The Sixers have stated since the end of the season that their number one priority in free agency is to resign PF Joe Smith. Smith was basically a throw-in in the Iverson deal, but he opened everyone’s eyes with his spirited, tough play off the bench.
Darko Milicic’s sudden appearance on the unrestricted free agent list has given Billy King et al something to think about. Darko averaged 8.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.75 blocks/game and 1.1 apg last year with Orlando. He would definitely be an upgrade over Steven Hunter, and he’s only 22 years-old. The problem, as I see it, is two-fold. 1: The Sixers can only offer him about $5.5 million per year, and that probably won’t be enough to get the job done. 2: I don’t think this is the year to open the piggy bank for a long-term deal if you’re the Sixers.
The Sixers are over the cap this season by a fair amount. (The cap is projected to be about $56M, they currently have $65M committed, and that’s without extending Andre Iguodala or signing any of their draft picks.) Next year is when the fun starts. The Sixers will clear over $29 million from their cap number following next season ($19M to Chris Webber, $7M to Aaron McKie and $3.4M to Kevin Ollie). The potential free agents next Summer include: Elton Brand (early termination option), Kevin Garnett (ETO), Shawn Marion (ETO) and Tim Duncan (ETO). That’s only the power forwards who could be available next Summer (if the Sixers can keep that cap space clear). Obviously, not all of those guys are going to opt-out and become free agents, but one or two of them might.
This is why I think it’s imperative that the Sixers keep Joe Smith. I don’t know what kind of a deal Smith is looking for, in terms of length (the dollar amount is pretty much set in the $5.5M range), but hopefully, he could be signed to a 2–year deal for about $11M or less. The Sixers need an experienced PF in their rotation, Smith fits the bill, as do Darko, and the Nets’ unrestricted free agent Mikki Moore (9.8 points, 6.1 rebounds last year), but Moore and Darko are probably going to require long-term deals.
If you could sign Darko to a four-year deal in the $24M range, it could turn out to be a bargain down the road, but I just don’t see it happening. I think Moore played over his head last year, and any long-term deal is going to look very bad after next season when the money could’ve been spent on a front-line free agent.
Joe Smith is visiting with the Bulls, hopefully they’re going to resign Nocioni. I’d like to see the Sixers get Smith signed as soon as possible, finalize their roster, and move forward with this season. The Yi rumors are still making me nervous. The draft is over, the Sixers seem to have a plan, let’s put the final piece into the puzzle and see how things shake out.