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 MLB: Curtis Granderson homers twice off bench in Mets' win

Best of MLB: Curtis Granderson homers twice off bench in Mets' win

NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson came off the bench and homered twice, Jose Reyes had four hits and the surging New York Mets beat the Miami Marlins 7-4 on Tuesday night.

Asdrubal Cabrera extended his recent tear at the plate, hitting a two-run homer in his return to the lineup after missing one start due to a sore left knee. Rookie right-hander Seth Lugo (2-2) gave up two runs in the first inning but recovered nicely as the Mets won for the eighth time in 10 games.

By winning the first two games of the four-game series, New York (68-64) moved ahead of slumping Miami for second place in the NL East. Both teams began the day 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild card (see full recap).

Cardinals edge Brewers in 10 innings
MILWAUKEE -- Zach Duke stranded the bases loaded with a strikeout in the 10th inning after Randal Grichuk hit an RBI single in the top half of the inning, lifting the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Seung Hwan Oh (4-2) pitched out of a jam in the ninth to get the win. Duke got his first save with the Cardinals by striking out pinch-hitter Manny Pina after Matt Bowman walked three batters.

The Cardinals' Jhonny Peralta led off the 10th with a single off Corey Knebel (0-2) and moved to third on Yadier Molina's ground-rule double. Jeremy Hazelbaker, who pinch ran for Peralta, scored the winning run on Grichuk's flare to right.

St. Louis' Adam Wainwright and Milwaukee's Wily Peralta dueled for seven innings, leaving a 1-1 game for the bullpens (see full recap).

Wieters lifts Orioles over Blue Jays
BALTIMORE -- Matt Wieters hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Jason Grilli in the eighth inning to lead the Baltimore Orioles to a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

The Orioles pulled within three games of the first-place Blue Jays, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. After losing the opener 5-1, the Orioles will look to gain more ground in the series finale Wednesday.

Michael Saunders drilled a two-run shot off Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez that tied the game 3-3 in the seventh.

In the eighth, Jonathan Schoop walked and Wieters homered off Grilli (4-2), his 12th of the season.

Brad Brach (8-2) picked up the win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Zach Britton got his league-leading 39th save (see full recap).

Phillies' bats dominated by Max Scherzer again in loss to Nationals

Phillies' bats dominated by Max Scherzer again in loss to Nationals

BOX SCORE

The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game with the worst on-base percentage in the majors – a paltry .297 – and they were facing one of the top pitchers in the game.
 
The results were, uh, predictable.
 
The Phillies were dominated by Max Scherzer in a 3-2 loss to the NL East-leading Washington Nationals (see Instant Replay). The final score was deceiving. The only thing that kept the game close was a solid start from Jerad Eickhoff and good work from Phillies relievers Michael Mariot, Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos.
 
Scherzer (15-7, 2.89) held the Phillies to three hits and a walk over eight innings. He struck out 11, marking the 12th time he has reached double digits in K's this season.
 
Since signing a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals before the 2015 season, Scherzer has faced the Phillies eight times. He is 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA in those games. (And you thought Bartolo Colon owned the Phillies.)
 
Scherzer opened this game with five no-hit innings. It was the ninth time he’d carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning in 61 starts with the club.

Scherzer has twice taken no-hitters into the sixth inning against the Phillies. Freddy Galvis broke up a Scherzer no-hitter with a double in the sixth inning June 26, 2015. He did it again Tuesday night with another sixth-inning double.
 
“He’s a thorn in my side,” Scherzer joked after the game.
 
Galvis didn’t stay on the bases long. He made a boneheaded base running play after the double and Scherzer wheeled and picked him off.
 
The Phillies’ three-hit effort left manager Peter Mackanin a little frustrated. The Phils had just four hits in losing to the Nats, 4-0, on Monday night. They are hitting just .239 as a team. Only the San Diego Padres (.237) are worse in the majors.
 
“Gotta hit,” Mackanin said quietly. “Once again, I mentioned it before, we need to improve our plate discipline. We’re just not getting hits. We had chances to win the game. But Scherzer was tough. You have to give him credit. He’s got what, 60 less hits than innings pitched? He’s a tough cookie.”
 
Scherzer has given up just 128 hits in 190 innings.
 
The Phillies made a run at Scherzer in the seventh inning. Odubel Herrera reached base on an infield hit and Ryan Howard followed with a line drive two-run homer into the left-field seats. He hit a 94 mph fastball on an 0-1 count.
 
Howard had struck out in both of his previous at-bats against Scherzer and was 1 for 20 with 13 strikeouts in his career against the Washington fireballer before the homer.
 
Given Howard’s career struggles against Scherzer, it was actually a little surprising to see him in the lineup. But Mackanin reasoned that no one on the team had good numbers against Scherzer and Howard was just as likely to run into a big hit as anyone.
 
He was right.
 
Mackanin also said he’s going to start cutting into Howard’s playing time and get Tommy Joseph more looks as the season winds down. Howard, however, could force his way into the lineup with more big hits.
 
