Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers Off-Season: 7. Are Any of Our Mid-Level Free Agents Worth Re-Signing?

Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers Off-Season: 7. Are Any of Our Mid-Level Free Agents Worth Re-Signing?

As has been mentioned numerous times in this multi-part off-season
review, one of the unquestionably smart things the Sixers did last
off-season was to not take on any long-term contracts while rebuilding
their team on the fly. Consequently, a number of guys we picked up while
re-stocking our rotation–now missing such previous contributors as Lou
Williams, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand–are already coming
off the books, allowing us to get a trial sample of their work, and
allowing us to make long-term decisions about their futures at season’s
end.

This group includes Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Damien Wilkins, and
Royal Ivey–though unfortunately, not Kwame Brown, unless Tony DiLeo
makes him an offer he can’t refuse (free trip to Hershey Park?) and he
opts out of the second year of his contract. All those guys, and their
combined $12.5 or so million in salary, come off the books this year,
and all could very well be playing in different jerseys next year.

But are any of them worth retaining long-term, or at least for another short term? Let’s break them down, one at a time.


Nick Young:

Unlike many, I had absolutely no issues with the Swaggy P experience
in Philadelphia. He knew his role–come in shooting off the bench, hit
crazy shots when the team’s down 20–and he played it fine. His passing
was better than advertised (though still not exactly Nash-ian), his
defense was better and more committed than most gave him credit for, and
he gave us a handful more legitimately memorable moments on and off the
court than at least six or seven other guys on the roster. I have no
beef with Nick Young, and wish him the best wherever he ends up,
including if he’s back with the Sixers.

However, there is the matter of the price tag. Nick Young cost us $6
million last year, a total that while not totally unpalatable on a
one-year deal, is still far more than a player of Young’s production
deserves. What’s more, rumor has it that after last year’s make-good
deal–which ended with him riding the pine for much of the second half of
the season–the Swagness now wants a long-term deal, and may very well make something in the three-for-$15, four-for-$18 million-type range.

That shouldn’t be the Sixers. As much fun as it’s been to have Swaggy
in our locker room, he’s still little more than a bench wildcard–he was
only worth a little over two wins for the Sixers last year by Win
Shares, and he’s never had a PER above 15 (about league average) in his
career. He’s not a young core player on a rebuilding team, he’s not a
reliable veteran player on a contending team, and it’s hard to see how
he really helps the Sixers no matter what direction they end up going
in.

If he’s willing to take another one-year contract for the Sixers, at
about three or four million, I’d still take him for the entertainment
alone. But that’s probably not going to happen, so Bye Bye Swaggy.


Dorell Wright:

Dorell had an up-and-down year for the Sixers, his production and
playing time both streaky (though only one of those things was really
under his control), but in the end, he was about what we thought he
was–an athletic wing defender who can hit open threes and provide lineup
flexibility by playing either the three or the four. That’s a limited
but valuable skill set, one that translates to just about any style or
type of team, and at age 27, it’s one he should be able to provide for
at least another couple years–which for the $4.16 million he was paid
last year, is a fairly good bargain.

However, it’s unclear whether he’ll be available at that price again.
His statistical production last year was fairly modest for a contract
year–9.2 ppg, on 40% shooting and 37% from deep, with about four
rebounds and two assists–but advanced stats actually have this as a
career year for Wright, with his highest PER and WS/48 yet, likely due
to his stellar D, his 85% shooting from the free-throw line, and his
best-ever assist-to-turnover ratio (about 2.3:1). Plus, as Zach Lowe of
Grantland recently wrote about,
players who can defend two wing positions and hit three-pointers are at
a peak in NBA value, and Wright arguably fits that description.

So it’s a matter of price for Dorell and the Sixers. If we could get
him back for a couple years at a rate in line with his previous pay
scale, he’d certainly provide value for the Sixers, as a trade chip as
well as as a player. But if he starts climbing into the
five-or-six-mil-a-year, multi-year strata, which he very well may
deserve, he officially becomes too expensive for the Liberty Ballers,
who should be avoiding those kind of mid-level contracts at all costs as
they attempt to find a core of players worth building around.


Damien Wilkins:

A few months ago, this would’ve been a joke inclusion, like
“hahahahah no of course we’re not giving Damien Wilkins a contract what
is this opposite off-season??” For better or worse, though, Damien has
played his way into this actually being some sort of conversation,
ending the season with his strongest production in years, with 12 points
a game on 53% shooting for the month of March. He provided real energy
and toughness for the Sixers, played adequate defense, and
dribble-drived his way into Doug Collins’ starting lineup and heart.

That said, this really still shouldn’t be much of a discussion. We
got Damien for the veteran’s minimum last off-season, and if he charges
the Sixers a penny more this off-season–which he has every right to do,
having proven himself a decent veteran bench guy–he’s gotta head
elsewhere. Even though he played with fresh legs last season, Damien is
33 years old, with only one really good month in his last five seasons
to his credit, and should be the ninth or tenth man on a playoff team
needing bench depth, not a potentially rebuilding one like the Sixers.

