Inside the Fatal Three-way fight for the Philadelphia 76ers’ 15th roster spot

The fight for the Philadelphia 76ers’ 15th roster spot is going to be a slugfest.

As things presently stand, the Philadelphia 76ers have 15 players under contract for the 2020-21 season.

Now granted, said players aren’t the 15 the team is going into the regular season with, as Daryl Morey’s draft-day trade of Al Horford for Terrance Ferguson and Danny Green still hasn’t technically been made official, and the team’s three rookies have yet to sign their NBA deals.

If you adjust the numbers accordingly and assume that either Isaiah Joe or Paul Reed will join G-League (Texas) Legend Dakota Mathias on a two-way deal, you’ll find that the Sixers have fourteen players on guaranteed contracts and three more – Justin Anderson, Ryan Broekhoff, and Derrick Walton – duking it out for the team’s coveted 15th spot.

Folks, are you ready for a Fatal Three-Way?

In one corner is a local kid (via Montross, Virginia), a fan-favorite with 69 games in a Sixers uniform already under his belt, Justin Anderson. Initially drafted in the back half of the first round by the Dallas Mavericks in 2015, Anderson was acquired in a picks/players package for former sixth overall pick Nerlens Noel and (near) instantly found a home in Brett Brown‘s rotation. Measuring in at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, Anderson has an, um, streaky outside shot, supreme athleticism, and defensive versatility to cover 1-4 comfortably. Anderson’s showdowns with Carmelo Anthony are still the stuff of Process legend, and he has the rare distinction of limiting Dwyane Wade to eight points in a pivotal Game 3 playoff contest in 2019.

If the 76ers want a defensive guard/forward to fill out a defense-first lineup alongside Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Danny Green, and Joel Embiid, Anderson is the only man for the job.

Fun Fact: Justin Anderson also just so happens to be one of Joel Embiid’s best friends, which could account for his partially guaranteed contract.

And next, we have ‘The Accountant’, Rowdy Ryan Broekhoff. On paper, Broekhoff and Anderson couldn’t be more different, as the 30-year-old Melbourne, Australia native is a sharpshooter from 3 but barely registers on the defensive Richter scale. Though he’s only appeared in 59 games, Broekhoff is a career 40.3 percent outside shooter on an average of 2.4 attempts per game and even scored 15 points against the Sixers in a game in 2019. In a different world, we may have gotten a look at Broekhoff in a Sixers uniform last season, as he signed a contract with the club back in June, but the 30-year-old first-time father opted out of the bubble to remain with his wife and child. After watching the Sixers’ playoff woes from the comfort of his own home, could Broekhoff be the missing piece to a reloaded 2020-21 roster?

Fun Fact II: Broekhoff is friends with his fellow countryman Ben Simmons and actually gave a speech on the Wells Fargo court accompanied by the Fresh Prince (and Jonah Bolden) to raise awareness for the wildfires in Australia earlier this year.

And last but not least, the pride of Detroit, Michigan, Derrick Walton. Measuring in at 6-foot, 185 pounds, Walton is the least experienced of the trio in terms of NBA minutes on court, but has the rare distinction of already playing under Doc Rivers during his time with the Los Angeles Clippers – joining Tobias Harris and Mike Scott as the only players to do so. Over his first 44 games in the league, Walton knocked down an average of 41.5 percent of his 3-point shots (on one attempt) and averaged one assist per game in a little less than 10 minutes of action a night. Though Walton doesn’t project out as a legitimate rotational player, he at least has experience running the point in Rivers’ offense and could provide value as a traditional bench piece this season.

Fun Fact III: As far as I can tell, Walton doesn’t have any outstanding relationships with anyone on the Sixers, save for his abbreviated tenure on the Clippers with Rivers, Harris, and Scott.

Three men enter, only one leaves with the coveted NBA contract – assuming, of course, that no one else gets traded or suffers a season-ending injury.

While, in theory, any player could win the 76ers’ final 15th roster spot, this really feels like a two-man contest between Anderson and Broekhoff, with Anderson getting the edge due to the nature of his contract. With three very different players with very different skills locked in mortal combat for a chance to continue on with their NBA dream, this Fatal Three-Way will surely go down as one of the more interesting under the radar stories to follow in training camp. But don’t just take my word for it, to paraphrase a promo by the great Scott Steiner,

See, normally if you go one on one with another wrestler basketball player, you(‘ve) got a 50/50 chance of winning. But I’m Justin Anderson’s a genetic freak and I’m he’s not normal! So you got a 25% chance, AT BEST, at beat(ing) me Justin Anderson. Then you add Kurt Angle Derrick Walton to the mix, (and) your chances of winning drastic(ly) go down. See the [Fatal] three-way, at Sacrifice  for the15th roster spot, you(‘ve) got a 33 1/3 chance of winning, but I Justin Anderson? I Justin Anderson’s got a 66 and 2/3 chance of winning, because Kurt Angle Derrick Walton KNOWS he can’t beat me Justin Anderson and he’s not even gonna try!

So Samoa Joe Ryan Broekhoff, you take your 33 1/3 chance, minus my Justin Anderson’s 25% chance and you got an 8 1/3 chance of winning at Sacrifice the 15th roster spot. But then you take my Justin Anderson’s 75% chance of winning, if we you (were) to go one on one, and then add 66 2/3 percents, I Justin Anderson’s got 141 and 2/3rds chance of winning at Sacrifice the 15th roster spot. Senior Joe Broekhoff, the numbers don’t lie, and they spell disaster for you at Sacrifice training camp.

You’ve gotta hand it to Scott Steiner; not only do all of his numbers add up, but his on-the-spot promo really is applicable in basically every situation, even for the Philadelphia 76ers.