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
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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?
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.