There isn’t a Sixers writer alive that isn’t terrified the team won’t
reward Damien with a four-year, $20-million deal, though, just to thank
him for keeping the team competent during the waning months of last
season. If they do, we have very, very serious problems as a franchise.

Royal Ivey:

Our other veteran-minimum signing last off-season, Royal had himself a
similarly decent year, though never quite earned Collins’ loyalty the
same way as Wilkins. He was asked to do remarkably little–defend
opposing point guards that were giving Jrue and Evan trouble, and make
open threes–and he did both of those things pretty well. He didn’t do
much else, but that’s cool.

If he wants to come back and do those two things for the same amount
of pay next year, I’m with it. If he wants to earn more or do more,
well, don’t forget to write. Is there a cheese-named player out there
that he can be teammates with, as has long been his nickname destiny?
Here’s hoping.

In Conclusion:

If you asked me, I’d be a little surprised if any of these guys were
on our team next year. I’m the most worried about them re-signing
Damien, but I’m hoping–perhaps naively–that they’ll be too concerned
with landing a big fish in free agency to take up their cap space with
four or five mil a year of D-Wilk. There’s a chance Dorell gets
undervalued on the open market and ends up sticking where he is, or that
Royal has nowhere else to go and just returns to Philly out of process
of elimination, but ultimately, I think it’s goodbye and good luck to
all four of these guys.

And that’s fine–none of these guys were ever part of the Sixers’
long-term plans (or at least they shouldn’t have been), and they
arguably do more for us by walking away and letting us invest their
combined $12.5 million (or however much of it the CBA says we can use)
elsewhere. Miss you guys, particularly Swaggy, but there’s no point in
being sentimental about low-level contributors on a 34-win team, so it’s
onwards and upwards for the Sixers without this particular quartet.

Previously:

No.
10. Where Are We Now (And Where Are We
Going)?

No. 9.
Is Thaddeus Young Untouchable?

No. 8. Is Spencer Hawes Good Enough For Our Starting Center?

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

PITTSBURGH -- To their credit, the Sharks regrouped after a miserable first period at Consol Energy Center in which it looked like they might get run out of the building.

It wasn’t enough, though, as Nick Bonino’s late third period goal pushed the Penguins to a 3-2 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

On the game-winner, Brent Burns lost his stick and couldn’t prevent Kris Letang from finding Bonino in front of the net with Paul Martin defending the slot. Bonino flipped it through Martin Jones at 17:27 of the final frame.

The Sharks went to the power play with 2:09 to go, but couldn’t tie it up.

Game 2 is in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The Penguins dominated the first period, only to have the Sharks completely turn the tables in the second, resulting in a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes.

The Penguins had the Sharks on their heels for virtually the entire opening frame, outshooting San Jose 15-4 and scoring a pair.

The first came at 12:46 of the first. On a rush, Justin Schultz’s shot from the high slot hit the glove of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and rookie Bryan Rust was there to smack in the loose puck.

Just one minute and two seconds later, the Penguins upped their cushion. Sidney Crosby tracked down a loose puck in the corner ahead of Justin Braun, calmly played the puck off his backhand and whipped a cross-ice pass to Conor Sheary. Another rookie, Sheary whizzed a wrist shot past Jones’ far shoulder.

It was evident early in the second, though, that San Jose had regrouped, as Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski both had good looks at the net. They broke through on an early power play courtesy of Tomas Hertl, who curled in a pass from down low off of Olli Maatta at 3:02.

Pittsburgh withstood a continual push from the Sharks for much of the period until Marleau’s late score. After Couture outworked Maatta deep in the offensive zone and pushed the puck to the point to Burns, Marleau secured Burns’ rebound and wrapped it around at 18:12.

Burns had two assists, and made a strong defensive play with about three minutes left in the first, backchecking hard and lifting up Carl Hagelin’s stick on a breakaway.

Special teams

The Sharks were 1-for-2 on the power play, on Hertl’s second man advantage goal of the playoffs. They are 18-for-65 in the postseason (27.6 percent).

Pittsburgh went 0-for-3, generating five shots on goal. The Pens are 15-for-67 overall (22.3 percent).

Marleau was whistled for an illegal check to the head of Rust in the third period, sending the 24-year-old to the dressing room for a brief stretch.

In goal

Jones and Murray were each making their first career starts in the Stanley Cup Final. Jones took the loss with 38 saves, while Murray stopped 24 San Jose shots.

Lineup

Sharks forward Matt Nieto remained out with an upper body injury.

Pavelski saw his seven-game point streak (5g, 5a) come to an end. Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz increased his point streak to six games (3g, 4a).

Up next

The Sharks are 5-11 all-time when losing Game 1 of a playoff series, but 1-0 this year as they came back to defeat the Blues in the Western Conference Final.

Teams that win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final have gone on to win the championship 78 percent of the time (59-18). The last team to win the Cup after losing Game 1 was the 2011 Bruins.

