The 76ers just signed a marquee free agent, and they reportedly beat out other teams to do it. It really is a new day in Philadelphia.
There are no losers in the one-year deal for $23 million between J.J. Redick and the Sixers. Redick is making over three times what he made last season with the Clippers, and he will hit the market next year after playing in a situation almost guaranteed to boost his statistics across the board. The 76ers, meanwhile, are getting one of the best shooters in the NBA, a well-respected veteran who will be a calming influence in the locker room and open up a lot of space on the floor for their young Big Three of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid. As long as Redick can stay healthy, this is a win-win situation.
Philadelphia’s greatest need was 3-point shooting. Simmons famously refused to shoot outside of 15-plus feet in his one season at LSU, and he needs as many shooters as possible around him to maximize his ability to slash to the rim and pick apart a defense. Fultz and Embiid are both capable shooters, but having them spot up off the ball is not the greatest use of them, and Brett Brown will likely stagger the minutes of his young stars as much as possible so they all have time with the ball in their hands over the course of the game. Everyone else in the Sixers rotation has to be able to create room for them, and few players in the NBA command more defensive attention when moving off the ball than Redick.
Redick is one of the last of a dying breed: a traditional shooting guard who can get himself open by running around screens and catching and firing from anywhere on the floor. He’s a career 41.1 percent shooter from 3 on 4.4 attempts per game, and he spent the last four years in Los Angeles creating space for the shooting deprived frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. He’s an offensive weapon who doesn’t need the ball in his hands to threaten the defense, an important skill for a team trying to develop three ball-dominant players. His lack of elite size or speed makes his individual defense only passable, but he’s a capable team defender who can fulfill his role in a scheme, execute the game plan and help Brown hold his younger teammates accountable.
Signing a 33-year-old to a big one-year contract does take away an opportunity for a younger player, but the last couple years in Philadelphia have proved that an NBA franchise can only develop so many young guys at the same time. There will be time to fill in the gaps with 3-and-D players as the 76ers young stars mature, but the growth of Simmons, Fultz, and Embiid on and off the court means far more to the trajectory of the franchise than anything that happens with Justin Anderson or Nik Stauskas. If Redick’s shooting makes life easier for their young building blocks on the court, and his professionalism improves their work habits off it, than he will have been worth his contract.
Philadelphia suddenly has an interesting team that might be able to compete for a playoff berth, especially given the talent exodus from the Eastern Conference over the last week. Redick and Robert Covington, who shot 33.3 percent from 3 on 6.2 attempts per game last season, will stretch out the defense, and Covington has quietly turned himself into one of the better perimeter defenders in the league. Their starting five fits together on both sides of the ball, which is the first time that can be said for any Philly lineup in some time. The bench, other than Dario Saric, is still a collection of question marks, and Simmons and Embiid have to prove they can stay healthy, but the pieces are in place for them to be competitive.
If everything goes according to plan, the 76ers will make a playoff push this season, gaining valuable experience for their young core, while Redick will have set himself up for one more big contract. If things don’t work out, both sides can wash their hands after one season. Sam Hinkie did a phenomenal job of collecting assets, and now Bryan Colangelo is turning them into a basketball team. Colangelo has the easier job of the two, but it’s better to be lucky than good in this world. The Process is dead. Long live the Process.