LAS VEGAS — The Philadelphia 76ers have reportedly reached an agreement with point guard Scottie Wilbekin on a contract. Four days ago, they signed point guard Pierre Jackson.
Neither has any NBA experience. In fact, the Sixers are the only team this summer that hasn’t signed a free agent that has played in NBA before. They haven’t even signed any of their own free agents. And with all due respect to the 6-foot-2 Wilbekin and the 5-foot-10 Jackson, there’s still a big hole at point guard in Philly.
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie isn’t desperate and, in year three of his tenure, is obviously still taking the long view. Philly went into free agency with the most cap space and is now only challenged by the Portland Trail Blazers (who lost four starters) in that department. The Sixers used some of their cap space to steal Draft picks from the Sacramento Kings, but the three players they got in that deal – Carl Landry, Nik Stauskas and Jason Thompson – won’t move the needle much on either end of the floor.
They don’t play point guard either. And though the position is important across the league, it’s particularly critical in Philadelphia, for a number of reasons…
- The Sixers like to play at a fast pace. They led the league in possessions per 48 minutes two seasons ago and ranked seventh last season. A good point guard pushes the pace while minimizing mistakes.
- The Sixers just traded their starting point guard, the reigning Rookie of the Year at the time, five months ago. Michael Carter-Williams had offensive issues and the trade wasn’t necessarily a bad one, but Carter-Williams did help their defense and it would be nice if Philly had a decent replacement.
- The Sixers’ two healthy building blocks are big men who can’t dribble the ball up the floor themselves. Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor will develop faster if they have a a competent, pass-first point guard to get them the ball where and when they need it.
At this point, that point guard isn’t on the Sixers’ roster. Tony Wroten is a talented player who can get to the basket, but is looking to score more than run the offense. Isaiah Canaan gave the offense a little bit of a boost when he arrived at the trade deadline last season, but had a lower assist rate than Wroten. Ish Smith, who started at point for the Sixers in the last month of the season, is one of those free agents they haven’t re-signed.
If the Draft had gone differently and D’Angelo Russell was available when the Sixers picked at No. 3, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But the Lakers took Russell, the Sixers took Okafor, and they still need a point guard.
The free agent market is pretty thin at this point, not that there were many great point guard options out there on July 1. Eighteen days later, the two best available point guards are restricted free agents Norris Cole and Matthew Dellavedova. They both have their strengths, but neither of those guys is ideal in regard to what the Sixers need.
Philly could absorb another contract into cap space, and there are a couple of teams with extra point guards. But Ty Lawson has off-the-court issues and Mario Chalmers has been better off the ball than on it.
One out-of-the-box option: Marcelo Huertas, a 32-year-old Brazilian point guard whose strength is running the pick-and-roll and who is reportedly looking to make the move to the NBA. While the idea of playing for a team that’s not ready to win more than 25 games may not appeal to Huertas, the Sixers can offer him both more money and more playing time than every other team out there. A short-term deal would make sense for both parties.
And Huertas would give the Sixers an upgrade at the position where they need one most.