Written by Garrett Catalana – @GarrettCatalana
With a day before the NBA July Moratorium ends (7/7), and contracts can become official, the Sixers have been more active in free agency than any time during the Sam Hinkie Era. In fact, the Sixers hadn’t signed an outside free agent worth more than pretty much the minimum since Nick Young on a one-year contract in 2012. Granted, new GM & President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo hasn’t made a huge splash in free agency by signing Kevin Durant or Al Horford, or even take a risk on a young player on an expensive contract (ie Harrison Barnes, Tyler Johnson). Rather, Colangelo has made smart, short-term deals that maintain cap flexibility when the Sixers’ young core are eligible for extensions in the coming seasons. In the six days since free agency began, Colangelo has signed three free agents to bolster the backcourt depth in both talent and veteran experience. None of the signings will drastically improve the Sixers win total, but all three have the opportunity to help move along the rebuild while surrounding and supporting the Sixers young talent.
Jerryd Bayless, the team’s first signing, has been around the block (the Sixers will be his seventh team in eight years) and isn’t exactly a world-beater, but he is a very good compliment to Ben Simmons on the offensive end of the floor. This past season, he shot his best percentage from three (43.7%) in his career as well as shooting 46.1% on catch-and-shoot opportunities. These numbers probably aren’t sustainable as Bayless gets older (will be 30 by the end of his contract), but he definitely fills a need complimenting Ben Simmons by defending opposing point guards as well as playing off-ball role on offense. Bayless is limited in what he can do as an unathletic 6’2 and isn’t seen as starting material elsewhere around the leaguye, but the skills he does have fit Ben Simmons very well. His numbers improved with Milwaukee in the second half of the season when Giannis Antetokounmpo became the primary ball-handler, so he can play effectively off the ball. Bayless signed a 3 year contract, worth $27 million, which is probably one year longer than what would be ideal, but overall it is a decent contract. He will most likely be the Sixers starting point guard this upcoming season.
Sergio Rodriguez was definitely an outside-the-box signing after many veteran guards had already signed elsewhere in free agency at longer contract values. Rodriguez had a previous stint in the NBA from 2006 to 2010, with the Trail Blazers, Kings, and Knicks. Since then, Rodriguez has dominated in Liga ACB and Euroleague with powerhouse Real Madrid. He was the Spanish Supercup MVP in 2013, a 3x All-ACB Team selection, an All-Euroleague First-Team selection, a 2x All-Europe Player of the Year, the Euroleague MVP in 2014, and a Euroleague champion in 2015. Sergio was known as “Spanish Chocolate” over in Europe with a similar flashy passing style to former NBA point guard Jason Williams (White Chocolate). He had been rumored to be signing with the Brooklyn Nets just last month, but ultimately signed with the Sixers on a one year, $8 million deal. Rodriguez has also shot efficiently from three since returning to Spain and he also possesses great court awareness, placing himself in good spots along the three-point line ready for kick-outs which could be ideal with Ben Simmons or Dario Saric off the bench.. Rodriguez is a good stopgap point guard as the Sixers continue to look for a younger, superior option at the position. As an international veteran, he can even help Dario Saric and Timothe Luwawu get accustomed to life in the NBA. He will be the backup point guard behind Jerryd Bayless.
Gerald Henderson was signed yesterday for more veteran experience in the backcourt and as Tyler King laid out yesterday, Henderson will be starting at shooting guard. He becomes the Sixers best perimeter defender with the ability to guard anyone 2-4 by using his great athleticism. Henderson was signed to a great value contract of 2 years, $18 million, something that could fetch good value in a trade a year from now.
With the signings of Bayless, Rodriguez, and Henderson, the Sixers added veteran experience and some needed talent to help smooth the process from rebuilding to eventual contention as well as complimenting Ben Simmons. It also indicates that Bryan Colangelo wasn’t willing to hurt the long-term cap situation by signing players to three or four year contracts worth eight-plus figures (like the Lakers with Mozgov & Deng), maintaining cap flexibility. Colangelo has avoided the big splash for now even as the Noel/Embiid/Okafor decision looms, but between the draft and early free agency, Colangelo has done well to not take the Sixers off the path laid out by Sam Hinkie and ownership back in 2013 and has continued to grow the foundation.
As of right now, it’s been so far, so good in Bryan Colangelo’s first offseason with the 76ers.