As a team built around superstars, the Sixers need their guards and wing players to complement Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. And in some cases, to deliver in big moments, especially on offense.
After Simmons underwent season-ending left knee surgery that put him out of the playoffs, these were the 76ers' most competitive positions for playing time.
Several players had their moments, but finding consistency among this group was a challenge rarely met. Determining who should come back next season is a first order of business.
Here is a look at the point guards (not counting Simmons) and wings. All contract information is from Hoopshype.com.
Unrestricted free agents
Alec Burks. He came in the deal from Golden State with Glenn Robinson III at the trade deadline. Burks showed an ability to score, especially in the seeding games, but he struggled in the playoffs, shooting 3-for-16 (18.8%) from three-point range. He has to be scoring to help a team because his defense won’t keep him on the court. His salary was $2.3 million.
Raul Neto. During both the regular season and postseason he had uneven playing time. He played in only two of the four playoff games and had a minus-22 rating in just under 26 minutes. His salary was $1.7 million. There doesn’t appear to be a big market for him.
Glenn Robinson III. Of all the wings, Robinson had the best combination of offensive and defensive skill. He suffered a hip-pointer and missed the postseason. Robinson was having his best season with Golden State (12.7 points per game) before being dealt to the Sixers. He was up and down with the Sixers, averaging 7.7 points and shooting 33.3% from three-point range. His salary was $1.88 million. There will be evaluators wondering if his solid stats at Golden State were the product of playing on the NBA’s worst team.
Stay or go
All three will probably look for a place where they can earn a higher salary, but in these COVID-19 times, that won’t be easy. Of the three, the player who can bring instant offense off the bench is Burks, although at 29 he is unlikely to break the bank. The Sixers were last among the 16 playoff teams in bench scoring (17 ppg.) and will need somebody who can generate offense. Burks has some value coming back and, of the three, likely would generate the most interest. Robinson’s late-season injury hurt his stock and Neto would likely go to a place he could earn more minutes.
Furkan Korkmaz. One of the pleasant surprises of the regular season, he tailed off down the stretch and averaged just 10 minutes per game in the playoffs, where he missed all six of his three-pointers. A 40.2% three-point shooter in the regular season, he appeared to lose confidence in the postseason. He is signed for $1.7 million next season, a salary that is movable if the Sixers don’t think he can replicate his regular-season performance.
Shake Milton. Before Ben Simmons was injured, Milton was moved into the point guard role, one that doesn’t take advantage of his strengths. He had some big regular-season games when Simmons was out with his back injury, but by the time the NBA resumed, teams were playing him differently, not allowing him as much free room. During the eight seeding games before the playoffs, he shot 34.5% from three-point range, below the NBA average of 35.8%. In the playoffs, he shot 40% from deep. He remains one of their better perimeter threats, but like Josh Richardson, didn’t seem suited to play point guard because of his lack of playmaking ability. He has three years and $5.5 million left on his contract, with the final year of $1.99 million a team option.
Josh Richardson. We earlier stated our case for keeping Richardson, because of his strong defense, but he was inconsistent on offense and it likely would be better if he didn’t play point guard. He was solid in the playffs covering Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who shot 7-for-20, including 2-for-7 from distance against Richardson in matchup minutes, according to NBA.com stats. Richardson can defend point guards or wings. He had his moments offensively in the playoffs, averaging 16.8 points but shot only 35.8% both from the field and three-point range. In the regular season, injuries didn’t allow him to ever get into an offensive rhythm. He might have trade value. Richardson will make $10.8 million next season and has a player option for $11.6 million in 2021-2022.
Matisse Thybulle. He made a great impression on defense, but even on that end, he struggled in the playoffs. Quicker forwards were able to take him off the dribble and he often wasn’t strong enough to fight off picks. According to NBA.com stats, in playoff matchup minutes, Tatum shot 9-for-19, including 4-for-7 from three-point range and earned two free throws in 12:56 with Thybulle guarding him. Jaylen Brown was 4-for-4 including 2-for-2 from distance, with no free-throw attempts. Thybulle was inconsistent on offense. His three-point shot was strong early in the regular season, but he shot 32% in his last 26 regular-season games. Thybulle is considered a future rotation player and the Sixers would no doubt like to keep him. He is a player who should interest teams in trade talks.
Stay or go
All four players could have some trade value, especially if the Sixers are looking to unload an unwanted contract and may have to add one of these players to sweeten the deal. None should be off-limits. Since general manager Elton Brand said that he isn’t looking to trade Simmons and Embiid, the cast around will have to be changed if the Sixers look to improve. That is why the Sixers will likely consider anybody other than their two All-Stars in a trade. They would certainly like to hold onto at least Thybulle, Richardson, and Milton, but it likely isn’t possible if they are looking to reshape the team. If the Sixers don’t plan to stand pat, it wouldn’t be surprising if at least two of the four aren’t back next season.