After suffering a devastating Game 7 buzzer-beating loss to Toronto, the Sixers will now undergo the most important offseason in their franchise’s history. The 76ers have their hands full with decisions to make as they debrief upon their season which all told, ended up just one bounce short of great.
With significant decisions to come from Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, D’Angelo Russell, and many other superstar players, this offseason may alter the landscape of the NBA for years to come.
Newly hired general manager Elton Brand rolled the dice by giving away valuable assets this season in order to win right away. He went against the “Process” and made trades with the anticipation that these players will resign with the Sixers this offseason. Let’s look at some of the notable trades Elton Brand made throughout this season:
- The Sixers traded two starters in Robert Covington and Dario Saric to Minnesota for Jimmy Butler. Butler will be a free agent on July 1st.
- Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott were acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers on February 7th. All three will be unrestricted free agents on July 1. The Sixers gave up Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, and Mike Muscala and four draft picks which included a protected 2020 first-rounder and the unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first-rounder.
- The Sixers traded former 1st overall pick Markelle Fultz in exchange for Jonathon Simmons and a 2020 1st round pick (OKC Thunder).
As it stands, three out of the five starters in Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and JJ Redick will all become free agents this offseason. In addition, key members from the bench such as TJ McConnell, Mike Scott, James Ennis, Boban Marjanovic, Amir Johnson, Furkan Korkmaz, and Greg Monroe will also be looking to sign new contracts. This year, the Sixers rank 25th in most available cap space, which will make re-signing all of these players a challenge.
Fortunately, due to the Larry Bird Rule, the Sixers can offer both Harris and Butler a max-contract offer of five years for $190 million. The highest the other teams can offer is 4 years worth $141 million. By signing the two, although they will satisfy the passionate Sixers fan base, it will put even more pressure for them to succeed right away.
The Sixers can afford to sign these two-star players, however, they will struggle to build a strong bench and will need to let JJ Redick walk. If the Sixers want to bring both the starters and bench back, they will need to pay an enormous deficit in luxury tax. The Sixers will have to pull some strings to keep not only their core together, but their bench as well.
In addition to the buzz surrounding the notable free agents, the Sixers head coach Brett Brown may have coached his last game on Sunday. Marc Stein reported on Thursday, “Brett Brown, I’m told, has little chance of surviving a second-round exit.” With Game 7 being decided by the last shot, It will be fascinating to see how the Sixers manage their future coaching needs, especially since the current head coaching market is abysmal. During the Sixers exit interviews on Monday, the players were quick to praise their head coach. Embiid said,” I heard a lot of these rumors and stuff. I just thought it was bulls—. He’s done a fantastic job. He’s been there through everything, and then this year I think he grew even more as a coach. It’s hard when you’ve got five guys that can score the ball and that can do a lot of things on the basketball court. I don’t think he should have anything to worry about. He’s an amazing coach, better person.” In my opinion, Brett Brown should keep his job since he has dealt with numerous levels of change, managed a locker room full of egos, and was just one unlucky bounce away from the Eastern Conference Finals.
Is it time for Sixers fans to panic? Absolutely not.
The cornerstones of their franchise are Joel Embiid (25 years old) and Ben Simmons (22 years old). Whether they sign Tobias Harris (26 years old) and Jimmy Butler (30 years old) or not, they will have five-ten more years of championship-worthy basketball. People always forget that Michael Jordan didn’t win his first title until he was 30 years old so the fact the Sixers are competing now is a positive sign. The most convincing aspect of all is that the starting five played less than 20 games together and learned how to play together on the fly during the playoffs. They were just one bounce away from forcing overtime and having a chance to compete in the Eastern Conference Finals. If you give them a season to build some chemistry, understand each other’s tendencies better, and master Brett Brown’s gameplan, this team could be a force to reckon with.
For Sixers fans, the ideal offseason situation plays out like this:
Brett Brown keeps his job and hires a polished assistant coach to help design offensive schemes that benefit every player. Both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris sign contracts and stay in Philly long-term. The Sixers manage to convince JJ Redick to take less money in order to stay and win championships. The Sixers can sign some veterans looking to win and play for less money to strengthen the bench. Ben Simmons spends all summer in the gym working on his jump-shot and comes back next year as a confident shooter. Embiid works on getting in shape, manages his knee injury, and works to improve his shooting. Although this all seems very unlikely, it is also very possible and for the Sixers to be in a position to pull this off, it gives the Sixers fan base some hope.
Come July 1st, the landscape of the NBA will have changed and hopefully, the Sixers will be on the right side of history in the years to come.
Photo: Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images