBA Draft

Sixers mailbag: Realistic backup centers, shift in draft philosophy and more

Sixers mailbag: Realistic backup centers, shift in draft philosophy and more

Hopefully you’re winding down this Memorial Day Weekend, but we still have another round of Sixers mailbag questions to get to while you sit back and relax.

The second part of our mailbag is about the backup center position, the team’s priorities in the draft and the strategy if Tobias Harris walks.

Let’s get right into your questions.

It was clear the backup center position was a glaring need this postseason. The Sixers had options, but none of them were good enough. If Brett Brown had better ones, perhaps the Sixers would be the team that’s a game away from the NBA Finals.

I imagine Elton Brand will give Brown more ammo at the five next season. The free-agent market isn’t littered with guys, but there are certainly players that would seem like an upgrade. Former Process Sixer Dewayne Dedmon will likely get paid to be a starter somewhere, but he’d be a nice fit here. Maybe DeAndre Jordan or Robin Lopez if their demand goes down. JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler are out there, but they seem like West Coast guys. Nerlens Noel … not sure we’re there yet.

More likely you’re looking at someone like Kyle O’Quinn. O’Quinn is tough, smart and moves better than any of the veteran bigs the Sixers had this season. It’s not a sexy signing, but it could be a practical one. I’d also expect Brand to target the position in the draft. Arkansas' Daniel Gafford, Georgia's Nic Claxton, Maryland's Bruno Fernando and Florida State's Mfiondu Kabengele are guys to watch at No. 24 and beyond.

These questions are similar enough so we’ll tackle them both with one response.

Brand said during his end-of-season press conference that the team could be looking for older players and that it would prioritize defense and shooting. There will be guys who fit that description at No. 24 and Edwards might be one of them. He can score in a variety of ways as he showed in the NCAA Tournament. So, too, could North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson. Tennessee's Admiral Schofield and Washington's Matisse Thybulle could also fit that bill along with any of the bigs mentioned above.

But that’s not to say the Sixers will pass on a player simply because of age. If a player like Kentucky’s Tyler Herro is around at 24, Brand would be wise to take a look. Herro can really shoot it and isn’t a stiff on defense.

I’m answering this question as if you’re thinking Jimmy Butler will be back — not a foregone conclusion — and the Sixers will be pushed into the luxury tax by signing Harris. There really is no one player you’d be looking for to replace Harris. With the money you’d have, it’d be difficult to target a star-caliber player. More likely you’re looking to improve your depth. Really, the same can be said if you lose Butler and retain Harris.

If you’re looking for a starting four, Rudy Gay would make some sense. Gay shot a career-high 40 percent from three and played defense for maybe the first time in his entire career. It could also allow you to sign a backup point guard like Corey Joseph or a veteran wing like Terrence Ross.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Backup center near top of list for Sixers in NBA free agency, NBA draft

Backup center near top of list for Sixers in NBA free agency, NBA draft

The starting five was not the problem for the Sixers in their second-round loss to the Raptors. Their top two reserves, James Ennis and Mike Scott, were also strong.

The biggest issue was backup center … and it’s not even close. 

As we approach the draft and free agency, figuring out the situation around Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris is the priority. After that, finding a capable backup big is the most pressing need for GM Elton Brand.

“Definitely [backup center is] one of the priorities outside of free agency with the top guys,” Brand said at the team’s practice facility last Tuesday,” but I look forward to being the GM for the first time entering free agency to address certain needs of a backup center, certain depth, certain pieces that I feel needs to be in place.”

Joel Embiid wasn’t himself throughout the playoffs, but his impact was unmistakable. The Sixers were a plus-90 with Embiid on the floor in the Toronto series and minus-111 without him. In Game 7 alone, the Sixers were outscored by 12 points in the 2:49 Embiid was on the bench. 

The team certainly didn’t lack options. Greg Monroe, Boban Marjanovic, Amir Johnson and Jonah Bolden weren’t good enough. The three veterans just didn’t have the necessary athleticism and feet to hang in the series. Bolden’s inexperience showed up and discipline continued to be an issue.

So why didn’t the Sixers target that position sooner? Brand pointed out this will be his first real offseason as GM. While the role behind Embiid may not be what a free-agent center is looking for, Brand is confident he can convince players to come here.

Bolden will likely be the only one of aforementioned guys back next season. It’ll be up to Brand to find a capable five behind the team’s “crown jewel.”

“I had a voice and I didn’t speak up loud enough I guess, but there’s definitely some ways that we can sell Philadelphia,” Brand said. “We’re a destination team right now, we’re a destination city. Players want to be here. So if I say, ‘Hey, there’s going to be X amount of minutes for you, we’re going to have a deep playoff run,’ I’m confident we can get some talent in that backup center.”

Brand will scour the free-agent market for a veteran big. It’s likely not something he can address early. Butler and Harris will dictate what happens with the Sixers’ offseason. If they’re able to sign both, it could make filling out the bench a little trickier, but certainly not impossible. 

Brand will be able to use the mid-level exception, the amount of which we’ll find out later this offseason. He also has two trade exceptions ($2,339,880 from Markelle Fultz, $957,480 from Dario Saric) if he can swing a deal where the salaries don't match. Still, depending on what the Butler and Harris deals look like along with a possible Ben Simmons rookie max extension, Brand will have his work cut out for him in building his bench.

Former Process Sixer Dewayne Dedmon will be out there, though he may be out of the team’s price range. There are also players like Tyson Chandler and JaVale McGee, though both players seem to prefer the West. Nerlens Noel would be a perfect fit on the floor, but that doesn’t seem likely. Going down the list, Kyle O’Quinn could give you something for a few minutes a night.

But the Sixers could also use an infusion of youth. The draft isn’t exactly flush with centers, but there are a few options. Daniel Gafford from Arkansas is a super athletic rim-running center that could provide energy and toughness. Nic Claxton of Georgia and Bruno Fernando out of Maryland are long, offensively skilled and also athletic. Mfiondu Kabengele from Florida State is another big to keep your eye on. 

All of these players will likely be available at pick No. 24 or with one of the Sixers’ four second-round picks. And all four players to an extent fit what Brand said he was looking in this year’s draft.

“Where we are in our trajectory, we need players that can play, players that can add to our team now,” Brand said. “We’re looking for maybe older players. For sure, defensive minded players and we always place a premium on shooting. But defensive-oriented players that can contribute now, we may look at, I don’t want to tip my hand too much, but that may be something we’re looking at.”

Through the draft and free agency, Brand will have to give Brett Brown more options to back up the team’s best player.

And those options need be a whole lot better than they were this season.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sacramento Kings troll the Sixers on social media after NBA draft lottery results

Sacramento Kings troll the Sixers on social media after NBA draft lottery results

Ouch.

Other than the fact that we have to see this play again, this is an A+ troll from the Sacramento Kings' social media team.

However, the Sixers fired right back, since the Kings haven't been in the playoffs since the 2005-06 season

The Sixers had a 1 percent chance to get the No. 1 pick in tonight’s NBA draft lottery and the only way the Kings' pick turned into a pick from Philly is if that slim chance happened.

It didn’t, so the Boston Celtics will pick at No. 14.

The Sixers and Kings have had a history on social media, though.

There was this gem, which the Sixers waited months to tweet back in 2017 after the Kings made fun of the Sixers for the game that was postponed because of a slick court.

There’s also this, the Kings using the Sixers' GIF against them.

We’re here for a little social media fun, this round goes to the Kings.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers