Philadelphia 76ers: 3 potential Summer Olympics MLE signees to watch

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /
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The Philadelphia 76ers’ have plenty of international options with their MLE.

As the Philadelphia 76ers‘ front office prepares for the 2021-22 NBA calendar year, fans, scouts, and bloggers still very much have meaningful basketball left to watch before the summer is through, as the Tokyo Olympics will officially be in full swing before July rolls into August.

While Team USA doesn’t feature any of the Sixers’ eligible players – that honor actually belongs to the Australian National team and their do-it-all defensive winger Matisse Thybulle –  the tournament and its lead up games feature a slew of potential trade and/or signing targets worthy of serious consideration from South Philly’s brass.

You want to scout Damian Lillard outside of the confines of the Portland Trail Blazers’ offense? You’ll have that opportunity.  How about Bradley Beal? He, too, will be playing for Team USA alongside Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, and… Kevin Love?

Well… okay, then.

But just because many an American basketball fan will have their eyes fixed on how their national team will fare on the international stage – so far, not so good – doesn’t mean there aren’t international players who could be fantastic additions to the Philadelphia 76ers roster on the mid-level exception. If anything, this international run may just be enough to raise a free agent’s stock or prove they could be viable role players alongside Philly’s current rotation.

Nicolas Batum – Team France

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The 2020/21 French national team is loaded up with current, and former NBA players from deep bench reserves – Frank Ntilikina, Guerschon Yabusele – to certified starters – Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert – and even a few former Philadelphia 76ers – Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, Vincent Poirier – but the one player Daryl Morey should be keeping the closest tabs on has to be Nicolas Batum, the disgraced former Charlotte Hornet who found new life as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2020-21.

Measuring in at 6-foot-8, 230 pounds, Batum is an ideal modern-day frontcourt performer capable of playing small forward, power forward, and even a little small ball center if need be, all the while providing some offensive pop-off as a 36 percent shooter from beyond the arc.

Not too shabby for a player Michael Jordan’s organization decided was so poorly positioned to help them out moving forward that they ate the remainder of his contract with the stretch provision.

During the Clippers’ playoff run – his first since 2016 – Batum scored 10-plus points on six separate occasions and developed into a near-every game starter following Kawhi Leonard’s season-ending injury. He hit 38.9 percent of his 3.8 3 pointers a game, hauled in 5.5 rebounds a night, and even averaged 1.3 steals per game, which isn’t quite Ben Simmons/Matisse Thybulle-esque production but is certainly appreciated.

Should the Clippers be in the market to retain Batum for the 2021-22 season and potentially beyond? Most definitely, but if they opt to take things in a different direction, especially if Leonard opts to take his talents out of the City of Angles, maybe their front office will allow Batum to slip through the cracks and sign on the MLE for another team with championship aspirations.

Between you and me, the Sixers could do a whole lot worse than signing Batum for roughly $5.89 million a year, like, for example, not signing anyone at all like they did in 2020.

Even at the tender age of 32, Batum would be a massive upgrade over 2020-21 Mike Scott and presents enough versatility at both ends of the court to remain a rotational playoff piece for a team that severely lacked a reliable frontcourtsman coming off the bench.