Philadelphia 76ers: Otto Porter Jr. is the perfect post-draft TMLE target

(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

Unless they become the beneficiaries of some very good luck, the Philadelphia 76ers are effectively out of the P.J. Tucker sweepstakes, at least assuming he still wants a contract in the three-year, $30 million range as initially reported by Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Now granted, could the Sixers maybe, just maybe get far enough under the tax apron to fully utilize their non-taxpayer mid-level? Sure, there are three realistic paths to the TMLE that are theoretically at Daryl Morey’s disposal, but unless James Harden is willing to agree to a deal in the $30 million AAV range, or there’s a surprise suitor for Tobias Harris, that feels incredibly unlikely.

Alternatively, it’s possible Tucker’s market isn’t quite as expansive as some theorized, and he ultimately lands in Philly for something like $18 million over three years. While that would fly in the face of some reporting on the matter, all it takes is a few teams to go in a different direction and suddenly, Tucker is a member of the Sixers.

No, for the sake of sanity, it’s probably best to operate for the next week under the assumption that Morey is locked into the regular old taxpayer MLE and that $6.339 million number, plus trades and veteran minimum contracts are the way to build out the roster. Fortunately, there are more than a few players who fit that bill and could immediately make the Philadelphia 76ers a much better, deeper team heading into the 2022-23 season, including one in particular who should be the team’s tip target.

Otto Porter does everything the Philadelphia 76ers need from the forward spots.

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers could really use heading into the 2022-23 NBA season, it’s rebounding; specifically rebounding from the wing spots.

Though the addition of De’Anthony Melton should help to alleviate that issue at least a little bit, as, despite being 6-foot-2, he’s one of the best rebounding guards in the NBA, his lack of height will create mismatches at both ends of the court that even his supremely deep bag of tricks can’t fully alleviate. No, for the Sixers to take a step forward, they need to find a frontcourt answer to Melton, aka an analytics darling who can pad out the rotation as on-court connective tissue.

So, using the Per 36 stat as a great equalizer, how many non-centers finished in the top-50 in rebounds last season? 15.

Okay, cool, not too big of a list, not too small; a perfect Goldy Locks sample size. But how can we trim it down? Well, the Sixers did just add a certified steal specialist in Melton who plays the lanes almost as well as Matisse Thybulle; how many of those 15 players averaged at least a steal per game Per 36?

That quantifier drops the number down to just nine, with only two members of the list, Kyle Anderson and Otto Porter Jr., set to hit free agency this summer.

Okay, cool, are both of those players good defenders? In a word: Yes; the duo had positive Defensive Raptor ratings in nine of the last 10 seasons according to FiveThirtyEight and were both positive performers in 2021-22.

So what’s the difference? Well, if a team wants a slower version of Ben Simmons, then Anderson is the player for the job, but if a 3-and-D forward is more your speed, then Porter is literally the man for the job, as he attempted 5.6 3s per game and made them at a 37 percent clip.

Now, if you’ve been of the Sixers for a while now, you certainly remember seeing Porter play a time or two. He was drafted by the Wizards third overall, played for the team for five and a half seasons, and was then traded to Chicago and eventually Orlando before he turned 28. He’s been a max contract player, a throw-in cap filler in a trade for a legit All-Star in Nikola Vučević, and, in 2021, opted to sign a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors for the vet minimum in the hopes of rehabbing his value across the league and earning a championship ring.

Mission accomplished on all fronts.

While Porter wasn’t a star, let alone a consistent starter, and didn’t have the sort of bust-to-star glow-up that benefited his teammate and fellow top-3 pick Andrew Wiggins, more than a few teams across the NBA will offer the Georgetown native a deal this summer, especially on some form of MLE.

The Sixers should unquestionably be on that list.

Measuring in at 6-foot-8, 198 pounds, Porter is a big wing who can play the three, the four, and even the small-ball five, depending on the matchup. He has good length, even better defensive instincts, and even if he isn’t the most dynamic athlete in the NBA, Porter still has a good enough feel for the game to pick his spots and make a move on his way to the basket.

Play him at the three next to Tobias Harris, play him at the four alongside Melton and Matisse Thybulle, play him as a switchable four/five next to Paul Reed and Georges Niang; Porter is a legitimate two-way performer who can stay on the court no matter what in the playoffs – just ask Steve Kerr – and at 29, he can theoretically play out his prime with Joel Embiid if he so sees fit.

Yup, you read that correctly; despite having played in 554 games over eight seasons and being drafted in 2013(!), Porter is just 286 days older than Embiid and could become a long-term frontcourt foil for the big fella in the paint.

Next. Is there still a path to P.J. Tucker post-draft?. dark

Are there other options the Philadelphia 76ers could and should explore with their mid-level exception? You bet, Kyle Anderson certainly sounds like an interesting option, and there are other players, like ex-Brooklyn Nets wing Bruce Brown, who fit the De’Anthony Melton mold of analytics darling in search of a bigger role. But of the options available who are at least semi-realistically within the team’s price range, Otto Porter Jr. is by far the most intriguing, as his combination of defense, disruption, rebounding, and 3-point shooting is exactly what the team needs to fill out their rotation and out P.J. Tucker into the rearview.