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

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

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.


10. Where Are We Now (And Where Are We

No. 9.
Is Thaddeus Young Untouchable?

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

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Eagles (3-2) return home Sunday for the first time in nearly a month and welcome a familiar face to the confines of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) will come to Philadelphia fresh off a Week 6 bye and, most notably, as the league's lone unbeaten team. Minnesota boasts one of the league's top defenses, ranking first in points allowed (12.6 per game) and second in yards allowed (287.6 per game), and is looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

The last time these two franchises met was back in December 2013, when Matt Cassell and the Vikings put up 48 points in a win over Chip Kelly's Eagles.

To get a better handle on this year's Vikings, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 7 opponent.

Brian Robison poses yet another challenge for Big V
Making his NFL debut in a start against the Redskins last week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily. Ryan Kerrigan beat Vaitai and got to Carson Wentz for 2½ sacks, all of which came in the first half.

It won't get any easier for the rookie right tackle this week either, as he'll likely be lined up against Brian Robison for most of the afternoon. Robison has four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, the versatile 10-year defensive end could be difference maker on the defensive side of the ball Sunday.

"Whether his hand is in the turf at left end or he’s standing over a guard or center as the defensive tackle, Robison could be dropping back to cover a tight end or running back," Krammer wrote. "At the line, he’s given responsibilities to call stunts or twists depending on their own play call. Sometimes he’s setting the pick to free another teammate. ... And on Sunday against the Eagles and their rookie right tackle, keep an eye on Robison when he lines up at his traditional spot of left end. All four of his sacks this season, including two strip-sacks, have come from there."

Makeshift offensive line remains a question mark
The Vikings may be undefeated, but by no means are they made up of perfect parts. As the midway point of the NFL season approaches, Minnesota's injury-battered offensive line is still a work in progress. 

Starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Starting guard Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Texans, but is expected to return against the Eagles. Center is the only position on the line the Vikings haven't had to replace because of an injury at some point this season.

But despite the constant changes up front, Minnesota has been stout overall in protecting the quarterback, allowing eight sacks and 27 quarterback hits across five games. According to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, the performance of that makeshift offensive line is going to be key in the Vikings' potential success down the road. 

"What’s best for Bradford and the Vikings’ standing as the NFC’s top dog is better pass protection," Murphy wrote. "He was sacked twice when Houston defenders turnstiled Clemmings and hit hard in the pocket other times. ... Offensive line intrigue never is a sexy storyline, but how well the Vikings manage the unit week to week figures to be an underlying factor to their continued success."

Strong away from home
The Vikings are a just a few years removed from going winless on the road, finishing 0-7-1 away from home in the 2013 season. Minnesota secured wins in only two of its first 10 away games under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, but have since gone on a tear.

Minnesota has won seven of its last eight road games dating back to last season and, in their most recent game away from U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings took down the Panthers, 22-10, in Week 3. A testament of a true contender is having the ability to win consistently on the road, which holds true with the Vikings.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings' vast improvement over the past two-plus seasons has contributed to them becoming a stronger team away from home.

"Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it’s much less of one now. After being one of the worse road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they’re now one of the best," Tomasson wrote. "Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That’s the main reason the road record has gotten so much better. Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments."

While Vegas has the Vikings as light favorites on the road, national experts have them heavily favored straight up to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.

ESPN: All nine experts picked the Vikings

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Vikings

FOX Sports: Three of five experts picked the Vikings 

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Ivan Provorov has a new partner.

Provorov will be paired with Brandon Manning on Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, a changeup from the first four games of the season. Mark Streit drops to the third pair with Nick Schultz, a tandem that worked together most of last season.

"We're going to change them up," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said after the team's morning skate. "We're going to look at a couple of different things. Some of the combinations are some familiar ones, such as Streiter-Schultz. They played a lot of minutes together last year. It's a move that we want to take a look at."

The Provorov-Manning pair is an interesting one. It should allow the 19-year-old to activate more in the offensive zone with Manning playing positionally sound. Manning has played with an extra edge thus far, showcasing a far more aggressive brand of hockey than he's shown previously with the orange and black.

With Streit, an offensive-minded blueliner, Provorov had to cover for his partner. Provorov also ran into some tough luck situations, too. Now with Manning, Provorov has the handcuffs off a little bit. Manning plays well positionally and while he has been more aggressive, he knows when to stay back, which will help Provorov.

It's another adjustment for the rookie. Through four games, he said, there haven't been any surprises in terms of his expectations for how the NHL game plays.

"I think what I expected is what I got," Provorov said. "It's the best league in the world, you expect all four lines to be great, you expect fast pace, physical game and that's what I got. I'm still learning, but I'm trying to do better as the games go on."

Provorov has one assist this season and enters Saturday as a minus-5, largely because of the Chicago game Tuesday. Hakstol praised Provorov's maturity level and ability to self-evaluate. What he hasn't done with Provorov is talk about numbers.

"There are some meaning in stats and we take the meaningful areas and apply those," Hakstol said. "But I haven't talked to any of the young guys about their statistics. We're four games in. I don't make too much of statistics right now. We're evaluating day-to-day play and looking at areas that we can use as strengths and areas individually we can improve."

Starting slow
If there has been one common theme through the first four games, it's the Flyers' poor starts. In first periods this season, they've been outscored, 6-1 (see game notes).

On Thursday night, the Flyers again came out of the gates slow. It was their first game back after a season-opening road trip out West, which Jakub Voracek said was a factor.

Voracek, who has four assists, said the burden falls on the individual player to focus on the small details and avoid committing mistakes.

"As a player, if you don't have that extra step, you just have to keep it simple," he said. "It's going to come around. The first 10 minutes, you have to make sure you don't make mistakes and I think that we were trying to do too much if we weren't feeling right. It showed last game against Anaheim. We were a half-a-step slower."

Four games isn't a large enough sample size for Hakstol to make a definite statement on the Flyers' first-period woes. The second-year coach said he'll have a better understanding where his team is at after the Carolina game.

"I think we'll answer that question after the start tonight," Hakstol said. "I think we'll get a fair evaluation of our starts after our start tonight, and if we have a problem, we'll know it after tonight. If we don't, we'll know that as well.

"Pretty clear, crystal clear, black and white in my mind. Tonight should tell else what type of team we are at the start of the hockey game."

Projected Flyers Lineup
F: Brayden Schenn-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Nick Cousins-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Matt Read

Chris VandeVelde-Boyd Gordon-Roman Lyubimov

D: Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere

Ivan Provorov-Brandon Manning

Nick Schultz-Mark Streit

G: Steve Mason