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Five potential free agents the Sixers should consider for the bench | Off the Dribble

Bobby Portis of Milwaukee and Lou Williams of Atlanta are among potential free agents who could help the Sixers.

Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony keeps the ball from Denver Nuggets forward JaMychal Green during the first half of Game 5 of a first-round NBA playoff series.
Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony keeps the ball from Denver Nuggets forward JaMychal Green during the first half of Game 5 of a first-round NBA playoff series.Read moreJack Dempsey / AP

This is the season for trade rumors, many of which will never come to fruition. It won’t be long until actual trades are going to be made. The NBA draft is scheduled for July 29, and there is usually plenty of activity around that.

One gets the impression that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will do his best to get Joel Embiid a legitimate sidekick.

Ben Simmons will continue to be the subject of trade rumors, and all sorts of names and scenarios have been and will be thrown around.

Whether the Sixers acquire a superstar or not, one thing the Atlanta series showed was they could use a serious bench upgrade.

This is not a superstar free-agent class — unless an injured Kawhi Leonard and 36-year-old point guard Chris Paul opt out of their deals and don’t re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns, respectively. The Sixers would likely have to acquire Leonard, Paul or someone such as Toronto free agent Kyle Lowry in a sign-and-trade.

Still, there are some bench players who could be free agents who could really help the Sixers regardless of what changes they make to the starting lineup.

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Looking at some key potential free-agent reserves

Even some current reserves could be awfully pricey for the Sixers, but here are a few who could give them a major spark off the bench. But there should be considerable competition for these players. Signing two of them would be a plus for the Sixers.

All salary figures used from

1. Bobby Portis, Milwaukee, 6-foot-10, PF-C, 26 years old, player option: Portis earned $3.62 million this year and has a player option for $3.8 million that he will almost certainly deny. He started only seven of 66 regular-season games and averaged 11.4 points and shot 47.1% from three-point range.

In three games off the bench against the Sixers, he averaged 14 points and shot 60% from beyond the arc. There should be a huge market for him, and he would be an instant-offense player off the bench. Whether the Sixers could even afford him would be a legitimate question.

2. Carmelo Anthony, Portland, 6-7, combo forward, 37, unrestricted free agent: Many critics said Anthony would never accept a bench role. This past season, he started just three of 69 games and averaged 13.4 points, shooting 40.9% from three-point range, the second-best percentage of his career.

» READ MORE: The Sixers should keep Ben Simmons and sign Kyle Lowry, a scout says | Off the Dribble

The Sixers are in a win-now mode, and he would bring experience and scoring, plenty of it. This season, he made the veterans-minimum $2.56 million. He is another player who made a good impression against the Sixers, averaging 23 points in the Trail Blazers’ two games.

3. Lou Williams, Atlanta, 6-1, combo guard, 34, unrestricted free agent: Williams earned $8 million this past season. He was sent to Atlanta from the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline. Between the two teams, he averaged 11.3 points and shot 39.9% from three-point range.

Williams is still adept at creating his own shot. He’ll never win awards for defense, but he can score in bunches. Remember in Atlanta’s 109-106 Game 5 win in Philadelphia when he scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter?

He might not be as explosive as he used to be, but Williams can still light it up off the bench for a team that needs scoring.

4. Trevor Ariza, Miami, 6-8, wing, 36, unrestricted free agent: Unlike the other three, Ariza provides solid defense, but he isn’t the scorer they are. He averaged 9.4 points this season after being acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 17. Not a great shooter, he hit 35% from three-point range and is a 35.2% career shooter.

He likely won’t come close to making the $12.8 million of last season. Even though he started 27 of 30 games for the Heat, Ariza would be better suited in a reserve role for the Sixers.

5. Dwight Howard, Sixers, 6-10, center, 35, unrestricted free agent: Yes, this is one of the Sixers’ free agents they should consider re-signing. Like Anthony, Howard earned the veteran’s minimum of $2.56 million and proved to be durable, appearing in 69 of 72 games.

He had a penchant for committing too many offensive fouls, but was a beast on the boards. He was second in the NBA in rebounds per 100 possessions (23.0) in the regular season.

Starting five

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Holiday keeps firing

Ben Simmons should take a lesson from former Sixer Jrue Holiday, who is one win away from earning an NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks. While Simmons showed great reluctance to shoot during the playoffs because he was struggling at the foul line, Holiday didn’t let his offensive struggles impact his aggressive outlook.

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In the first four NBA Finals games, Holiday shot 33% from the field against the Phoenix Suns, including a 4-for-20 performance during Milwaukee’s 109-103 win in Game 4.

Like Simmons, Holiday is an excellent defender, but he doesn’t just hang his hat on that part of the game. Holiday has remained aggressive on offense, and it paid off when he scored 27 points, shooting 12-for-20, including 3-for-6 from three-point range, in the Bucks’ 123-119 victory Saturday that gave them a three-games-to-two lead.

Holiday said afterward that his teammates and coaches tell him to keep being aggressive and he wasn’t about to get down on himself from the previous rough shooting night or even struggles from beyond the arc in three of the first four games in the series.

“I went 4-for-20 the game before, and we still won,” Holiday said in his postgame news conference. “I know I can do other things to affect the game, but when my shot is going and I am trying to make plays for others, it is definitely an added bonus.”

Important dates

NBA Finals

Game 6: Tuesday, Phoenix at Milwaukee, 9 p.m., ABC

Game 7: Thursday, Milwaukee at Phoenix, 9 p.m., ABC*

*if necessary

July 19: Deadline for early-entry players to withdraw from the NBA draft (5 p.m.).

July 29: NBA draft.

Aug. 2: Teams can begin negotiating with free agents (6 p.m.).

Aug. 6: Teams can begin signing free agents (12:01 p.m.).

Aug. 8-17: MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Passing the rock

Question: Any chance we get D. Lillard? — James Lange from Facebook

Answer: Thanks for the question, Jim. I would say there is a decent chance if Lillard eventually demands a trade. He said Friday during an interview that he has not made a decision yet on his future, but he made it clear that he wants to play on a championship contender. It’s hard to fathom Portland being a contender in the near future.

If Portland decides to trade Lillard, I think the biggest competition for the Sixers would come from Golden State, which can offer James Wiseman, two lottery picks, and Andrew Wiggins for starters. As I stated before, if Portland considers trading him to the Sixers, the Trail Blazers should ask for Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, and two first-round picks.

The whole key is whether Portland would buy into Simmons’ being able to bounce back from his poor playoff showing. If Portland doesn’t believe in Simmons, there is no chance, in my opinion, that a trade could be done.