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One More Addition Coming In Philly?

A Daily Babble Production

It's been quite a summer for hoops news in the City of Brotherly Love so far.

The 76ers have been hard at work shaping a roster that looks as though it will immediately be one of the best in the Eastern Conference in the season to come.  The big acquisition of course has been stud power forward Elton Brand from Los Angeles.  Kareem Rush has been brought in for his outside shooting touch, and big man Marreese Speights was a nice pick up in the draft.  Over the last couple of weeks, promising guard Louis Williams and franchise cornerstone Andre Iguodala have both been re-upped.

It's been a busy off-season for GM Ed Stefanski, and Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News reports that it may be about to get even busier.  The Sixers are interested in signing veteran free agent center Theo Ratliff.

Sounds like another solid move if Philly can pull it off.

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With Jason Smith injured and Speights a relatively unknown commodity as far as what his performance will be at the NBA level, the Sixers could certainly use some depth among their bigs.  Depth, defense and rebounding would be exactly what Ratliff brings to the table.

The guy has never been a phenomenal player at any point during his NBA career, and he has undoubtedly had his share of injury troubles (though those did seem to be far more of a concern when his contract was held by terrible teams as a trade piece than they did once he moved on to Detroit late last season), but he has a history of solid play when healthy and would be a very serviceable player for this team for 10-20 minutes per night if he remains so.  Ratliff is a very capable defender with excellent length, the ability to alter and discourage shots and good enough timing to get his share of blocks, too.  The guy has averaged an absurd 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes over the course of his 13-year NBA career and has led the league in blocks per game three times over that span.  

Ratliff also can grab a few boards (though 8.1 per 36 minutes isn't great, it is something on a team full of front-court players who crash the glass hard), and he wouldn't be a liability offensively.  Though he isn't going to be featured by any means, he is capable of finishing inside, moving the ball, screening and keeping plays alive by banging on the offensive glass.

In addition to what he can provide on the floor, Ratliff's presence might also be very valuable from the standpoint of mentoring starting center Samuel Dalembert.  Dalembert has had gaudy blocks numbers throughout his career, but said numbers have belied his flaws as a defender.  Though he made progress last season, Dalembert has long had trouble with positioning and the fact that he is an over-active leaper.  His excellent jumping ability gets him a lot of blocks, but he also gives up his share of baskets because opponents have an easy time getting him in the air.  Dalembert has struggled against stronger bigs and at times seemed unfamiliar with the concept of 'doing your work early' in the low post on a defensive possession.  He did take a big step forward last season, but perhaps Ratliff's presence on the team would provide an influence to help Dalembert further improve his positioning and defensive habits in general.

Jasner reports that Philly isn't the only team pursuing Ratliff and that he is actually receiving more lucrative offers elsewhere (the Sixers want him to play for the veteran's minimum), but the big man supposedly has a preference for Philadelphia and might be willing to come cheap.  He spent four productive seasons in town around the turn of millenium, and he may feel the Sixers offer both familiarity of locale and a contending squad.

Theo Ratliff's past injury problems and the limited minutes for which he'll be available make it important that his suitors be wary of overpaying.  But if the Sixers can get him at or near the minimum, they will have made a low-risk addition that should only strengthen a promising unit. 

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