Sixers better off avoiding free-agency fray this year

ASSOCIATED PRESS Wherever LeBron James lands will have a ripple effect throughout the NBA during the free-agency period.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Wherever LeBron James lands will have a ripple effect throughout the NBA during the free-agency period.
Posted: July 11, 2014

LEBRON'S most recent drama of free agency - a Melo drama this time, since Carmelo Anthony is in this year's cast of overvalued sneaker salesmen - makes for excellent summertime diversion.

Still, wherever LeBron James takes his talents this time will affect the NBA tremendously, since it will determine where a gaggle of other players land, and for how much, and maybe for how long.

Similarly, the league will shift according to the next franchise Anthony chooses to ruin.

It is an annual pastime in Philadelphia, this dance of courtship and acceptance. It is wonderful to watch . . . but only to watch.

Because the Sixers never join the dance.

Oh, there's always a good reason.

Mainly it's because, the way the collective bargaining agreement is written, it benefits pending free agents to re-sign with their current teams. Seldom do players consent to take less money for fewer years, the way James and Chris Bosh did when they joined Dwyane Wade in Miami 4 years ago.

Otherwise, the franchise contended that the free agents available would never consent to join the team, despite its configuration.

This time, of course, the Sixers are too young. They are rebuilding, a wreck with hardly a foundation laid.

Besides, after James and Anthony, the free-agent class is not exactly teeming with prime franchise players. It mainly is a collection of last-timers (Dirk Nowitzki), retreads (Paul Pierce) and bench-enhancements (Vince Carter).

It is not such a bad year for the Sixers to sit and watch.

In the past, the team usually was crossing fingers and hoping that this player or that player would develop - at a lesser cost, of course.

Sometimes it has salary-cap issues. For a decade, it had Allen Iverson issues; a Melo-type black hole where basketballs went and never were seen again, until he shot them.

An argument can be made that the club's best free-agent signing of this generation happened when Iverson was in him prime.

The Sixers signed George Lynch in 1999.

Not the guitar player, the basketball player.

They spent $4.2 million for 2 years' worth of service from one of the league's better three-position defenders and rebounders.

Or, of course, the Sixers were smarter than everybody else. Always, looking for value.

Values such as Scott Williams.

Or Matt Geiger.

Or injured Elton Brand.

Given the dangers associated with signing free agents, there is little wonder the Sixers have been reluctant.

There is no indication that, when given the chance, either general manager Sam Hinkie or owner Josh Harris will balk at adding a veteran piece.

Hinkie is in his second season and learned his trade with the Rockets.

The Rockets, of course, signed Dwight Howard last summer. In 2012, they signed restricted free agent point guard Jeremy Lin to a laughable offer sheet and stole him from the Knicks.

The Sixers appear poised to bear the brunt of the Lin deal's bad money in exchange for a draft pick. Wait, does Hinkie still work for the Rockets?

Actually, cash seems the least of the 76ers' issues. Harris is a billionaire, and he heads a group that unblinkingly stands by its decision to trade for Andrew Bynum in 2012. Bynum, of course, used the 2012-13 season to pamper his knees and to collect more than $16 million.

Few players worth close to that are in this market.

Bosh, of course, is chief among the co-stars in the LeBron-Melo drama. Houston's interest in him spurred the Rockets to ask Hinkie to do them this $15 million favor.

Then there is Luol Deng, the Bulls' versatile forward. Valuable, in the right situation.

Pacers malcontent Lance Stephenson is convinced he is worth at least $10 million a year. Whoever gets him deserves him.

Then who?

Wade? Once the league's second-best player, there is no reason to waste money on 40 games a year and one playoff series. That seems to be the limits of what his body can now take.

Pau Gasol? There's a thought for any team that considers itself close to contending. Gasol, 34, is as complete a big man as the league has seen the past decade. He is selfless. He is accustomed to dealing with the biggest of spotlights as a Spanish national team cornerstone, a franchise player for the Grizzlies and, of course, Kobe Bryant's apologist for the previous six full seasons. He has had injury issues the past two seasons, but if Gasol lands in Oklahoma City, immediately etch their names on the championship trophy.

As for the rest of it, when Marcin Gortat ($60 milion) and Josh McRoberts ($23 million) are cashing early, the rest of the product should be seen as suspect.

So, this time, the Sixers can sit and wait without guilt.

In 2 years' time they could have a healthy Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid playing side-by-side.

They could have a seasoned point guard in Michael Carter-Williams.

They could have a boost coming from Croatia in the form of Dario Saric, who will be 22 and who should be NBA-ready.

No, none of those players seems like an offensive standard-bearer, but all are players who could bring serious equity to any roster.

Besides, guess who could be a free agent in the summer of 2016?

Kevin Durant.

That might help folks forget about the gap since George Lynch.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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