Mayo? Hickson? Free-agent options for Sixers

Mayo? Hickson? Free-agent options for Sixers
June 19, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Towards the end of this past regular season, Doug Collins talked about the value of playing experience for his young roster that was hit hard by injury contributing greatly to the Sixers' 34-48 finish.

I don’t disagree that player development can go a long way, but it is too easy in the NBA to get stuck in mediocrity -- which, quite frankly, is where the Sixers have been since the departure of Larry Brown after the 2002-03 season, when they were 48-34.

In the decade that has passed the Sixers have had two winning seasons, two .500 seasons and six losing seasons. Over the last 10 years the team has had five different head coaches, two interim coaches, five first-round playoff exits and one trip to the Conference Semifinals, where they forced Game 7 before losing the series.

How does this problem get fixed? Certainly not overnight. Without Andrew Bynum -- and let’s face it, no one kills the franchise for making that move last summer but absolutely will if they dare attempt a do-over -- the Sixers are on the books for more than $46 million in salary with an expected salary cap at $58 million.

Before we talk about possible free agents they can acquire, know that the Sixers would pay $1.50 for every dollar they're above the cap, up to $5 million. If they are between $5-9.9 million over, they will pay $1.75 for every dollar.

There are 11 teams with lower team salaries than the Sixers heading into free agency. Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Josh Smith are the biggest names, with Smith a significant third-place finish behind the other two.

The Sixers need a starting two-guard, a backup point guard and they must add talent with size to their frontcourt. One player is not going to make the difference and it doesn't make financial sense for the Sixers to land even a second-tier free agent.

This summer needs to be a spend-wisely offseason.

Monta Ellis, O.J. Mayo and Ben Gordon are intriguing unrestricted free agent shooting guard names. Ellis averaged 19.2 points for Milwaukee last season on 41.6 percent shooting. He will have plenty of teams expressing interest in his scoring prowess. Milwaukee had offered him a contract extension for two years at $11 million per season and Ellis turned it down. He will cost more than the Sixers can afford given that he is not a franchise player and his defense is suspect.

Mayo is 25 years old. He averaged 15.3 points for Dallas this season and shot 45 percent. He shot 41 percent from three and was an 82 percent free-throw shooter. His salary was less than $6 million last year. If the Sixers could sign Mayo, they should, especially knowing the franchise spent $6 million on Nick Young last summer.

Ben Gordon just finished his time in Charlotte, which was not memorable compared to his Chicago years. With the Bulls, Gordon developed a reputation as a scorer who one season averaged 21 points. But last year, despite making $12.4 million, Gordon averaged 11 points and started zero games at age 30.

He has had some good games against the Sixers, but no thank you to joining the fray at this stage of his career.

Should the Sixers choose a free-agent big man it would be nice if he could be a contributor. Spencer Hawes returns along with Thaddeus Young, Arnett Moultrie and Lavoy Allen.

Difference-makers are Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and David West after, of course, Howard and Smith. But, again, these are names that will carry a high price tag.

A name that is intriguing is J.J. Hickson, the Blazers' 6-foot-9 center who averaged 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds this past season. But his numbers are not far from Hawes, who averaged 11 points and 7.2 rebounds. Neither player will wow you with shot-blocking skills, but if they could man the position together it could work.

Dorell Wright finished the year on a good note and should get consideration to return. He can handle the ball. He can shoot and he adds a necessary element to the bench.

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