The Sixers Struck Out This Summer. What Now?

With disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard having been dealt to the Toronto Raptors, broken by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers have officially missed out on the three premier available talents of the 2018 offseason. Once it was reported that the team would not include Markelle Fultz in trade talks, it became apparent that the Sixers’ chance of landing Leonard was dwindling. 

While it is a bit disappointing that the Sixers failed to land a superstar this offseason, Process trusters should not be discouraged over the future of this team. After all, the team still boasts the reigning Rookie of the Year in Ben Simmons, an all-star starter (and 2nd team All-NBA member) in Joel Embiid, a first team all defense member in Robert Covington, and Dario Saric, one of the top young power forwards in the NBA, on a rookie contract for the next two seasons. Waiting in the wings is last year’s number one pick, Markelle Fultz, who, while still a question mark, has the talent and the determination to become one of the top young guards in the NBA despite a shaky first season. 

Photo by Jonathan Pushnik

An underrated storyline of this summer is that Joel Embiid is finally remiss of any injuries limiting himself from properly training in the offseason. Embiid has spent the summers of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 recovering from various injuries, and it’s shown on the court; despite his supreme talent, his lack of conditioning has lead to a drop in inefficiency, and we’ve seen him gassed frequently late in games despite his (relatively) light minutes. Joel has been seen training with Drew Hanlen, and a fully healthy Embiid will be a scary sight for opponents come October. 

The question everyone wants to know this summer has yet to be answered: we still don’t know if Markelle Fultz really knows how to shoot. We’ve heard very positive reports abut his shot from his trainer, Drew Hanlen, as well as coach Brown, but until we see video of his shot, it’s hard to speak on Fultz with much certainty. If Fultz does return to form with a jumper, though, the future is unbelievably bright for the Sixers. Adding a scoring talent like Fultz, on a rookie contract, to what was essentially a 52 win team without him, could make this team a nightmare to defend. It was obvious last season, especially in the Celtics series, that the Sixers were desperately in need of a guy who could create his own shot from the perimeter when the other guys’ shots weren’t falling. Fultz showed flashes of being that guy in the final 10 or so games of the regular season, and that was without any concrete signs of a reliable jumper. If Drew Hanlen really does get Fultz back on track, he deserves a statue outside of the Wells Fargo Center. 

Next summer will likely be the Sixers’ last offseason with the ability to add a max-contract level player in free agency, as Ben Simmons is likely to sign his own max extension that fall. It will be a good crop of star talent on the market next year, as Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker. Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Khris Middleton are all set to become unrestricted free agents. The Sixers are highly likely to make a run at acquiring one of these top free agents. Leonard and Durant would obviously be the top two targets of almost any team in the league, and the Sixers are no different. Klay Thompson would be a snug fit on this roster, providing elite scoring and shooting from the 2 as well as elite perimeter defense. Jimmy Butler would also be a solid fit, although his good-but-not-great shooting may not be the perfect guard to put next to Simmons and Embiid. If Fultz isn’t working out, a run at either Kemba Walker or Kyrie Irving would be enticing, too. I expect to see the Sixers be very aggressive in next summer’s free agency, as it could be the offseason that pushes the Sixers over the top into title contention. 

All in all, while the 2018 offseason may not have met our bold expectations, Sixers fans should be very excited for what’s to come in the near future. The team has high level young talent, cap flexibility, and the assets to make a run at a big star if needed. If you’ve trusted the process to this point, why stop here, right?

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