One of the things discussed during the Sixers’ coaching search was the idea of Fred VanVleet following Nick Nurse to his next destination, be it Milwaukee, Phoenix, or Philly.

With Nurse coming here, these tweets were gonna hit the feed sooner rather than later:

No clue who Brett Siegel is, but we can play along since the FVV/Nurse/Sixers thing was inevitable.

For starters, VanVleet has a player option for $22.8 million. He can stay with Toronto for another year, or opt out now at age 29.

If he does leave, the Sixers could hypothetically replace Harden with VanVleet and run a backcourt of FVV and Tyrese Maxey. It’s a small backcourt, and perimeter defense might be a concern, but VanVleet is several years younger and a much better defender than Harden. People probably don’t remember this, but VanVleet got 2021-2022 All-Defensive Team votes, finishing just behind Matisse Thybulle for the last guard spot. The other guys who beat him out were Marcus Smart, Mikal Bridges, and Jrue Holiday. VanVleet averages about 1.5 steals per 36 minutes and has finished top 20 in the league in each of the last four seasons in total swipes. He also finished second in the NBA with 3.8 deflections per game this past season, so he’s active and engaged and gets his hands into passing lanes. FVV was third in defensive loose balls recovered and typically posts good numbers in the more random hustle metrics (contested shots, charges drawn, etc).

Offensively, he’s capped out around 20 points per game. VanVleet is a career 37.3% three point shooter, but had a down year in 2022-23 and finished at 34.2%. He was an All Star the prior year however, hitting 37.7% from deep and averaging 19.3 PPG and 6.7 assists per game on a Raptors team that finished fifth in the east.

The thing about VanVleet is that he’s sort of on the Tier 1/Tier 2 cusp. He’s not a bona fide superstar, but he probably exists just one level below that. If you see him coming here, running the offense, knocking down some threes, and playing 2nd or 3rd fiddle to Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, then it probably works. Not sure if it makes the Sixers any better than they were with Harden, but perhaps we’ll find out.

One of the things we’ve said about potentially losing James Harden is that there isn’t a slam dunk replacement out there. It’s a thin free agent class. You’ve got Khris Middleton on a player option, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, D’Angelo Russell, a couple of bigs (Vucevic), and then a drop off from there. VanVleet opting out and rejoining Nurse in Philly might not be the worst thing in the world.