Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers' Off-Season: #5. What Free Agents Should We Go After?

Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers' Off-Season: #5. What Free Agents Should We Go After?

For the first time in what feels like decades (and what is actually a half-decade), the Sixers are going to have cap space the summer. Finally free of the inhibiting contracts of Andre Iguodala (traded) and Elton Brand (amnestied + expired), the Sixers can finally be players in free agency once again. Now, just because we'll be subtracting the gargantuan salaries of those two players, that doesn't mean we'll have their weight in cap space to spend this summer--most estimates have the Sixers ending up with about $12 mil in cap space, once their own free agents are renounced--but there'll be enough to add a couple small pieces, or perhaps even one big-ish piece.

[10 Biggest Questions: 10. What are we now and where are we going? | 9. Is Thad Young untouchable? | 8. Is Spencer Hawes good enough for our starting Center? | 7. Are any of our mid-level FAs worth re-signing? | 6. What players are worth trading for?]

Which free agents might we haul in with our newfound pocket change? Well, you could argue that the best strategy would be not to sign anyone at all, but to use that space to facilitate another blockbuster deal (like the Bynum one last year, but with hopefully less depressing results), or to roll it over for future years and even bigger free-agent targets. But assuming they're going for it this year--and assuming re-signing the Funny-Looking Kid with the Big Hair doesn't pan out--here's some of the dudes I'd be looking at, breaking it into the Sixers' three biggest areas of needs (Backup Point Guard/Third Guard, Wing Scorer/Shooter, and Big Man.

Backup Point Guard / Third Guard:

Practical:

Will Bynum (Detroit Pistons). Sixer fans may be familiar with Bynum, the Pistons' pint-sized backup point, for some of the fine games he's had against Philly, including a 22-point, six-assist outing he had in the second-to-last Sixers game of the season, a Pistons win. That's not every game for Bynum--there are plenty of 2-6, five point-type outings for him--but he can take over a game like that, and had pretty good averages on the season for Detrtoit (about ten points and four assists off the bench on 47% shooting, and a fine 16.6 PER). He's not a great defender, but he'd instantly slot in as our best bench creator, and would probably only cost us three or four million a year, given his low national profile and veterang age (30).

Aaron Brooks (Houston Rockets). Brooks has had a weird career, going from being named Most Improved Player for the Rockets in 2010 (a year where he averaged nearly 20 points a game and led the league with 209 threes made) to spending the lockout year in China and signing with the Kings last off-season, to getting cut and ending up back with the Rockets, filling in minutes after the injury to starting point Jeremy Lin. Brooks has a team option this year which very well may be declined, given that the Rockets already have two point guards (Lin and backup Patrick Beverly--Brooks only played 67 total minutes during the regular season) and are looking to keep their cap space clear for a max free agent.

Brooks showed during the playoffs that he could at least still get to the basket, and though his numbers weren't great (five points a game on 38% shooting), he'd be a cheap upside play for the Sixers this off-season, only costing them a million or two for a guy who was a borderline All-Star just a couple seasons ago and is still just 28 years old.

Swing For the Fences:

Nate Robinson (Chicago Bulls). A veteran's minimum signee with the Bulls for this season, KryptoNate has most likely made himself a lot of money this post-season, where he's been by far the best scorer (over 17 ppg, nearly 50% shooting) for a super-undermanned Bulls team that upset a much more talented Nets team in the first round, and has stolen at least one game from the juggernaut Miami Heat in the second round. (If you missed his Game Four performance from that Nets series, you missed a true classic.) Now that you know he can do it for a winning team, you look at Nate's numbers for the year--13 points a game and four assists a game, over 40% shooting from three, a 17.4 PER--and think there's no reason why he can't be one of the league's most valuable sixth men.

The Sixers could certainly use a guy like that--not to mention to fill in the Swag department, which will undoubtedly be hurting with the loss of Nick Young--and it might be worth five or six million, if we could get Nate on just a one-or-two-year deal, and had a defensive-minded enough roster to cover for his obvious deficiencies on the other end of the court.

Jerryd Bayless (Memphis Grizzlies). Bayless has a team option with the Grizzlies for $3 mil next year, but like Robinson, he's probably made himself enough coin with his post-season play--just nine points on 38% shooting for the Grizz, but some big shots on a team that could very well make it all the way to the finals--that he might see what his value is on the open market instead. With enough size to play some minutes at the two as well, Bayless would be just an about an ideal third guard for the Sixers, and at just 25 years old next year, he might even have some remaining untapped upside.

He might get a Lou Williams-type deal for some team this off-season, and if so, that shouldn't be the Sixers. But again, for five or six a year over a one/two-year contract, he could be a steal.

Also Worth Considering:

Rodrigue Beaubois (Mavericks), CJ Watson (Nets), Eric Maynor (Blazers)

Wing Scorer / Shooter:

Practical:

Chase Budinger (Minnesota Timberwolves). Perhaps best known as the last white Slam Dunk Contest participant of recent years, Chase Budinger has also been a reliable three-point threat from the wing for the Houston Rockets (40% from deep two seasons ago) since being drafted in the second round in 2009. He started off having a fine year for the Timberwolves in '12-'13, but like just about everybody else on that team, quickly got hurt, missing most of the season and ending with mediocre numbers for the year. He could be a nice fit on the Sixers, though, still young (25 next year) and potentially a solid weapon for Jrue both in transition and in the half-court, likely for just $3 or 4 mil a year.

