The Sixers swung and missed in their pursuit of LeBron James.
Sure, he gave them a meeting — that he didn’t bother to show up for — but it appears the King was never serious about settling his throne in Philadelphia.
So now what? The Kawhi Leonard trade talks are still alive and well, but what if the Spurs’ asking price is too rich? What do Brett Brown and company do if Plans A and B don’t work?
There’s no doubt Sunday’s decision by James was disappointing, but now it’s time for the Sixers to pick up the pieces. Here are their best options barring a Leonard deal.
Re-sign JJ Redick (done)
This always seemed like the move if the Sixers struck out on James. Redick even acknowledged that he thought the Sixers should take their shot with James, even if it meant the 34-year-old sharpshooter couldn’t return.
Redick already has an amazing rapport with the current roster. He’s a great influence on the team’s young locker room. On top of that, Redick enjoyed one of his finest NBA seasons in 2017-18. The 12-year veteran averaged a career-high 17.1 points per game and shot 42 percent from three on a career-high 6.6 attempts a night.
Given how much cap flexibility the Sixers have and how much Redick enjoyed his time here, this was a no-brainer. Redick is back on a one-year deal.
Bolster the bench
There won’t be a lot of sexy names on this list, but there are players who can help the Sixers. The bench was abysmal last season before Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova arrived. Both players are gone, but that may not be such a bad thing. Both were exposed by the Celtics for their lack of athleticism, especially on the defensive end.
Chester native Tyreke Evans has to be an option. Evans is coming off a career year with a horrendous Memphis Grizzlies team. Evans scored 19.4 points a game, his highest mark since his Rookie of the Year season back in 2009-10. He also shot over 40 percent from three for the first time in his career. Defense isn’t his strong suit, but he’ll provide more athletically than Belinelli as a bench wing. Evans is reportedly meeting with the Lakers after already meeting with the Thunder — though both teams may have a tough time making the money work.
Staying on the local front, Wynnewood native Wayne Ellington could be on the Sixers’ radar. Ellington is a shooter, plain and simple. He shot 39 percent on a ridiculous 7.5 attempts from distance last season. He’s also excellent coming off screens and could give the Sixers a similar look to Redick off the bench. He’s not a liability defensively and would represent an upgrade from Belinelli in that regard. The Heat would probably like to retain Ellington’s services.
If you’re looking for defense, Avery Bradley is your guy. Bradley had a tough year. After being traded by the Celtics for cap reasons, Bradley toiled away with the Pistons before being shipped to the Clippers in the Blake Griffin deal. He suffered a sports hernia injury just six games into his time in L.A. which ended his season. Bradley is one of the best defensive guards in the entire league. He’s also an improved shooter. He’s a natural fit. The Warriors and Grizzlies are reportedly interested in Bradley.
There’s also Seth Curry. No, he’s not Steph, but he’s a great shooter in his own right. The younger Curry brother missed all of last season after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his leg. Before that, he shot 43 percent from three in 114 games with Dallas the last two seasons. Defense will be an issue and he may not be a great fit next to T.J. McConnell off the bench, but he’d certainly help with spacing issues.
Then there’s our old friend Luc Mbah a Moute, who became a solid contributor for the Rockets. Mbah a Moute is what he is: a versatile player and solid defender. He has improved his jumper, shooting 36 percent from three last season. Defensively, he’d be a significant upgrade over Ilyasova and has experience playing a small-ball five at times with Houston.
Last but not least is restricted free agent Jabari Parker. Parker is intriguing but may not be a fit for the Sixers. He’s a combo forward who is better suited to play the four in today’s NBA. With Dario Saric already in the fold, Parker would likely be a bench piece. Parker was the No. 2 overall pick back in 2014 but has had his career derailed by injuries. He has plenty of talent and will be an intriguing player to watch going forward if healthy. The Bucks have extended a qualifying offer, meaning they can match any deal. The market for Parker has yet to materialize so if the price is right, he might make sense.
See what you’ve got
The Sixers aimed high in free agency and it didn’t work out, but now is not the time to panic. You missed because of geography, not your roster situation.
You still have two cornerstones piece in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. There are plenty of question marks surrounding Markelle Fultz, but he was the No. 1 overall pick for a reason. You have to hope star trainer Drew Hanlen can rebuild Fultz’s jump shot and confidence. Then there’s Saric, who took a huge leap in Year 2. Robert Covington and McConnell are still solid contributors as well.
There are other intriguing pieces on the Sixers’ roster. Jonah Bolden could be making the trek from overseas. If he does, he provides outstanding athleticism and a hardnosed player off the bench with the ability to play the four and some small-ball five. His shot regressed a bit this season (31 percent from three), but it still has potential.
The Sixers also need to sort out all of their young wings. Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz all have intriguing traits but none of them are sure things as contributors.
Anderson brings a strong physical presence on the defensive end but his shot is inconsistent. After a strong end to his rookie season, Luwawu-Cabarrot struggled with injuries and inconsistencies last season. Korkmaz, too, had a lingering injury and still needs to get stronger for the NBA level. All three were first-round picks and it would be ideal if at least one of them realized their potential.
It’s not ideal for the Sixers to go into next season with essentially the same roster, but they may not have a choice.