While the Philadelphia 76ers have stabilized into the middle of the pack of the Eastern Conference playoff teams, the team has had success despite a glaring issue. The issue is the Sixers’ lack of athleticism on the wing on both sides of the floor.
The pool of talent with these characteristics is already a shallow one. That pool becomes even smaller when you add the fact that the Sixers are determined to stay under the NBA’s hard salary cap. With those qualifications, I decided to list five cheap and passable athletic wings the Philadelphia 76ers can sign to a contract. Oddly enough, all five options have some ties to the franchise.
Potential wing depth signings for the Sixers
Option number one is Justin Anderson. Anderson would be returning to the Sixers to help round out the rotation as he did in the 2017-18 season. Anderson is a 6-foot-6, 230 pound traditional small forward. Anderson would audition for a 3-and-D role on this Sixers team. The Sixers vibes have been growing and adding a guy like Anderson wouldn’t necessarily hurt. Anderson and Embiid have been supportive of each other as players and can work together on the defensive end.
Anderson’s shooting potential is the biggest reason to take a gamble with signing him. Anderson last played in the NBA in the 2021-2022 season for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers in 16 games where he averaged 19.8 minutes per game scoring 6.4 points per game on .379/.254/.789 shooting splits. Good free-throw shooters tend to have a feel for being serviceable three-point shooters. Anderson showed improvement last season from behind the 3-point line in the G-League for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the G-League affiliate of the Indiana Pacers. Anderson shot 39.6 percent from the 3-point line on 10.2 3-point attempts per game.
Moving on down the list to option number two, small forward James Ennis. Ennis, if signed, would be going into his second stint with the Sixers. Ennis has played 67 games for the Sixers over two seasons. Ennis had a spot on the 2018-19 Sixers and 2019-2020 Sixers. Ennis, now 32 years old, would be stepping into the same role he played on that team. 3-and-D has been Ennis’ role his entire career. Defense is more of Ennis’ strong suit due to his physical nature of play.
Ennis also has a connection to James Harden and Daryl Morey as Ennis suited up and played in 40 games for the 2018-19 Houston Rockets. Ennis last played in 2021-22 in 7 games total for 3 separate teams. The 32-year-old played for the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Denver Nuggets. In 7 games, Ennis averaged 8 minutes per game and 4.1 points per game.
Option number three for 3-and-D guys is one Maurice Harkless. Harkless’ only tie to the Sixers is that he was initially drafted by the team in the 2012 NBA Draft. Harkless was later traded that same summer in the Andrew Bynum blockbuster. Harkless made himself into a semi-reliable player over his career.
Harkless measures in at 6-foot-7 and weighs in at 220 pounds. He has the physical tools and frame to add more size to the Sixers’ thin wing options on defense. Last season with the Sacramento Kings, Harkless averaged 18.4 minutes per game, 4.6 points per game on .459/.307/.714 shooting splits, and 2.4 rebounds per game in 47 games. Harkless also brings playoff experience as he has been a rotation member of the Portland Trail Blazers from 2015-2019 and the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019-2020.
Option number four is a former fourth-overall pick, Josh Jackson. The Sixers, technically, passed on Josh Jackson for Markelle Fultz at the top spot in the 2017 draft. Jackson has bounced around the NBA after being selected high by the Phoenix Suns and not meeting lofty expectations. Jackson has also had stints with the Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, and Sacramento Kings.
Jackson would be receiving another chance to prove that he can provide value in the NBA. Defense and outside shooting are priorities. The 25-year-old has never been on a team this talented in the NBA. This can possibly help boost his confidence, in particular from behind the arc. Jackson has a high release point naturally because he is 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 207 pounds.
The fifth and final option is Trevor Ariza. Ariza has ties to the current Sixers team due to his days fighting heavyweight Western Conference playoff battles with former Houston Rockets teammates James Harden, Montrezl Harrell, and P.J. Tucker. Ariza has the veteran experience and savviness to access the ability to contribute in the NBA.
That stuff only goes so far for the 6-foot-8, 215-pound swingman. Ariza’s shooting from beyond the arc last season fell off a cliff. Ariza, playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, shot 27 percent from the three-point line. The hope would be that Ariza playing with former teammates and the rest of this talented Sixers roster would help raise his 3-point shooting back to a respectable percentage of 35 percent.
The list above is not inspiring at all. Something tells me that the Philadelphia 76ers need an organizational push to figure out this problem while there is still time. Instead of trying to put out this fire when there’s no extinguisher available.