The Philadelphia 76ers, a team put together midway through the season after making multiple major trades, came within one game of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. Although it was a disappointing result to the campaign, particularly the heart-wrenching way in which it happened, coming that close to being one the final four teams still alive was a great accomplishment for Philadelphia, especially when you factor in their limited depth and lack of experience playing together.
Distinctly encouraging for the 76ers was the overall play of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, their two most important building blocks. They may have had some low points during the playoffs, the former due to injury and the latter because of a lack of a jumper, but for the most part, the two performed like All-Stars throughout the regular season and carried over solid form into the postseason. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris also acclimated well to life in Philly and should make the 76ers contenders in the East next year with a full offseason together. Of course, the elephant in the room is that those two players, Philadelphia’s two huge acquisitions of 2018-19, aren’t guaranteed to be back next season. Harris will be an unrestricted free agent while Butler has a player option that will allow him to hit the open market in search of a max contract. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out this summer.
Overall, though, there was far more good than bad in 2018-19 for the 76ers, and a strong summer should have them right back at the top of the East next season.
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
Joel Embiid: $27,250,000
Ben Simmons: $8,113,929
Zhaire Smith: $3,062,760
Jonah Bolden: $1,698,450
NON-GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
Jonathon Simmons: $5,700,000
- Contract guaranteed for $1 million
Jimmy Butler: $19,841,627
James Ennis: $1,845,301
Philadelphia’s offseason will be a complicated one. They only have four players under contract for next year, with the rest of the roster up in the air as far as returning in 2019-20, including their two major acquisitions from last season: Butler and Harris. Both will almost certainly require the max to bring back, though that’s not a problem for the Sixers since they also acquired their Bird Rights as part of trades, meaning they can re-sign them no matter the cost.
Using Butler and Harris’ Bird Rights to re-sign them will also allow Philadelphia to have an easier time bringing back whichever role player they want, including Redick, who will be the costliest of the bunch, since they may have to dip into cap space to re-sign he and Mike Scott because they don’t have full Bird Rights on them. Re-signing Harris and Butler is “cheaper” than signing new max players because only their cap holds count until the actual signature.
Of course, other options exist for the Sixers, too. For example, if they lose Butler but re-sign Harris, they would still have roughly $37 million in cap space, enough to add another outside player on a max contract. In that case, a player like Khris Middleton would be a good dark-horse replacement target. However, unless guys like Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard show legitimate interest in signing with Philadelphia (highly unlikely), their best course of action would still be to bring back Butler and Harris for the reasons stated above.
Besides making those major decisions this offseason, Philadelphia will also have to extend Simmons; the question is: At what price? Simmons is probably worth the max, but for the second straight playoffs, his numbers have taken a dip in comparison to his regular-season stats due to his lack of a jumper (admittedly an overly discussed topic) making it difficult for him to make the same level of impact on offense. At the same time, though, his defense remains elite no matter the stage, and he’s still just 22 years old, so his ceiling is still massive. Simmons is worthy of a max rookie-scale extension.
The problem is that by bringing Harris and Butler back on the max and giving Simmons an extension, Philadelphia will be faced with a massive tax bill in the future. But that seems like the type of problem the Sixers will worry about when it arrives; for now, they’re better-served focusing on re-signing their top impending free agents and running it back for a full season of Butler and Harris along with Embiid and Simmons.
POTENTIAL FREE AGENT TARGETS
Khris Middleton: They likely won’t be part of the Durant or Leonard sweepstakes, but if they need to replace Butler, Middleton would be a great target to do so.
Julius Randle: On the other hand, if Butler re-signs but Harris doesn’t, the Sixers will need another starting power forward. Randle would be a interesting fit for that role, as his age is close to that of Simmons and Embiid, giving Philadelphia a fantastic young group to build around.
Danny Green: If Redick walks, Philadelphia will need another low-usage starting 2-guard option, and there may not be a better-suited one for that role than Green. His defense would be a huge upgrade to Redick’s, and he even shot a higher percentage from three last season.
Reggie Bullock: Philadelphia could use another pure shooter off the bench, and Bullock is a quite good one.
Wayne Ellington: So is this guy.
Patrick Beverley: If the Sixers lose TJ McConnell, they’re going to need a backup ball-handler. Beverly would be the perfect replacement.
POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS
The 76ers lack the assets to attack the trade target in a major way this summer after losing all of their most-coveted secondary pieces in acquiring Butler and Harris last season.
As such, if they do make a trade, it’ll be a small one.
2019 DRAFT ASSETS
Philadelphia owns the No. 24 pick in the 2019 draft. The only way they’ll lose it is if the Sacramento Kings win the lottery and wind up with the No. 1 case, in which case the Sixers will be forced to send their first-round pick to the Boston Celtics.
Besides that, Philadelphia has its own second-round pick, along with a second-rounder courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers and another one courtesy of the Kings.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.