For all the great shooting Philadelphia Sixers veteran trio of JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova brings to the table, none of the three players can be considered a top wing defender.
Redick shoots at Stephen Curry level and showed he is a positive addition to the young team long term, European pros Belinelli and Ilyasova fit the modern NBA’s bill of stretch Forwards and Centers who opened the lane for Ben Simmons non shooting rookie abilities to get recognized with an unanimous selection to the NBA’s All Rookie Team of the Year.
The presence of battle tested players like the aforementioned group and Amir Johnson is one of the main reasons behind Philadelphia’s surprise playoff run.
Sixers have great players in Joel Embiid and Simmons who, barring injuries, will make the team a contender for a very long time.
However, youthful tendencies have limits in a man’s league called the NBA and without the services of Redick, Johnson, Belinelli and Ilyasova, Philadelphia would have had it difficult making the playoffs after winning 28 games in the 2016-2017 season.
However, aside Johnson, defense is a major flaw in the veterans’ games. Redick is a negative on defense due to his size and is constantly targeted by opposing teams much like fellow free agent Isaiah Thomas.
Size is not a problem for Belinelli and Ilyasova as Italian Marco stands 6 foot 5 while Turk Ilyasova stands 6 foot 10 inches but neither player ranks as a top defender. Philadelphia’s playoff exit at the hands of fellow standout studs in Boston Celtics was largely down to Sixers inability to keep Celtics players in check. While Boston’s plethora of long, strong wings did a great job on Simmons especially, Sixers couldn’t do same.
Boston could count on Semi Ojeleye, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris to stymie Sixers offense while producing enough points. But Philadelphia failed to do same as the team’s top wing defender Robert Covington struggled on offense despite putting in a good shift on defense.
Covington aside little came from Brett Brown’s team on wing defense as Belinelli and Ilyasova struggled to contain Jayson Tatum and Brown. That can be solved by shopping for a competent 3 and D player in free agency market which is doable but very tricky in today’s NBA which coverts them.
Players like Paul George won’t come cheap should Sixers make him their prime target. Signing George will compromise the team’s chances of working out a new deal for Johnson, Redick, Ilyasova and Belinelli this offseason. Targeting a player like Danny Green of San Antonio Spurs-a prime 3 and D player who cost less-should be its main priority this offseason. Signing LeBron James cures a lot of ills but it limits Simmons impact while taking building pieces Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric out of the picture. Green is a veteran Shooting Guard who can play Small Forward and has a $10 million deal salary next season if he picks up the final year on his contract with San Antonio.
Should he fail to pick up the option and become an unrestricted free agent, Sixers need to swoop in fast for his services. Should that not happen, the teams will need to strike a trade deal that sends Green to Philadelphia in exchange for a pick in this year’s draft or a young athletic low salaried player like Justin Anderson or Richuan Homes. Such a deal satisfies both parties as Spurs need to clear as much salary space as possible to give Kawhi Leonard a super max deal and get a shot at signing LeBron in free agency.
Getting Green boosts Sixers chances of making the NBA Finals as Green’s experience as a nine year veteran and NBA Champion, elite defender and shooter who is just 35 three pointers from making 1000 three point shots in his career will come in handy. With Green on the roster, Philadelphia’s starting unit will have 3 and D players and the team can play more confidently knowing Covington’s inconsistencies from range would be covered up by Green and Redick and Belinelli and Ilyasova in the second unit.
Going after glitzy headliners comes at a price in the form of salary or players and while Philadelphia has both assets available, it will be wise to solve its most pressing problem without parting with big money or young players on rookie contracts. Danny Green meets those needs and $10 million is a far cry from a big salary contract.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter