What do the Philadelphia 76ers need more than anything else?
To finally trade Ben Simmons and more forward with their franchise.
… okay, fair. But riddle me this, what is the second thing the Philadelphia 76ers need more than anything else?
A 3 point shooing big man capable of splitting his time between the four and the five at both ends of the court.
In 2020-21, that player was supposed to be Mike Scott, as he’d been a viable 3-and-D swingman from 2018-20, but for whatever reason, that just never seemed to work out under Doc Rivers, which shouldn’t have been too surprising, considering the duo didn’t exactly mesh in their first trip together with the Clippers in 2018-19. Come playoff time, the Sixers were forced to rely on a not-so-exciting rotation of Tobias Harris and Simmons at power forward, which severely limited the team’s ability to strategically deploy their best defender while protecting the paint when Joel Embiid wasn’t on the court.
So naturally, regardless of how the Sixers address their top concern this summer, they’d be wise to also keep an eye out for a quality stretch four/five with an ability to play beside and in place of Embiid comes playoffs 2022.
Unfortunately, the chances of landing the best man for the job, Kelly Olynyk, may not be as likely as many a fan would like, as his mark may just be too rich to justify leaving money on the table to sign a mid-level exception deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Philadelphia 76ers can’t outbid salary cap teams for Kelly Olynyk.
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Because the Philadelphia 76ers are over the cap, their opportunities to fortify their roster with better-fitting pieces are few and far between.
They can sign players to veteran minimum contracts either guaranteed or not, players like Ryan Arcidiacono, invest their exceptions – mid-level and bi-annual – into one or more players as they see fit, make a trade using the $8.2 million trade exception, or trade players they already have under contract for better-fitting pieces of comparable value.
That’s it. Those are the options, and you’d best assume Daryl Morey will work with each and every one of them to put the team in a better position to succeed moving forward.
Now can you get good players on the mid-level exception? Most definitely. The Los Angeles Lakers used the entirety of their 2020 mid-level exception on Montrezl Harrell, the then-reigning Sixth Man of the Year, and while that didn’t work out all too well, it was considered a slam dunk signing at the time.
In theory, landing Kelly Olynyk on that very same contract would be an incredible accomplishment worthy of similar acclaim but for that to happen, the market for the former Boston Celtic/Miami Heater/Houston Rocket would need to top out in that range.
After the back half of the 2020-21 NBA season, that (probably) isn’t going to happen.
As you may or may not know, Olynyk was traded to the Houston Rockets alongside Avery Bradley and a 2022 first-round pick for Victor Oladipo and a 2022 second-round pick. While the 2020-21 Rockets may seem like the sort of place where over-30-year-old players go to hang out, enjoy the fine foods Texas has to offer, and prepare for free agency down the line, Olynyk took full advantage of his opportunity and turned in the best half-season of his career.
In 27 games of action, Olynyk averaged 19 points in 31.1 minutes of action while hauling in 8.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.4 steals as the team’s most efficient 3 point shooter down the stretch. Olynyk played well off of second-year powderkeg Kevin Porter, sat perfectly next to Christian Wood when he was available to go, and just generally silenced any doubts about whether or not he could still be a viable cog on a playoff-bound team.
Historically speaking, those are the sort of players who get big, well-earned contracts from teams with salary caps, teams like the Detroit Pistons, who are reportedly interested in bringing Olynyk to town to serve as a replacement for his former teammate, Christian Wood.
Heading into the draft, the Pistons didn’t have a lot of cap space after straddling themselves with $29 million of dead money from releasing Blake Griffin post-trade deadline. In theory, they could have rolled with the roster they already had in place in the hopes that the inherent star power of Cade Cunningham would be enough to right their ship moving forward but fortunately for fans in Detroit, the wasn’t the route the team opted to take. No, Troy Weaver and company instead decided to waive a handful of auxiliary players to free up between $18-19 million and put themselves front row for a chance to sign Olynyk for as much as $12 million a year.
If that offer is on the table, to make, say, $45 million over four years and start next to Cunningham and Jerami Grant, why would he turn it down for a shorter-term, less lucrative deal that would feature a smaller role and fewer minutes?
Answer: He probably wouldn’t.
No, as tough as it may be to admit, the Philadelphia 76ers will in all likelihood lose out on a player like Kelly Olynyk and may have to instead turn to less effective players like Frank Kaminsky, or Daniel Theis, who aren’t quite as good but could fill a similar role moving forward. Does that stink? Most definitely, but such is the life of a team that’s almost $60 million over the practical salary cap; you can’t have every player you would like, no matter what fans of the Los Angeles Lakers would tell you.