For those who have followed the NBA over the last decade or more, many of us realize that it has become a copycat league and an arms race to construct the next super team. The shape of the League moved from needing a dominant big man in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s to a more pace and space/small-ball concept. This adds to one of the many reasons the Sixers can’t move Okafor and Noel can’t come to terms with Dallas, but I digress…
The “super team” movement seems to have peaked this summer with organizations scrambling to compete in the arms race to combine as many star players on one roster as possible. Seeing the championship results in Miami, Cleveland, and Golden Stare makes it hard to argue against its success. The onus is put on GM’s to find the next angle and be ahead of the curve. What makes this task infinitely more difficult is the impatience of fan bases and owners looking for a “win-now” mentality, when some patience may be the best course of action. Seeing what the 76ers have done this offseason, it seems that they are setting a trend worth copying.
In 2016, with the influx of money, teams doled out bloated, multi-year contracts like an Oprah Winfrey Favorite Things show. Instead of joining in the trend, the Sixers showed restraint, which at the time, was sometimes hard to watch. Fast forward to this offseason, much of that salary cap growth flatlined.
Having young talent and flush with cap space, Philadelphia could have fallen into the same trap as many teams did last year. Instead, they bucked the system, offering large, one year contracts to veterans that will help grow the team, while leaving the flexibility for seasons to come. By signing J.J. Redick to the $23 million for a year, he fills a dire need of shooting while not hamstringing the team going forward. If the Sixers can progress as anticipated, Redick could be open to a more team-friendly extended contract in 2018-19. Teams like the Lakers have started following suit with this approach, giving a one year contract to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Let’s face it, the Sixers are not ready to take on the likes of Golden State. Yet. But what they have been able to do is position the team to grow this year, assess their young, raw talent, and begin to really make some noise and turn some heads in the League. Will it work? That remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if we see more and more teams taking what the Sixers did and doing the same.
As big of a fan as I am about the 76ers approach to bringing in veteran free agent, J.J. Redick and his outstanding shooting, the move to sign Amir Johnson to a one year, $11 million contact has me scratching my head.
True, the Sixers had more than enough cap space and has a connection to GM, Bryan Colangelo. Yes, Johnson will be a high-character guy for this young squad, but his productivity on the court just doesn’t match the high price tag. Johnson averaged 6.5 ppg and 4.6 rpg, both his lowest averages since 2009-10. While starting 77 of 80 games and averaging 20 mpg does speak to his durability, Johnson did get removed from the starting rotation in the playoffs this year.
Veteran free agents like Irsan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala averaged more points and assists as well as better 3 p% in less minutes in 2016-17 and are making $5 million to $6 million less this upcoming season, respectively. Now, Muscala is signed through 2018, but his total two-year contract worth $10 million. Still that is $1 million less with an extra year. Although the Sixers still have about $15 million in cap space, that extra $5-$6 million could’ve been useful to aide in a Robert Covington extension.
With all of the measured moves Philly has made, the Amir Johnson signing seemed a bit rushed. Will he be a glue guy that helps talents like Embiid, Simmons, and Holmes grow? Only time will tell, but like always, we are left to Trust the Process.
Photo: Keith Pompey (via www.philly.com)