NBA

Five NBA free agency targets for 76ers as Philadelphia tries to build around Joel Embiid, James Harden

Joel Embiid is the Philadelphia 76ers‘ north star. All the moves that they’ve made in recent years — and all the moves they’ll continue to make for the foreseeable future — are about maximizing Embiid’s unique and varied skill set. In addition to Embiid, Tyrese Maxey has established himself as a foundational piece, as has James Harden, who is widely expected to re-sign with the Sixers after declining his $47.3M player option. With those three serving as the team’s core — for next season at least — the Sixers will want to complement them as best as possible this summer. 

With that in mind, here’s a look at five potential free-agent targets for Philadelphia. 

1. P.J. Tucker, forward (unrestricted)

Any list of free agent targets for the Sixers has to start with P.J. Tucker, given the recent reporting linking the two together. Philadelphia is definitely interested in the veteran forward, and understandably so. As a forward capable of spacing the floor, he would fit well alongside Embiid, who mentioned Tucker by name when discussing the type of player the Sixers need after Tucker’s Heat eliminated them in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“You look at someone like P.J. Tucker. Great player, but it’s not about him knocking down shots. It’s about what he does, whether it’s on the defensive end or rebounding the ball,” Embiid said. “You look at, obviously, defensively, he plays with so much energy, believes that he can get from point A to point B, and he believes that no one can beat him. And he’s tough. He’s just physical, and he’s tough.”

That’s a pretty ringing endorsement from Embiid, and when your franchise player lusts after a player like that publicly, you have to at least try to sign him. Plus, Tucker has experience playing with Harden, as the two played in Houston for several seasons. Given his age — Tucker is 37 — concerns about giving him a multi-year deal are fair, but he would almost assuredly help the Sixers in the short term, and that’s what they’re going for.  

2. Tyus Jones, guard (unrestricted)

Maxey are Harden will make up Philadelphia’s starting back court, and those two will handle a bulk of the team’s ballhandling and playmaking. However, the team still needs a reliable reserve guard to run the second unit, and that’s where Jones could be a solid fit. He might not be the sexiest name, but Jones is a steady hand at a position that has proved violate for the Sixers in recent years. He’s a career 35 percent shooter from long range (though he shot 39 percent last season), and he’s averaged just 0.7 turnovers per game over the course of his career — compared to 3.7 assists. 

He played 21.2 minutes per game for a good Grizzlies team last season, and he stepped into the starting role admirably when Ja Morant was out with injury issues. So well, in fact, that the team barely seemed to skip a beat when their star guard was sidelined. For a team in the Sixers that doesn’t have a lot of financial flexibility, Jones could be affordable, and he fits a position of need.  

Porter Jr. is a veteran two-way wing with solid size and athleticism. In other words, he’s exactly the type of player the Sixers need. He’s a career 39 percent shooter from long range, and he has averaged 1.1 steals per game during his career, which now includes a championship ring thanks to the role he played with the Golden State Warriors. His addition would bolster Philadelphia’s wing depth, as he would represent an immediate upgrade over any of the team’s current reserve forwards.

Porter played on a one-year, $2.3 million deal last season, and though his price has probably gone up after he helped Golden State win a title, if the Sixers could land him at a reasonable rate, he’d be an excellent addition. 

Matthews has been the prototypical three-and-D wing over the course of his career, and he’s still capable of providing both of those skills. At 35, he’s not going to give you 30-plus minutes at a high level anymore, but he can be extremely effective in a limited role, as he demonstrated with the Bucks last season. With the Sixers, he would provide floor spacing around Embiid and co., and he doesn’t need the ball in his hands, or to have plays ran for him to be effective. Plus, he’ll probably be relatively cheap on the open market. The Sixers want reliable veterans and Matthews certainly qualifies. 

Hey, crazier things have happened. Realistically, Drummond will probably want a larger deal and role than what will be available to him in Philadelphia, especially after signing just a one-year deal last offseason. But, he was the best backup that Embiid has had before he was traded to the Nets in February. Though Paul Reed has flashed some legitimate potential, the team could still use a reliable backup 5, like Drummond. 

By all accounts, he enjoyed his (brief) time in Philadelphia last season, and the organization certainly appreciated what he brought to the team. With the Sixers, Drummond would again be assured of a defined role on a playoff team. It’s unlikely, but he signed on for that role once. What’s to say he wouldn’t do it again?  



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