The Philadelphia 76ers should aim to strengthen their roster with veteran swingman C.J. Miles all the while continuing to look towards the future.
As the Philadelphia 76ers‘ roster begins to take shape this summer, three positions are already spoken for in the starting lineup. Barring any unforeseen injuries (knock on wood, like actually, go do it, right now) the talented young core of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid should compose 60 percent of the starting lineup come Opening Night.
While it has been rumored that Simmons may start at point guard, it is more likely that he assumes a role as point forward, à la LeBron James for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fultz will play the point and Embiid the center. Unless the Sixers are able to sign a high-profile free agent at small forward, Robert Covington is expected to retain his role as the team’s starter after a strong showing last season. That leaves just one opening in the team’s starting lineup: shooting guard.
Last season, the trio of Nik Stauskas, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Gerald Henderson all struggled with consistency, failing to take hold of the starting shooting guard spot. Despite Luwawu-Cabarrot’s strong finish to last season (18.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game in April), there is a talented group of shooting guards available this summer peaking the Sixers’ interest. General Manager Bryan Colangelo should scour the market looking for next year’s starter, but if he finds nothing to his liking, the Sixers still have the looks of a 2017-18 playoff contender. Most importantly, the team should feel confident in Luwawu’s abilities — both for next season and beyond.
Headlining this summer’s group of free agent shooting guards are J.J. Redick and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who will both likely command contracts upwards of $20 million per year. A player with considerably less hype, and one the Sixers should consider, is former Indiana Pacers’ swingman C.J. Miles. The smoothly operating lefty could produce at a similar level to Redick and KCP, but solicit far less on the open market.
Miles, while 30, has averaged only 20.9 minutes a night throughout his 12 year career. With a skill set predicated on 3-point shooting rather than athleticism, Miles should be a strong contributor into his mid-30s. The 6-foot-6 swingman has aged like fine wine during his time in the NBA. Last season, Miles shot a career high 41.3 percent from the 3-point line and between 2013-2016, he posted an average defensive rating of 101, with his best mark coming during the 2014-15 season (98.4).
In 2016-17 though, Miles regressed, producing a mediocre 106.0 defensive rating. However, last year’s mark should be labeled an outlier and attributed to the Pacers collectively underwhelming as a team.
If Luwawu-Cabarrot shows an improved offensive game during July’s Summer League action and beats out Miles for the starting gig come Opening Night, it could ultimately benefit the Sixers. With a bench primarily composed of role players, the team lacks a scoring punch from the guard position. Miles, Dario Saric and Jahlil Okafor could headline a formidable reserve unit. Throwing defensive specialist (with a growing offensive game) Richaun Holmes and gritty, hard-nosed T.J. McConnell into the mix gives the Sixers one of the stronger bench squads in the entire NBA.
Along with a reliable 3-point shooting stroke and solid defense, Miles also brings a veteran presence and playoff experience. Aside from oft-injured big man Tiago Splitter, the Sixers’ roster has a combined 25 games of postseason experience. In contrast, Miles has participated in 34 playoff games alone. For the Sixers to be a factor in the Eastern Conference next season, the team needs a veteran leader to help close out games and guide them through the uncharted territory of an above .500 record.
Signing Miles to a ~$15 million contract rather than Redick or KCP to a ~$20 million gives Bryan Colangelo flexibility in preparation for next summer. With Joel Embiid’s free agency looming large over Sixers’ management, possessing the funds necessary to retain the team’s centerpiece — no matter the cost — is crucial.
As with many of the Sixers’ potential targets this summer, Miles provides 3-point shooting and stability on the defensive end of the floor. Yet unlike Redick, KCP or (pipe dream) Otto Porter Jr., Miles will go for significantly less.
Surrounding Fultz, Simmons and Embiid with complementary pieces is important, but the Sixers’ wagon is hitched to their star center. Any move made between now and next summer should not hinder the team’s ability to offer Embiid a max contract. On the surface, Miles looks to be a nice value, but as I like to say, value is always determined by the cost — something Colangelo should keep in mind this summer. Miles is a nice player and one that could help Philadelphia next season, but there is no reason to overpay for him. Don’t mortgage the future to enjoy minimal success in the present.
Colangelo must continue to Trust the Process and ensure that Embiid is in a Sixers’ uniform come the 2017-18 season. After all, this is a long term process; let’s keep it that way.