Free agency began in earnest for the Philadelphia 76ers at 12:01 a.m., Sunday, with the team wading into the waters casually rather than with a cannonball from the high dive.
That doesn’t mean the Sixers haven’t done some work during the first 48 hours of the market opening. So far, the team has had discussions with representatives for unrestricted free agents Lou Williams and Spencer Hawes. The Sixers also came to terms for a two-year deal worth $6 million with Lavoy Allen, according to a source. The deal will be announced officially on July 11.
With Allen to return, the Sixers have approximately $55 million to nine players, including unsigned draft picks Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie. That also includes the $18.1 million owed to Elton Brand next season as well as $14.9 million to Andre Iguodala. With the salary cap set at $58 million, the Sixers won’t have much wiggle room on free agents unless they exercise the amnesty clause, presumably on Brand.
Meanwhile, the Sixers retain Bird rights on Williams and Hawes, which means they can exceed the salary cap to retain their own player. Still, many sources believe that Hawes will be on a new team next season.
So where do the Sixers go from here? Certainly they need a center, a veteran point guard and a shooting threat, but who is available?
Better yet, who can they get?
Among the guards, Jason Kidd
and Steve Nash
are the biggest names on the free-agent market, though they are not considering the Sixers. Veterans Jason Terry
, Chauncey Billups
, Derek Fisher
and Andre Miller
also are hitting the market and could be reasonable possibilities.
Then, most intriguingly, there is Kirk Hinrich
and Jameer Nelson
Nelson, of course, is the Chester High and St. Joe’s All-American and All-Star for the Orlando Magic who opted out of the last year of his five-year, $38 million deal to become an unrestricted free agent. Nelson will talk to the Magic first, but there are whispers he is interested in returning home to play for the Sixers.
Nelson could be the veteran point guard to transform the Sixers and be a mentor to 21-year-old Jrue Holiday. Moreover, Nelson just turned 30 and certainly has a few solid seasons left, which might not be the same for Hinrich.
There were rumors that the Sixers were interested in Hinrich at the trade deadline last season and coach Doug Collins is a big fan of the veteran guard from the Hawks and Wizards. However, Hinrich earned $8 million last season and has battled injuries for the past half-dozen seasons. Last year, Hinrich appeared in just 48 games and shot a career-worst 34.6 percent from three-point land (47 for 136).
For now, the Chicago Bulls are reported to have the highest interest in Hinrich.
When it comes to shooters, the Sixers can do better than Hinrich. There was a report that the Sixers were interested in Portland’s Jamal Crawford
, but those whispers have cooled significantly. All-time leading three-point shooter Ray Allen
also is an unrestricted free agent, along with the Clippers’ Nick Young
and the Grizzlies’ O.J. Mayo
. However, the best of the bunch is Orlando’s Ryan Anderson
, who was the NBA’s most-improved player last season and is a bona fide Sixers’ killer.
Getting Anderson could be difficult since the Magic gave the 6-foot-10 shooter and rebounder a qualifying offer. The Sixers (or any other team) could sign Anderson to an offer sheet, but then the Magic would be able to match it.
Actually, it would take some revamping and creativity with the salary cap to get any of these free-agent players. Plus, the Sixers feel as if they have their outside shooter waiting in the wings with the 19-year-old Harkless, though he remains a project.
As for the big men, Hawes is a possibility and gives the Sixers some salary cap flexibility. Otherwise, the free-agent market is slim, with Kris Humphries
from the Nets as the name bandied about the most. Still, Humphries brings with him a lot of baggage as well as salary demands. Moreover, Humphries was mediocre player with Utah, Toronto and Dallas before landing in New Jersey and posting decent stats in a contract year.
Stats from career underachievers on bad teams in a contract year are always suspect. Is Humphries a player or is he just looking for the next deal?
Sixers can explore a trade and reports have linked them to Orlando’s Dwight Howard
and the Lakers’ Pau Gasol
. However, do the Sixers have enough to make those types of trades or, better yet, will they?E-mail John Finger at email@example.com