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.

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

Cincinnati Reds starter Tim Adleman came into Friday night's start against the Phillies with an ERA above six, having allowed 10 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. 

So, naturally, he gave up just one hit over eight scoreless innings. 

The 29-year-old righty dominated the Phillies in just his 20th career MLB start en route to his third win this season, pitching easily the best game of his young career in a 5-2 Reds' win (see game recap).

It was understandably the best that Reds manager Bryan Price had seen from Adleman.
 
"It wasn't just because of the line score," Price said. "It was really command-based. Really good both sides of the plate. Had a nice sinking fastball, could straighten it out when he needed to. A very, very good changeup. I don't think he even used a breaking ball there until the eighth inning.

"So it was really that good."

At just 100 pitches through eight, naturally the question for Price was whether to allow him the chance at a complete game. However, Price needed to get reliever Asher Wojciechowski work to get him ready for a start next week.

"I wanted to stay in there pretty badly, but you understand the move," Adleman said. "Wojo needed to get some work. It had been a while since he threw and it's a game in May. It's not a game that's deeper in the season. … I totally understand."

For his eight innings, Adleman attacked the Phillies' batters early in counts and didn't allow a batter to reach third all night. He retired the leadoff batter in all but one inning and allowed just four batters to reach base.

The Phillies' only threat came in the first inning. An Andres Blanco single was followed by an Aaron Altherr hit by pitch. That brought up Thursday's hero — Tommy Joseph — with two men on and just one out. Adleman utilized his changeup on a 1-2 pitch, inducing a weak grounder back to the mound for a 1-4-3 double play. 

In three at-bats against Joseph, Adleman recorded three groundball outs, all on the changeup, which is his primary off-speed offering.

"The scouting report is that he's a really good fastball hitter. Does a lot of damage on fastballs," Adleman said, "so if you can get him in situations where you're confident he's looking for a fastball and then cut a changeup on him, it can be really effective. Obviously, you have to keep it down, but that's the same with all your pitches."

Joseph's at-bats set the trend for the rest of the Phillies' lineup. The Reds' starter kept the ball down and didn't allow another baserunner until he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh. Sixteen of his 24 outs came on groundballs and only five pitches were hit past the infield. 

Adleman stated his goal was to use the Phillies' aggressiveness against them with strikes early in the count, and it worked. It was his first time pitching into the eighth inning in his career and he did so with almost exclusively his fastball and changeup.

"I think it had a lot to do with that little pause [in his delivery] and he did a good job changing speeds on us," Joseph said. "He basically did it with two pitches, which says a lot about how hard this game can be. Hats off to him. 

"Next time, we'll see if we can't get him back."

In a way, Adleman was getting the Phillies back. He made the third start of his career at Citizens Bank Park last year on May 14. He took the loss against Friday's starter, Aaron Nola, while allowing three runs in five innings.

Born in Staten Island, Adleman was raised in New Jersey, but grew up a Yankees fan. He hadn't been to CBP until college, when he faced Villanova while playing for Georgetown. 

At 29, he's a little old for a second-year starter because he took a winding road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2010, he was nearly out of baseball by 24. He spent two years in independent leagues before catching on with the Reds and debuting in the show last season.

The journeyman starter had struggled in his last few starts, which helped his ERA balloon to 6.19. However, his Friday night opponent seemed more than happy to take some air out of the balloon. Adleman became the fifth pitcher in the last six days to come into a start against the Phillies with an ERA of 5.00 or above and allow one run or less over at least five innings. 

"It feels good," Adleman said of his night. "Philly's a good young team and Nola is making quite a name for himself. He out-pitched me last year and coming into tonight I knew I had an opportunity to right the ship so to speak."

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

BOX SCORE

When the opposing pitcher comes in with an ERA that matches the area code for San Diego — 6.19 — and holds you scoreless on one single over eight innings, well …

You've reached the low point of your season.

And it's time for a team meeting.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin called for a little powwow after his club suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night (see Instant Replay). Don't let the final score fool you. It wasn't that close. The loss was the Phillies' 21st in the last 26 games. They were held to three hits for the fourth time in the last six games — five losses — and have scored just nine runs over that span.

Mackanin acknowledged that this was the low point for his team, which owns the worst record in the majors at 16-30. Cincinnati starting pitcher Tim Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA, but he pitched like an ace in holding the Phillies to just a first-inning single over his eight shutout innings (see story). Adleman walked two, struck out four and at one point set down 16 straight Phillies. The 29-year-old right-hander has made 20 starts in his big-league career and this was by far the best.

"Yeah," Mackanin said when asked if the loss was the season's low point. "We need to step it up. We're better than this. I know we're better than this. We've just got to start playing as aggressive as we can and take it to the other team. Be aggressive at the plate and pound the strike zone."

That apparently was Mackanin's message to the club in his postgame meeting, though he would not talk about it.

"He just wants to see us play with a little more fire and a little more energy," Aaron Altherr said. "You know, it's something we've got to do. Today wasn't too great. But, like I said, hopefully we can right the ship and start winning some games again."

Tommy Joseph was tight-lipped on the content of the team meeting.

"That's basically stuff that was between us," he said. "There's a pretty good understanding that we need to get going in here and that was really it. I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory and what he had to say is between us.

"It's definitely not a lack of effort. Everybody is out there trying to get the job done. I think there are certain nights when the job is getting done. When things start to spark a little bit, everybody feeds off that. Obviously there are some nights where that doesn't happen. It's definitely not from a lack of effort. Everybody is going out there busting their ass, so it's just a matter of sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't."

Mackanin used slumping Odubel Herrera in the leadoff spot for the first time this season and he produced a ninth-inning double after Adleman exited. The Phillies actually loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but a fielder's choice groundball and then a strikeout by Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, ended the game. Franco struck out swinging wildly at a full-count breaking ball from Raisel Iglesias.

Joseph mentioned that Adleman changed speeds well and used a slight hesitation in his delivery to throw off hitters.

But was it more the pitcher or more just a bad offense?

"It's hard to tell," Mackanin said. "That's a daily question. Are we not hitting the ball like we should or is the pitcher that good? It seems like I look up and every other pitcher we face has a 6.00 ERA, but I think it's all because we're missing good pitches to hit. We're getting pitches to hit and we're not hitting them."

Aaron Nola did not have a good start. He gave up a pair of homers in falling behind, 3-0, after two innings, and, obviously, there was no coming back, not with this offense.

The Philies are 5-18 in the month of May.

Or should we say Mayday?

"We're trying to stay positive, as positive as we can throughout this stretch," Altherr said. "You know, it's tough sometimes when things are going the way they are. We're just going to keep being positive, keep trying to bring as much energy as we can to win some games."