Prior to his arrival in Philly, Isiah Canaan was a relative unknown in the “Lone Star” state. The 34th overall pick out of Murray State in 2013, Canaan almost immediately flipped flopped between the D-League and the Houston Rockets, and despite posting stellar numbers (21.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 8.2 assists in 34.0 minutes) in his stay out of the spotlight, Canaan never truly got a chance to shine on a professional court (5.4 points per game, 13.1 minutes per game 74% FT). Then, everything changed.
Flash forward to today and you can see that Canaan has cannon-balled both into the heart of this 76er team and its fans. On February 19th Canaan was brought over in the K.J McDaniels swap, along with a second round pick. And in that time, Canaan has posted solid averages of 13.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.8 threes (at 36%) and 84% from the line in just over 29 minutes per game. There is no doubt that Canaan has been a much needed and appreciated injection of energy as the season comes to a close. Question is, will Canaan be a long term stand-in at the point or a short term throwaway in Hinkie’s recycling bin? Only time will tell.
As of now though, there’s nothing to suggest Canaan can make a big enough leap to be signed for the long haul. For one, he is of below average height (6’ 0”) for the point guard position and lacks the ability to defend bigger, more physical guards like ex 76er Michael Carter-Williams, who stands at an imposing 6’6”. His current average of .4 steals per game also leaves no desire to keep him from a defensive standpoint. The 76ers are building towards defensive dominance and Canaan is no tyro in that regard.
With the great dearth of guards who can shoot currently in the NBA, Canaan is also an easily replaceable commodity. According to Basketball-Reference, the league average of three point shooting is currently at 34.8 percent; Canaan is fixed at 36.1 percent. The Sixers are also not very good at three point shooting at the moment (2nd to last in the NBA at 31.6%). So unless he’s shaken the hand of Steph Curry, I beg the question: what is the point in starting or even retaining him, when there are better options on the horizon?
By trading or building through the draft, the Sixers open themselves to a variety of options. Building through the draft could help land an underrated point (a late first, early second rounder) , someone like a Kris Dunn (Providence junior PG with a 6’8″ wingspan, 15.2 PPG, 7.5 APG, 2.8 SPG, 48 FG% ) if he opts in for a senior year, to replace Canaan; the team can also aggressively pursue a proven lockdown defender like Patrick Beverley at the point this offseason and put Canaan as the first man off the bench, a role much more suited to his strengths. And if Canaan’s play of late seeps into next season, they could swap him for a pick, a player or both. Either way, these are a few of many options that won’t take up exorbitant amounts of cap space and improve the Sixers both short term and long term on both sides of the court.
In the end, Sam Hinkie has many tricks up his sleeve. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.