Keeping the Core: Which Starters Keep Their Role?

Free agents and draft picks will play a big part in this offseason. Which Sixers will be starting in Philly next season?

The Philadelphia 76ers are already one of the NBA’s top eight (top five???) teams and have the pieces to continue to compete over the next decade. However, the organization is looking to add more pieces – draft picks and cap space – to help the team improve this offseason. Now the biggest questions is who stays and who goes.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on who the Sixers should chase during the 2018 summer. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have both entered the picture, along with other players that could fill the hole as a wing player. And there’s also that guy from Akron that seems pretty interested in Philadelphia’s young core. Of course, a new star is going to have an effect on a starting lineup that was already one of the best in the league.

We saw plenty of good things from Robert Covington and Dario Saric but there still seems to be the belief that those two players are not the starters you would need for a championship team. A few missed shots or bad turnovers and suddenly these guys deserve to ride the bench. While not everyone feels that way, most can agree that it would be easy for at least one of those players to sacrifice a few minutes of playing time and a starting role for another top-level talent.

Meanwhile, J.J. Redick is coming off a career year while making the most money of any player on the Sixers. He quickly became one of the primary scoring options, especially in games that Joel Embiid missed.

Whether it’s one star added or three, it’s likely at least one of those three players will not be in next season’s starting lineup. There is plenty of disagreement so far so let’s break down why each player will stay or go.

Dario Saric

Why he starts: Saric is obviously a fan favorite and he’s coming off his second season in the NBA. The Croatian saw a big improvement this season while consistently playing next to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Saric was third on the team in points per game (behind Embiid and Redick), 3-point percentage (behind T.J. McConnell and Redick) and free throw percentage (behind Marco Belinelli and Redick). Saric has the ability to space the floor which is exactly what you want when being paired with Embiid’s post presence. There will have to be improvement on defense but Saric works perfectly with the team’s star players and could be essential to this starting lineup for years to come.

Why he comes off the bench: Defense. Saric can be the perfect player that brings an offensive lift to the team off the bench. He will be active on the glass and bring energy to the game when needed. Saric could end up filling the Ersan Ilyasova role with more consistency. He could play anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. The only way that this happens though is the addition of LeBron James. With James, Simmons and Embiid, the Sixers would have enough size to match with anyone in the post and be able to play elite defense at every position.

Why he leaves: This is the saddest timeline and hopefully Bryan Colangelo never even thinks about it. The only way this really happens is if Saric is in a trade package for Kawhi Leonard. So let’s not.

J.J. Redick

Why he starts: Redick has not come off the bench since 2013. If he is on the Sixers next season, it is very likely that he will be in the starting lineup on opening day. Also, Redick has never missed the playoffs so it only makes sense to want him back on the team. Redick’s shooting ability is a perfect match with Simmons at point guard and that is likely going to be something that does not change.

Why he comes off the bench: In an ideal world, Redick is the go-to scorer off the bench and Markelle Fultz gets a jump shot to play alongside Simmons. That’s one scenario. Another is the Sixers using the 10th pick for a guard like Collin Sexton or the 26th pick for Anfernee Simmons. Maybe one of those players has the best offseason ever and is immediately inserted into the starting lineup. Then the Sixers could strike out on James, Leonard and George. Covington keeps his starting job and Redick plays 6th man. This probably isn’t going to happen.

Why he leaves: Salary cap. Redick loved his time in Philadelphia but if the 76ers get a chance at one of those big stars, they will not have the money for Redick too. It would be nice to have him back but that likely will not be happening for any less than $12 million.

Robert Covington

Why he starts: Defense. Covington may have the best chance of keeping his starting job if LeBron James comes to town. He is already under contract and, even though it is streaky, can be a great 3-point shooter. With players like Simmons and James on the ball, a spot up 3-point shooter combined with an elite defender is a perfect fit.

Why he comes off the bench: That streaky shooting everyone knows and complains about. I find it hard to take Covington’s defense out of the starting lineup but if he is to come off the bench, it will be at the hands of one of the rookies. Whether it is someone drafted this summer or Fultz playing the two-guard. If James, George or Leonard are added in the starting lineup and Fultz improves, Covington will be the first or second player off the bench.

Why he leaves: Like Saric, Covington could be put into a trade for Kawhi Leonard. However, his long term contract shows he should be a part of the future. Covington is here to help the Sixers win. Let’s hope Colangelo feels the same way.

The main point: there are plenty of combinations that are still a possibility for the 2018-19 rotation of the 76ers. And the future of three of the five starters from this season may not be set in stone. And that’s in the hands of Colangelo and Brett Brown.

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