Sixers Mailbag: Off-Season Targets, Maxey Ceiling
Who can the Sixers get with the mid-level exception?
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
With the Sixers’ season being over, it’s time for us to dig into some offseason content. We’ll get to the ultra-nerdy content that I bring every summer, but before any of that I wanted to answer your questions. So, for the first time this offseason, let’s get to a Twitter mailbag.
@impulse020 asks: Top three role players not on the Sixers you would love to have on the team next year?
We’re going to get to free agent options later on, so here I am strictly going to focus on possible trade targets that could help fill in the gaps that exist on this roster.
The most obvious hole for the Sixers to satisfy right now is the backup center position. So, how about Kelly Olynyk of the Detroit Pistons? Olynyk is a legitimate stretch five who adds sprinkles of playmaking as an excellent passer for the position.
Olynyk missed much of last season on a Detroit team that quickly began tanking, but make no mistake, he is more than viable as your backup center in a playoff series. Olynyk doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a five, but he doesn’t need to -- his offensive versatility would make him one of the better backup bigs in the league.
After Matisse Thybulle’s extreme playoff struggles and Danny Green’s torn ACL, the Sixers could use some two-way competence on the wing. It’s unclear what direction the Washington Wizards are headed in, but if they aren’t all-in on the present, the Sixers should make a run at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who impresses me more and more with each season.
Caldwell-Pope is more than good enough as a shooter, posting his three best three-point percentage numbers in the last three years. He can get after it defensively as well, with the requisite size and athleticism to take on lots of tough assignments.
At the guard position, a name who intrigues me quite a bit is De’Anthony Melton of the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are a win-now team, but their depth will allow them to either consolidate into a stronger and shorter rotation or add draft picks while remaining competitive.
Melton, once a draft pick of Daryl Morey for the Houston Rockets, is an excellent defensive player who continues to make strides offensively. Melton has made 38.8 percent of his three-point attempts over the last two seasons, while taking more than four attempts per game from beyond the arc during that period.
I think Melton would be a wonderful fit alongside someone like James Harden, bringing the kind of point-of-attack defense that the Sixers lack when Thybulle can’t be relied upon.
@medeajim asks: In your opinion, who do you think is on their way out of the organization?
I know you all want me to say Doc Rivers here. But despite the Sixers’ upsetting elimination and Rivers’ low approval rating, I have not believed for one second that he was ever even close to departing, whether that meant being fired or heading to another team (such as the rumored Los Angeles Lakers, who have since hired Darvin Ham).
Unfortunately for all of those who want Rivers gone, hiring and firing coaches is a matter that extends far beyond whether or not the head coach performed at a satisfactory level in the year prior.
It’s important to remember that when the Sixers hired Rivers, they gave him a five-year deal -- a deal one would assume is worth a whole lot of money. Rivers was the most well-known name in the market when he left the LA Clippers, and he assembled a coaching staff full of high-profile assistants, most notably Sam Cassell, Dan Burke and Dave Joerger.
So, while Sixers ownership could easily remove Rivers and his staff and replace them with a completely new ensemble of in-game decision-makers, they would then be paying that coaching staff in addition to the very expensive one they’re already financing.
Do the team’s owners have enough money to stomach that? Yes! However, for that reason plus several others, I find it hard to believe Rivers and his staff will be let go anytime soon barring a complete disaster.
@dangerbird6 asks: Can [Tyrese] Maxey be the best backcourt player on a championship team?
In short: I don’t think so. At least not yet.
Maxey is a remarkable talent, a truly special player and person whose potential might be unlimited due to his combination of a high basketball IQ, excellent physical tools and an impressive work ethic. What he did in 2021-22 was nothing short of amazing, and the massive growth he has shown so early in his career is wonderful.
But, as we are right in the middle of Joel Embiid’s prime, it feels almost unfair to even level those kinds of expectations on a third-year, 21-year old with little lifetime experience at the point guard position.
I say all of that to say this: there are many reasons to be fearful about giving Harden a lucrative contract this summer. But, as special as Maxey is, letting Harden walk and giving him the keys does not increase their odds of ever winning a championship.
So while Maxey is a brilliant young player, I don’t think I can comfortably argue that he can be the primary ball-handler on a championship team -- which, again, is not even a knock against his ability.
@jmkrav asks: Who are your top 5 realistic targets to sign if the Sixers gain access to the full MLE this year?
It is possible, even if not a definite, that the Sixers can open up the full Mid-Level Exception in free agency this summer, projected to be worth just over $10 million in spending power.
If the Sixers are able to use the full MLE and want to use that entire $10 million on the single best contributor they can find, they will have some appetizing options. There are some high-quality players who will be available. Let’s go by position once again, and then I’ll throw in a couple of bonus players.
The Sixers will surely be looking for someone who can give them something similar to what Andre Drummond gave them before the Harden trade. So… why not go after Drummond again?
After his standout year in both Philadelphia and Brooklyn, he may get a starting job somewhere else. But if he doesn’t -- or is strictly focused on being part of a contender -- a reunion between the two parties seems very sensible. Everyone with the Sixers was fond of Drummond before and after his time here, and he used a bigger stage and bigger workload in Brooklyn to show the basketball world that he is rock-solid.
On the wing, one player that catches my eye quite a bit is Otto Porter, Jr. Porter Jr. is currently helping the Western Conference championship-winning Golden State Warriors as a reliable part of their wing rotation, thanks to his formidable size, his excellent shooting stroke and his reliable defensive output.
Porter Jr. going to Golden State on the veteran’s minimum last summer confused me, but he’s certainly played well enough this season to generate a more active market in free agency. He would give the Sixers something they need desperately -- a player who can not just survive, but actually help out on both ends of the floor.
Porter Jr. would have easily started and played heavy minutes for last year’s Sixers. There’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be able to take on a larger role for this team next year.
The Sixers could use some reliable bench scoring as well. One upcoming free agent who catches my eye is Malik Monk, who is coming off the best season of his career. Monk is a certifiably excellent shooter, knocking down 39.4 percent of his 5.5 three-point attempts per game over the last two years, both elite marks.
Monk averaged a career-high 13.8 points per game last season while sporting a well-above average true shooting percentage of 59.8.
Monk fits in well with the Lakers, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he remains there after his breakout season. But the Lakers cannot offer him nearly as much as the Sixers will be able to if they can open up the full MLE. Monk’s departure from LA could be imminent, and he would look awfully good in a Sixers uniform.
A wing who would fit perfectly in Philadelphia is Nicolas Batum. Like Monk, the Clippers’ Batum likely wants to stay in LA if he can. But the Sixers should apply pressure here and at least drive up his market.
Batum is an elite connecting player -- he does all of the little things that make life easier for stars. Whether it’s with his reliable defense, elite three-point shooting (over 40 percent from beyond the arc on more than four attempts per game in each of the last two seasons) or impressive playmaking ability on the wing, he constantly contributes to winning basketball.
Finally, here’s another name I love: Bobby Portis. Portis is about to head to free agency, and with the Milwaukee Bucks’ frugal nature, there is absolutely a chance another team prices Milwaukee out and signs their valuable third big.
Portis would be a beautiful fit in Philadelphia. He could be Embiid’s primary backup -- and a reliable one at that -- and he could log minutes at the four next to Embiid, who has always expressed his desire to play with a true stretch four and has thrived next to players like Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova.
Because of his versatile positionality, Portis would be an absolutely enormous addition for this team.