Chris Copeland (New York Knicks). A 28-year-old rookie with the Knicks this year, Copeland absolutely exploded in the second half of the season, scoring 30 points in back-to-back games for the 'Bockers in their final contests of the year. Cope's exceedingly limited minutes this post-season show that perhaps Coach Woodson trusts him a lot more in garbage time than in playoff action, but I watched a lot of those Knick games and was very impressed with the rookie's scoring ability, both in the post and from the wing, and think he could really help a team like ours that really struggles to score the ball in the half-court. For the couple mil a year he'd cost as an unproven rookie of veteran age, he'd be an interesting signing for the Ballers.

Swing for the Fences:

OJ Mayo (Dallas Mavericks). Mayo's obvious talent and inability to put it all together tantalized and frustrated the Grizzlies for four years, and just as it seemed he'd finally taken that next step with the Mavericks last season, starting the season as the league's deadliest three-point shooter and averaging over 20 a game for a couple months, he started regressing again, and ended with numbers close to his career averages. But he still averaged 15 a game and shot 41% from three, and he's still just 25, so if he opts out of his Dallas deal, you can bet some team is gonna make O.J. Mayo their big off-season signing.

I still believe in Juice, and think he'd be a hell of a back-court compliment to Jrue Holiday, so if we could get him for anything close to the $4 mil that the Mavs got him for last year, I'd be very intrigued. Less so if it takes $8-10 a year, though.

J.J. Redick (Milwaukee Bucks). Though he disappeared a little after getting traded to the Bucks mid-season, Redick had a career year as the best scorer on the rebuilding Magic, averaging 15 a game on 45% shooting and 39% from deep. He'll make a good deal of money as some team's Poor Man's Ray Allen this off-season, and that could be the Sixers, considering he fills a rather desperate outside-shooting need for them, though his upside at age 28 is likely tapped, and as the Bucks discovered this season, his acquisition doesn't exactly put your team over the top in terms of playoff contention.

Also Worth Considering:

Wesley Johnson (Phoenix Suns), Matt Barnes (L.A. Clippers)

Big Man:

Practical:

Brandan Wright (Dallas Mavericks). Wright is a classic high-efficiency, low-volume big man, posting an incredible 21.0+ PER for the Mavericks each of the last two seasons (higher than 20 is usually considered All-Star-caliber), but only playing 18 minutes a game, since his slight frame at 6'9", 205, has left him vulnerable against more bruising post players. Still, that efficiency is intriguing, and he posted the best scoring numbers of his career last year (about eight a game on near-60% shooting), and for a team so badly lacking in post offense of any kind, the long, talented Wright would be a low-risk--probably also in the four/five-mil range--high-reward venture.

Tyler Hansbrough (Indiana Pacers). Tyler's not a center by any stretch of the imagination, but he would be our best bench rebounder, foul-drawer and general opponent-irritant since Reggie Evans was traded to Toronto four years ago. He's been just about the entire bench offense for the Pacers the last season or two, and though that's not saying a ton given how crappy their bench is, it shows how valuable he can be, and given that the Sixers haven't had an energy guy like that in so long, he'd be a valuable (and likely fan-beloved, though rival-hated) addition to our rotation.

Swing for the Fences:

Al Jefferson (Utah Jazz). The most frequently mentioned big fish for the Sixers to land this off-season is probably Jefferson, an exceedingly reliable post scorer for the Utah Jazz. A 50% shooter who averages in the high teens per game, Jefferson would instantly be our best big-man scorer in decades, and our best rebounder for some time as well, traditionally grabbing nine-to-ten a contest. He'll be 29 next season, and he's already fairly plodding on defense, so he's not the young, two-way star the Sixers really need, but he'll probably only cost in the $10-12 mil-a-year range, and for All-Star-caliber production in an area of desperate need for Philly, that's not too bad.

Andray Blatche (Brooklyn Nets). Like Wright, Blatche has proven himself an unexpectedly high-efficiency big man, scoring ten a game on over 50% shooting with a sky-high 21.9 PER for the Nets this season, his first on a winning ballclub. Like Wright, Blatche doesn't get a ton of minutes--just 19 a game off the bench for the Nets--and unlike Wright, Blatche comes with serious maturity red flags from his days of questionable behavior with the Washington Wizards. But Blatche has proven to be one of the league's most gifted big-man scorers, and hit some huge shots in the playoffs for Brooklyn, though with some huge defensive lapses in that Game Seven to go along with them. An intriguing proposition, if he can be got for $6 or 7 mil a year.

Also Worth Considering: DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs)

Conclusion:

I'm still down on the Al Jefferson move, since that would take up all our cap space and likely leave the Sixers in no better a spot than they were two or three years ago. As two young guys still getting at least a little bit better, I would like to see the team at least feel out the market on Bayless and Mayo, and if they're not picking up anything but scraps, I do think that Budinger, Bynum (the other one), Hansbrough and possibly even Wright could really help this team. But again, sing it with me now: It all depends on what happens with Andrew Bynum, who might re-sign a max or near-max deal for Philly this summer and make all this moot. Another discussion for another day, however.

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”