Howard was asked about his approach against Scherzer.
 
“Put the ball in play,” he said. “Simple.”
 
Howard’s homer was his 20th of the season. He has reached 20 homers 10 times. Only Mike Schmidt (14) did it more as a Phillie. Howard has 377 homers, tying him with Norm Cash and Jeff Kent for 73rd all time.
 
Howard was asked what makes Scherzer so tough against the Phillies.
 
“That’s Scherzer, man,” Howard said. “I mean, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game for a reason. He’s got basically four-plus pitches that he can throw anytime in any count, throw them for strikes, and he does a great job of keeping hitters off balance, mixing it up really, really well. He’s kind of got a pit bull’s mentality on the mound just going out there wanting to shove it to the other team. He had it going tonight.”
 
Scherzer also drove home the Nats’ third run of the night with a safety squeeze. It proved to be a huge run after Howard’s homer.
 
Eickhoff was solid. He gave up a couple of softly hit balls for hits in the first inning and that helped the Nats score two runs out of the gate.
 
The Phillies just didn't have enough hitting to ever get the lead.

Some of that is just who they are – one of the poorest hitting teams in the majors.

Some of it was the guy they were facing.

'Stronger, bigger, better' Ivan Provorov hoping to follow Shayne Gostisbehere's path

'Stronger, bigger, better' Ivan Provorov hoping to follow Shayne Gostisbehere's path

TORONTO — At training camp last year, Ivan Provorov roomed with Shayne Gostisbehere. This year, he’s hoping to follow the young blueliner’s footsteps and earn a roster spot on the Flyers' blue line. 

After playing two games with the Flyers during the 2014-15 season, Gostisbehere joined the Flyers last November and appeared in 64 games, scoring 17 goals and tallying 29 assists. The 23-year-old’s 46 points led all Flyers defensemen and the Florida native finished second to only Chicago’s Artemi Panarin in Calder Trophy voting as the league’s Rookie of the Year. 

“He had an unbelievable season [and] he helped the Flyers a lot,” Provorov said this week at the annual NHLPA rookie showcase in Toronto. “I saw him at development camp and main camp — thought he was a great player. He got his chance when he got called up, and he used it well and played his game.”

Provorov, the Flyers’ first selection (seventh overall) in the 2015 NHL draft, has only one option this year: make the Flyers' roster out of camp. Otherwise, because of his age, he’ll have to return to junior and the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings. 

This past season, Provorov scored 21 goals and 73 points in 62 regular-season games with Brandon. He added three goals and 10 assists in 21 postseason games, helping the Wheat Kings win the WHL title and reach the Memorial Cup. However, Brandon struggled at the four-team tournament, losing all three games.

For his solid second season in the WHL, Provorov was named the recipient of the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the league’s top defenseman.

“[Memorial Cup] didn’t really turn out the way that we were hoping to, but still a great experience,” Provorov said. “It was a different atmosphere and different tournament, where you have to win one game to get into the playoffs. It’s not like a seven-game series.”

With a second WHL season under his belt, Provorov feels he’s better prepared than he was a year ago to make the leap to the NHL game. 

“I should be a little bit more comfortable, I know what to expect,” he said. “I had a great summer and I think I'm a better player than I was a year ago: stronger, bigger, better in all areas of my game. Just looking forward to getting to Philly and starting camp.”

The Flyers currently have seven defensemen under contract for the upcoming season, but Provorov’s combination of size and skill could push a veteran such as Andrew MacDonald, who already spent most of last season with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, out of a job. 

Despite his abilities, Provorov knows bumping a veteran for a roster spot won’t be an easy task.

“Of course when you move on from a level to another level the speed increases, the players are stronger [and] bigger,” he said. “I think, for me I'll just try to play my game and compete as hard as I can.”

Provorov grew up idolizing Nicklas Lidstrom and has tried to model his game after the Hall of Famer. At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Provorov has spent his two seasons in Brandon developing into a two-way blueliner, who can put up numbers on the offensive side, but at the same time be counted on in a shutdown role. 

The 19-year-old credits his decision to come to North America at such a young age for helping him adjust to the differences in lifestyle. By the time he was 16, Provorov was playing for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in Iowa prior to being selected by the Wheat Kings in the Canadian Hockey League import draft.

“I came here when I was really young, so it wasn't that hard of a transition,” Provorov said. “Probably the most weird [adjustment] was probably food 'cause, I mean, food is really different from back home, but now I'm used to both.”

If he does wind up back in the WHL, Provorov has the annual World Junior Hockey Championship to look forward to. At last year’s tournament, Provorov, a native of Yaroslavl, Russia, registered eight assists in seven games, winning a second consecutive silver medal at the under-20 tournament.

“World Juniors is a great tournament, good experience,” he said. “It's always great to represent your country and, this time, if I get a chance to play, hopefully we'll win gold.”