Pete Mackanin on deciding Ryan Howard's playing time: 'I think about it all the time'

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Pete Mackanin on deciding Ryan Howard's playing time: 'I think about it all the time'

A day after he made comments in Chicago that alluded to the trimming of Ryan Howard’s playing time against right-handed pitchers, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin sat at his desk, surrounded by reporters, and was pressed for 10 minutes on the issue of his declining, expensive and struggling first baseman and franchise icon.

Howard, of course, was penciled into the lineup in the cleanup spot against righty Tanner Roark for Monday’s 4-3 loss to the visiting Washington Nationals (see game recap).

A question of was barely out of a reporter’s mouth when Mackanin quickly interjected a “hell yes.”

It’s the hardest decision - what to do with the struggling Howard - he’s had to make in his brief time managing the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I think about it all the time,” Mackanin said.

“That’s the hard part of this job. It’s not just running the game, it’s handling the players.”

For now, Mackanin said, he hasn’t felt the need to talk to Howard about it. Howard, who sat Sunday for the second time in eight days against a righty, said Sunday he was unaware his manager was intending on reducing his playing time against righties (see story).

Once a platoon situation at first base, it appears the Phillies are going to take a longer look at rookie Tommy Joseph against right-handed pitchers in the near future.

“If I was going to sit (Howard) on the bench and he wasn’t going to play anymore, I’d have that conversation,” Mackanin said. “I think what I said was pretty obvious.”

“I didn’t say I was going to bench Howard.”

He didn’t Monday. Howard had good numbers against Roark, something he didn’t have against Sunday’s starter for the Cubs, John Lackey. So it looks like Mackanin’s decision will be based on matchups.

In his second at-bat Monday, a second straight strikeout on the night and 12th in his last 22 at-bats, Howard was way late on a 93-mph fastball on the outer half of the plate.

But he looked much better in his final two at-bats of the night.

In the bottom of the sixth, he drove a Roark changeup to the warning track deep in right-center, but Ben Revere closed quickly and made the catch.

In his last at-bat, after Maikel Franco led off the ninth inning with a double, Howard jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Jonathan Papelbon and drove a double to the gap in left-centerfield, scoring Franco and putting the tying run in scoring position with no outs.

Those two swings were the ones Mackanin said Monday afternoon he “knew” were there. He later corrected himself and said it was more of a situation of “hope.”

Howard went 1 for 4 on the night. His May average is now .106.

“He needed to come through with a big hit and that was a huge hit, put the tying run at second base,” Mackanin said. “It was good to see.”

The Phillies are slated to face a righty in their next six games before facing Jon Lester and the Cubs at home next Monday. Joseph, who is hitting .278 with three home runs in his first 36 Major League at-bats, figures to get the start in the majority of those.

It’s a decision Mackanin says he’s going to make on a day-by-day basis.

He was asked if the front office, which is also in a tough spot and may have to do something soon, gave him any input on what to do.

“They don’t tell me who to play and when to play them,” Mackanin said. “I know that they want me to mix in Joseph against right-handers so that he doesn’t stagnate. That’s pretty much all I go by right now.”

A suggestion from upstairs isn’t unprecedented. It has already happened before during the young 2016 season.

“They asked me to - as bad as (Tyler) Goeddel looked early in the season - they asked me if I could try to mix him in a little more,” Mackanin said. “I said sure. I did, and he started hitting better. So now he’s playing more. Here we go, if you want to play more than you gotta hit.

“There’s nothing set in stone.”

NL East Wrap: Matt Harvey gets back on track in Mets' win over White Sox

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NL East Wrap: Matt Harvey gets back on track in Mets' win over White Sox

NEW YORK -- On the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season, Matt Harvey gave up his first walk of the game and his second hit, leading to a sacrifice bunt and a second-and-third jam.

"You kind of think about the worst at that point," he said. "You start getting some negative thoughts that creep in your head."

But 11 days after disappointed fans at Citi Field booed him like a villain, the Dark Knight was back - at least for one afternoon.

Harvey retired Todd Frazier on a foulout and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to escape trouble, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana on the second pitch of the bottom half and the New York Mets beat Chicago 1-0 Monday to send the reeling White Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Today's a big first step," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got six straight outs to complete the two-hitter, preserving Harvey's first win since May 8. Harvey struck out six, walked two and threw four pitches of 98-98.5 mph after not topping 97.5 mph previously this season. He threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (see full recap).

Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher - and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.

Foltynewicz continued his recent upswing by allowing only three hits and one run in six-plus innings, Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple and Atlanta beat Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Monday.

The Braves survived San Francisco's two-run, ninth-inning rally. They have won three of four and are 5-21 at home, still easily the worst in the majors.

Foltynewicz (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Brandon Belt in the second inning, but allowed only one other runner to advance to second.

Foltynewicz, 24, has had other recent strong starts, including eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Kansas City on May 14. His start on Monday may have been his most impressive demonstration of altering the speeds of his fastball while mixing in a curveball and slider (see full recap).

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
MIAMI -- Jeff Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.

Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.

Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.

The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000 (see full recap).