By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
After a long offseason without NBA basketball, interrupted only by the quasi-facsimiles of summer leagues and international competition, things are set to kick back into gear with the start of training camp. The Sixers will officially begin working at Stockton University tomorrow, and over the weekend, announced the 20 players who would be competing for the 15 roster spots.
— Michael K-B (@therealmikekb) September 27, 2015
First, we’ve finally received clarification on the last 2 places in camp. Jordan McRae signing his tender led to the subsequent release of Gerald Wallace and his $10M+ contract. Say what you will about Sixers management, but they’re not cheap, now having over $22M paid out to Wallace and JaVale McGee this season, two players that will not play a minute this season for the team. The final spot will go to T.J. McConnell, who we hadn’t heard much about since it was reported early in the summer that he signed a partially guaranteed contract. His inclusion means Arsalan Kazemi, who received a tender offer but apparently did not sign it, will be playing overseas another year.
Now that the field is set, here are my predictions for the final 15 to don a Sixers uniform (or a finely tailored suit) when the season begins in late October.
Big Men (4): Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Richaun Holmes
Wings (4): Robert Covington, Nik Stauskas, Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson
Point Guards (2): Tony Wroten, Kendall Marshall
Big Men (3): Furkan Aldemir, Christian Wood, Carl Landry
Wings (1): JaKarr Sampson
Point Guards (1): Isaiah Canaan
Final Cuts (5)
J.P. Tokoto – The rookie second-round pick is the guy on this list most likely to end up on the 87ers. He is still extremely raw, especially on the offensive end, and would have probably benefited from another year at Chapel Hill. The Sixers like his potential though, so unless Tokoto wants to go overseas, I think he’ll probably stick with the ‘organization’ in Delaware upon his release.
T. J. McConnell – If this was the NFL, McConnell would be your classic JAG (just another guy). The Sixers probably want to keep him around because he’s the kind of pass-first point guard you need to get a good picture of what other guys on the floor are capable of offensively. I liked McConnell as a college player at Arizona, but he doesn’t have an elite outside shot or the necessary athleticism to excel in the NBA.
Jordan McRae – I have an inkling that the Sixers were upset McRae signed the required tender, and would have preferred he spent another year overseas. For McRae’s part, I’m sure he either wants to make the roster or finally be free to sign somewhere else. In summer league, McRae still seemed out of control driving to the hoop and wasn’t consistent with his perimeter shooting. He’s also not totally committed on the defensive end; I think it’s likely the Sixers and McRae will part ways for good in a few weeks.
Scottie Wilbekin – In my opinion, the final roster spot will likely come down to these final two guys and Isaiah Canaan for the third point guard spot. Wilbekin really impressed in summer league with his shooting, which is the only above-average Canaan brings to the table. If Wilbekin can shoot as well as or better than Canaan in camp and preseason, he might have a shot at supplanting him, as the former Florida Gator is a much better defender and also has the size to occasionally slide to off guard.
Pierre Jackson – Finally, Pappy Jack may be the cut that hurts the most for me. He has down an admirable job coming back from last summer’s achilles injury, but he didn’t look to have his old explosiveness this past summer league. It’s entirely possible a few extra months now removed will have him looking even better and he’ll impress the Sixers brass enough to take Canaan’s spot. He’s definitely a better scorer (if not necessarily a shooter), and at least on par as a distributor.
Despite Brett Brown saying we should expect to see ‘more of our own‘ this season, I still expect the back half of the roster to be somewhat fluid as the season goes along. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see who the Sixers go to the mattresses with when the season first kicks off.