By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Yesterday, I recapped the current batch of Sixers’ free agents. Today, let’s tackle those players who don’t have fully guaranteed contracts for next season. That’s not to say that the guys with fully guaranteed deals will definitely be back (I’m looking at you, Furkan Aldemir), as the Sixers have certainly shown a willingness to cut ties with guys even if it wasn’t the most prudent financial move. They released and ate the dead money of JaVale McGee, Travis Outlaw, and Andrei Kirilenko, just to name a few. Still, let’s look at the guys who the team could move on from without full financial ramifications and evaluate whether they’ll still don the Sixers’ red, white, and blue.
Robert Covington ($1M): This first one is basically a no-brainer as Covington went from playing in the D-League in November to the NBA Rising Stars challenge in February. Big Shot Bob shot a solid 37.4% in high volume, while acting as the team’s lone perimeter threat on the floor for a large portion of the year. As the year progressed, Covington began to develop more of an off-the-bounce game, not simply functioning as a spot-up shooter and getting to the rim with more frequency. It did cause his turnover numbers to rise, but it was basically the perfect situation for RoCo to work on his game.
The only fly in the ointment with Covington is his defensive work, as Brett Brown benched him on multiple occasions due to unsatisfactory play on that end of the floor. Still, as a 6’9″ wing, Covington should eventually be at least a passable player in that area. Given his shooting prowess, the man will have a long career as an NBA rotation player, at a minimum. His current contract with the Sixers is a steal.
Hollis Thompson ($947k): To paraphase Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory, Hollis is going to do one thing and one thing only: drain threes. Like Covington (and Isaiah Canaan who is discussed below), over half of Thompson’s shot attempts came from behind the arc. Why not, when you’re hitting a team-leading 40.1% of those long-range bombs.
Hollis actually struggled with a debilitating illness early in the season, which combined with getting accustomed to his reworked shot and that quicker release saw his numbers plummet for the first few months of the campaign. However, after the All-Star Break, Thompson made a sparkling 45.8% of his triples. On a roster where shooters are as rare as an actress who hasn’t had work done, the Sixers will almost certainly bring Holliswood back for a third act.
JaKarr Sampson ($847k): JaKarr arguably showed the most progress of any Sixer this past season, going from a guy who I was clamoring didn’t below in the league, to someone called into service as the team’s starting point guard on multiple occasions (after playing power forward in college). Sampson didn’t really shine in any particular area, but given how much he improved in just one season, the team would understandably be intrigued by any further upside. He was a dogged defender but still prone to some of the lapses you might expect from a rookie, and shot just 24.4% from three, but began to show some promise getting to the rim. Sampson also clearly has plus athleticism as he displayed on plenty of transition finishes and putback flushes. More than anyone else, Sampson’s return to the roster may serve as a barometer for the Sixers’ 2015-16 season. How much they upgrade the team as a whole, or if we’re in for Tank 3.0, may determine his return.
Isaiah Canaan ($758k of $947k guaranteed): Despite being almost fully guaranteed, Canaan is the guy on this list I could most imagine not returning. As much as I would miss the #Canaanball on social media and Sixers PA guy Matt Cord’s calls, there’s almost literally nothing Canaan brings to the table other than hitting threes (which he admittedly did well at 36.4%). It was almost comical how ineffective Canaan was at trying to create dribble penetration, to the point where it became clear he can’t function as a point guard.
Having a 6’0″ player function as nothing more than a spot-up shooter (effectively as the 2-guard), ruins any advantage you might have on the defensive end, where Canaan is especially bad. The team’s defensive rating rose to 104.7 with Canaan on the court as opposed to 101.1 with him off it (remember you want a lower number). The Sixers are desperate for shooting, but I think they would prefer it to come from their taller wings as opposed to an undersized guy who can’t play the point guard position and is a huge defensive liability.