Philadelphia 76ers: Omari Spellman needs a serious look from Daryl Morey

(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images) /

If Spellman gets his diet right, he could be a great get for the Philadelphia 76ers.

When fully healthy and eligible to play, the Philadelphia 76ers have a pretty rock solid rotation.

They have their top-line starting five – Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Danny Green, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid – that has proven it can hang with seemingly any team thrown their way, and a bench unit featuring a perfectly curated collection of players both veteran and developmental. Heck, the team even has a solid swash of deep bench reserves –  Tyrese Maxey, Dakota Mathias, Terrance Ferguson, Paul Reed, Vincent Poirier, and Tony Bradley – who have playing time throughout the first nine games of the season, and each present unique upsides.

However, there is an increasingly obvious hole on the depth chart that has reared its ugly head with increasing regularity since Mike Scott suffered a left knee injury five games into the season: Power forward depth.

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That’s right, despite having a roster loaded with 10 frontcourt players – seven if you count Green, Furgason, and Matisse Thybulle as shooting guards – the Sixers only have two power forwards who can adamantly space the court for Embiid and Simmons on the wings in Harris and Scott. Now don’t get me wrong, that isn’t necessarily a knock against any of the Sixers’ reserve big men. Poirier, Bradley, Reed, and Dwight Howard can all surely play to varying degrees in any given game, but only one – Reed – hit double-digit 3 pointers last season, and he did so as a member of the DePaul Blue Demons.

Yeah, that’s not ideal when you need to replace 16 minutes of Mike Scott a night.

Fortunately, a stretch four unlike any player on the Sixers’ current roster just became available, and needless to say, he should be sitting firmly atop Daryl Morey‘s short-term wishlist: Omari Spellman.

Does that name sound familiar to you? Well, that might be because Spellman was a member of the 2017-18 Villanova Wildcats; the very team that brought back an NCAA Championship Trophy to the Mainline for the second time in three seasons. Though he only played one season for Jay Wright‘s squad as a redshirt freshman, showed out exceptionally well as the team’s interior anchor – averaging 10.9 points and eight rebounds a game in the Daniel Ochefu-role.

Spellman parlayed said uber-successful season into a first-round selection (30th overall) by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Though Spellman only played sparingly for an Atlanta squad still looking to figure things out around rookie phenom Trae Young, appearing in 46 games with 11 starts, he clearly showed enough to inspire Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers to trade Damian Jones and a 2026 second-round pick to procure his services.

From there, Spellman transitioned from a floor stretching power forward to a small-ball five, playing alongside his former Villanova teammate Eric Paschall on one of the worst Warriors squads we’ve seen since the pre-Steph Curry-era.

Fun fact: Technically, the Warriors have never won less than 15 games in a single season, even when they played in Philadelphia and only played 60 games in a regular season, so in actuality, that 2019-20 marks the worst team in franchise history, period.

Though Spellman played fairly well for the Warriors over his 49 game tenure with the team, averaging 7.6 points and 4.5 rebounds while draining 39.1 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, Golden State opted to ship him to Minnesota alongside D’Angelo Russell and Jacob Evans in exchange for Andrew Wiggins and a protected first-round pick. With Karl-Anthony Towns already in place at center and fellow deadline acquisition James Johnson soaking up the remainder of the power forward minutes, Spellman was exiled to the Iowa Wolves, where he played out the remainder of the regular season with little fanfare.

Spellman – and fittingly enough, Jacob Evans – was traded to the New York Knicks during the 2020 offseason for Ed Davis and a second-round pick and was later waived on January 7th without so much as playing a game for Spike Lee’s favorite team.

Now free to sign anywhere he likes after failing to be claimed on waivers, Spellman can sign wherever he’d like, including the aforementioned Sixers, who again, could really use a big man who can knock down an open 3 and play a little D either on the wings or in the paint.

But, you may ask, who would the Sixers have to release to make way for Spellman? Well, I for one can’t in good conscious advocate for firing someone in these trying times – we are in a pandemic after all – but neither Ferguson nor Bradley appear to have found a consistent home in the Sixers’ rotation. Spellman specifically appears to be an upgrade over Bradley in pretty much any identifiable metric, as he’s a better shooter, a better scorer, and can surely name more cheesesteak joints even after a few years away from the City of Brotherly Love.

If the Sixers see what I do and want to upgrade their roster with a Mike Muscala-type player, why not bring the former Villanova champion – COVID protocols permitting – and see how he looks? Can’t hurt, right?

In Spellman, the Sixers could add a decent enough backup for Mike Scott who can play the sort of 3-and-D big man role Morey liked in Houston, while also giving the team a viable small-ball center to pair up with Simmons in the ‘Simmons-plus-shooters’ look Doc Rivers has been looking to implement as a change-of-pace look when Embiid exits the court and the need a little extra speed and explosiveness, all for roughly a million against the salary cap. Heck, the team could even use some of their mid-level exception, which is still worth $4.8 million, and even outbid opposing teams interesting in his services if multiple teams want to lock up the 23-year-old on a veteran minimum deal.

At this point, why not at least kick the tire and see what’s there?

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Now sure, Omari Spellman isn’t a perfect player who will suddenly make the Philadelphia 76ers unbeatable. As our friends over at Posting & Toasting so eloquently put it, “There’s a promising player in there, but he needs to get in shape.” But isn’t that what bottom-of-the-roster spots are for, developmental players? Even if Spellman has gained 24 pounds since his time with the Golden State Warriors and needs to borrow Joel Embiid’s personal chef to get his body right, why see if there’s something there, especially with the team’s power forward depth non-existent? Sure beats keeping two deep bench non-shooting centers with near-identical sets of skills.