Philadelphia 76ers: If only the Houston Rockets would buyout Kelly OlynykIf there’s one position the Philadelphia 76ers need now more than ever, it’s a stretch five to space the floor when Joel Embiid is off the court.
Now granted, there’s been some squabbling online over what exactly is a stretch five, as The Athletic’s Derek Bodner knows firsthand via Twitter.com. Could, theoretically speaking, a stretch five play power forward alongside Embiid in a supersized lineup, or, by contrast, a stretch four play a position up as a small-ball five in streamlined lineups? Sure, either is possible, as evidenced by Mike Scott’s starters at center earlier this season, but for the sake of clarity, let’s define a stretch five as a player equally as capable of knocking down an open three as he is defending the rim, as opposed to a bigger wing who can moonlight in the paint.
With a roster spot now open and a burning desire to make it to the finals in this pretty much “Championship or Bust” season (more on that here), the Sixers have a golden opportunity to address their biggest need just before the April 9th deadline to sign playoff-eligible players to rest-of-the-season contracts,
Fortunately, there’s a player who was recent acquired in a deadline-skirting trade who fits the Philadelphia 76ers needs to a T. The bad news? After putting on a show in his new home, I highly doubt the Houston Rockets will be buying out Kelly Olynik‘s contract any time soon – especially if it results in the 29-year-old Canadian-born forward signing with the Sixers.
The Philadelphia 76ers’ dreams have been dashed by the Rockets yet again.
Kelly Olynyk is the textbook example of a part-time NBA starter.
Since being drafted by the Boston Celtics via the Dallas Mavericks with the 13th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft following a three-year tenure at Gonzaga, the not-quite-7-footer has appeared in 550 games with 145 starts, averaging 21.8 minutes of action on average. There have been seasons where Olynyk has played 27-plus minutes per game as a near-every night starter – averaging 11.1 points and 5.3 rebounds because of his expansive workload – while other seasons, he’s been ar less impactful both from a stats and playing time perspective.
Olynyk was a perfect fit on the Boston Celtics from 2013-17, where his game fit perfectly both on the court next to our old pal Al Horford or replacing him in high-output offensive lineups. He was so perfect that the Miami Heat offered him a four-year, $50 million deal to persuade him away from Beantown, a deal Danny Ainge opted against matching to free up cap space to sign Gordon Hayward and Aron Baynes.
Though Olynyk did elevate his game ever so slightly in a black, red, and occasionally gender reveal-colored jersey, averaging an extra .5 point and .5 rebound in two more minutes of action, his status with the team became expendable when Victor Oladipo became available just prior to the 2021 NBA trade deadline. After striking out on a grandfather deal to acquire Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors, Pat Riley and company turned to Plan B and acquired Oladipo from the Houston Rockets in exchange for a future pick swap and the requisite contracts needed to make the deal work financially.
In the weirdest twist of fate no one saw coming, the Rockets may have actually won that deal.
Now sure, the sample size may be small, as Olynyk has only appeared in seven games and Oladio has been limited to four, but the former is putting up career numbers playing alongside John Wall, Kevin Porter, and Christian Woods – averaging 17.4 points and seven rebounds in 28.9 minutes – while the latter has only cracked double-digits twice as a member of the Heat.
Had Olynyk initially struggled or simply requested his release right from the jump, maybe he’d already be headed to Philly for Ignas Brazdeikis’ roster spot, but now? Now that’s not happening.
Even before Olynyk’s recent string of success, he was always a near-perfect fit for what Philly is looking to do moving forward. Though he’s not the most athletically gifted big man in the NBA, as he’d surely lose a foot race to every player on the Sixers’ roster right now, Olynyk has taken at least three 3s per game in each of his last four professional seasons and could help to shore up the paint when Doc Rivers looks to go small with a Ben Simmons-plus-shooters lineup. Theoretically, Olynyk could also play in lineups sandwiched between Embiid and Tobias Harris for a few minutes here and there in a playoff situation where size outweighs speed, as he played 486 minutes alongside Horford during their lone season together in Boston and scored 1,068 combined points while on the court together.
Factor in the addition of George Hill later this regular season – his worlds, not mine – and the Sixers could actually have a wealth of options to turn to when crafting a perfect playoff rotation depending on their opponent each round if Olynyk were to become available later today, which, again, probably isn’t going to happen.
Who knows, maybe Kelly Olynyk will ultimately get bought out in a shocking turn of events, but honestly, I kind of doubt he’d even want that to happen. No, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season, I imagine Olynyk would like nothing more than to finish out this season on top statistically speaking and parlay that into a lucrative long-term deal potentially worth more than his previous free agency cash-in. *sigh* I guess there’s always Mike Muscala, the Mario 3-tattooed Bucknell product who played for the Philadelphia 76ers for 47 games in 2018-19 before being traded to Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers for Tobias Harris. Small world.