2019 NBA offseason, Part 5: Sixers, Blazers are “wait and see” moves

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Some teams made baffling roster moves this offseason that raised more questions rather than answers. Here are those who made roster changes that may sound good on paper but will have to make us wait to eventually see the team duplicate or exceed their 2018-19 success:

Philadelphia 76ers

Key losses: Jimmy Butler, T.J. McConnell,and  J.J. Redick.
Key additions: Al Horford, Trey Burke, and Josh Richardson.

There are two moves the 76ers made in the offseason that aren’t sound to me: (1) swapping shooting, an aspect they badly need, with size and length, a commodity they have abundance of, not to mention probably overpaying the back end of the contract; and (2) giving Tobias Harris a contract that is the 10th highest in the league for the coming season.

The departure of JJ Redick left the Sixers without a legitimate outside threat. One of the weaknesses of the 76ers last season was their lack of outside shooting that allowed opposing teams to crowd the paint and often baffle Philly’s offense. Redick, as the lone outside threat, was clearly not enough. Not replacing his contributions is even more confusing.

Losing Butler was almost a given but replacing him with Hordford by giving the 33-year old center forward the 23rd highest contract this year and an average of $27.25  annual salary in the next four years adds to the pile of confusions.

While this signing cures the vacancy at the power forward spot and gives them a steady presence who can defend the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, it also leaves the shooting guard spot very thin.

Lastly, giving Harris the maximum $180M, 5-year deal completes the heap. The deal make Harris the 10th highest paid player and the highest paid Sixer this coming year. His $32.74M pay is tied with Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker and higher than Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Damian Lillard according to ESPN.

Harris can score and somewhat space the floor but the thought of using that money to bring in somebody like Leonard or spreading the team’s salary cap to bring in bodies who can collectively cure the ills of the team is something to question.

At the expense of their short term reasons for doing these moves, the Sixers might be tied with contracts they may not want after two years.

As for this coming season, the Sixers is still a team to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference but their starving for perimeter shooting can deprive them of going deep in the playoffs. It seems to me this team wants to counter the trend and play old school style, having two dominant bigs, who can shoot from outside, if I may add. I can’t wait see what the Sixers’ coaching staff has in store for this roster.

Last year, they finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference standings. They easily dispatched the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers in five games during the first round before being outlasted by the eventual champions, Raptors, in the Eastern semifinals in seven games.

They will surely make the playoffs but them getting past the semifinals round even in an already “weakened” Eastern Conference is something I will believe in only when I see it.

Portland Trailblazers

Key losses: Enes Kanter, Moe Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, Meyers Leonard, and Evan Turner.
Key additions: Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Pau Gasol, and Anthony Tolliver.

This one is tricky because the “wait and see” factor here is not what this team has done, it is what the other teams in the conference has done that make the other teams elevate while leaving them at their current state.

We saw the Lakers, Clippers, and Jazz make significant roster upgrades; the Warriors and Rockets pull nice reloads; and the Nuggets bring back a 50+ win team. Then include the Dallas Mavericks who are getting Kristaps Porzingis back.

These changes in the Western Conference landscape suddenly makes the essentially big man swap of the Blazers, from Kanter to Whiteside, look immaterial.

Whiteside is to fill their temporary void at center with Jusuf Nurkic recovering from a serious leg injury, likely to remain sidelined until February. If and when he returns, minutes at center will basically be divided between the two. Unlike the Sixers, I find it hard seeing a situation where Nurkic and Whiteside will be both simultaneously on the floor given how their current roster is constructed.

The Blazers finished 3rd in the standings last year, eliminated the Thunder in the first round in five games, outlasted the Nuggets in the semifinals in seven games, before being swept in the Western conference finals by the Warriors.

With the moves they made, I could hardly see them finishing that high again and escaping the first round. I will only believe otherwise if I see it.

By Armando M. Bolislis
Banner illustration by Don Ray Ramos.

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