NBA free agency: By adding J.J. Redick, Sixers solidify, speed up their process
Philly adds a veteran leader to its talented young core; now has dangerous, balanced starting five
If you were looking for an indication the Philadelphia 76ers mean business, how about a for one of the best shooters of all-time? On Saturday, J.J. Redick agreed to those terms, immediately giving the Sixers a formidable starting five and the perfect veteran to usher in the post-Process era.
You likely don't think of Redick as a $23 million player. That's fine. It's only one year, and Philadelphia was in a unique position to offer that money without sacrificing financial flexibility. To this organization, Redick is more than worth it for a bunch of reasons, some of which have little to do with the fact that opposing defenses will be terrified of leaving him open for a split second.
Let's talk about leadership. Let's accept the romantic notion that veterans are supposed to take young players under their wings, offer advice and teach them the tricks of the trade. This is the kind of stuff Philadelphia was accused of ignoring under former general manager Sam Hinkie, and whether you agreed with those criticisms, it's plain to see veteran presence is more valuable now. Since the Sixers have secured their core of potential superstars -- a Big 3 composed of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz -- and surrounded them with good role players -- Robert Covington and Dario Saric -- and collected an array of other young players and picks who can help them in the future, draft positioning is no longer that important. Philadelphia should try to take a major step forward in the standings, establish itself as a desirable place to play and, if possible, challenge for the playoffs. Redick helps them do all of that, and every cliche about being a great teammate applies to him.
The newest Sixer is not necessarily going to turn Nik Stauskas into Redick 2.0 (though that would be great, wouldn't it?), but he is the kind of leader a team like Philadelphia needs. Not only is he an excellent communicator, as you're probably aware if you've listened to his podcast; his words will have value because he is still effective and makes his teammates better. Redick is detail-oriented in his preparation, competitive as hell and renowned for his professionalism. Few players are better conditioned or adept at executing the coaching staff's game plan. The Sixers chased a similar kind of guy last season, future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili, but he rejected their enormous, one-year contract. This time, it worked. They have their culture-setter, even if it's only for a year.
Crucially, this move also was worth doing from a basketball perspective. Philadelphia has been looking for shooters for years, and this summer, it only had one hole to fill in the starting five next to Fultz, Covington, Simmons and Embiid. Redick will give the Sixers' playmakers all sorts of room to operate, and he might even have more of a chance to show off his passing skills than he could with the Los Angeles Clippers. Most young teams struggle to get stops, but Redick will raise Philadelphia's collective defensive IQ from the moment training camp begins. Embiid's presence alone made the Sixers an excellent defensive team when he was on the court last season; having Redick next to Covington on the wing makes them much more solid.
Should Embiid stay healthy and Simmons and Fultz prove to be quick learners, Philadelphia could make the playoffs next season. The Eastern Conference is a joke now, and these kids performed like a playoff team with Embiid on the court this past season. Maybe that was a bit of a fluke, but the Sixers are far better now. They have multiple playmakers, multiple shooters, rim protection and versatility -- and they might not be done. Even after the addition of Amir Johnson, another hard-working vet on a one-year, $11 million contract, they still have $15 million of cap space to add depth, though most of that conceivably could be spent on a new deal for Covington. Even for those of us who were bullish on them heading into the offseason, the way they've positioned themselves is impressive. Redick is about to have some extremely lucrative fun, and, given the landscape of the league, it doesn't takes a leap of faith -- or, say, trust in a process -- to see the opportunity in front of Philadelphia now.
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