Less than a week into free agency, the Sixers have made a few moves that look quite good. First, they let Ish Smith walk and he signed with the Pistons. While I previously praised Ish Smith for the work he did (and I still stand by those words), Philadelphia clearly is hoping to have the ball in Ben Simmons' hands a lot, reducing their need for a full-time point guard.
Move number two is the signing of Jerryd Bayless for 3 years and $27 million. Bayless feels like he's been around a while - he's an 8 year veteran, after all - but he's only 27 years old. He has somehow already played for six different teams and has had trouble latching on for whatever reason. However, he has a definite skill that fits Philly. While the Sixers were atrocious in plenty of areas last season, one of the biggest needs moving forward was outside shooting. Enter Bayless.
Source: Mark Runyon | BasketballSchedule.net
Jerryd's outside shooting has been his calling card since college when he shot over 40% from deep at Arizona. It stayed with him at the next level and in his 4th season he shot over 42% from outside. The numbers have fluctuated a bit since then, but last season in Milwaukee Bayless hit nearly 44% from beyond the arc, making over 100 threes on the season. Defensively he's OK - he won't win you games on that end of the floor and he won't be expected to. His draw is that he hit 47% of his catch-and-shoot threes last season, so he provides definite lift and an outside threat.
The biggest signing so far - in my opinion - is Gerald Henderson on a 2 year, $18 million deal. For the same price as Bayless, Philly is getting an all-around player without a lot of weaknesses. He's not a world-beater offensively, but he's a career 39% shooter on corner threes and has been 33% or better on threes in each of the past four seasons. Again, he's not a lights-out shooter from outside, but he's capable - last season he was 35% overall from deep and 44% in the corner.
Much like Bayless, Henderson is relatively young, turning 29 this coming December. The difference between the two is that Henderson is a solid defender while Bayless is mediocre-at-best on that end. Opponents shot 8% worse against Henderson inside of 10ft than they did regularly. He had a little trouble defending the outside shot, but it speaks partly to the fact that he was playing more guards than forwards, even though he's a strong guy who can body up pretty well against tougher opponents. In my mind, Henderson can play the 2 or 3 while Bayless can play the 1 or 2, meaning back-court minutes are going to be used up by these guys who can actually play. Bayless averaged 29 minutes per game last season and Henderson averaged over 30 minutes as a starter in Charlotte before seeing his PT take a dip in Portland. If TJ McConnell steps up and performs well, there might be an actual battle for minutes between serviceable guards for the Sixers - talk about a welcome change.
Not surprisingly, these signings will fly mostly under the radar: The Sixers are still coming off a near record-setting bad season, they still drafted Ben Simmons as a headline stealer, and they still have an overcrowded front-court. In all likelihood, Philly is not done making moves. The team still holds about $40m under the salary cap, so a few more signings will probably come, even if the big names are mostly off the table.
We're staring into the eyes of a bad team in Philadelphia, and I mean that in a good way. We're no longer looking at a historically bad team. Progress!