The Philadelphia 76ers are entering the upcoming offseason with arguably more uncertainty than any other NBA team in recent memory.
After trading so many of their valuable assets (Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Landry Shamet and several first-round picks) to land both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, it is entirely possible that Philly could face an unbelievably disastrous summer losing both these top players.
According to Howard Beck, this is a scenario that has become increasingly likely as we inch closer to free agency (via Bleacher Report):
“I have heard some very strong rumblings this week that the Sixers are going to lose one – and maybe even both – of Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler … Take it with all due grains of salt, we’re talking about this still on June 21, but I would not be surprised if Jimmy Butler and/or Tobias Harris go elsewhere. The Sixers just have some strange dynamics with that group.”
As of right now, the most money that they could have in cap space if they renounce all of their cap space this offseason is a total of $59.8 million. That includes renouncing cap holds currently owed to Butler ($30.7 million) and Harris ($22.2 million) – which, of course, would be the most nuclear route possible.
One would assume that Philadelphia will renounce the rights to big man Boban Marjanovic ($13.3 million) as well as forward Mike Scott ($5.2 million) to clear the space for replacements for Butler and Harris.
21-year-old Furkan Korkmaz is already off the books and will reportedly return to play professional basketball in Turkey.
Other free agents for the Sixers include James Ennis, TJ McConnell, Amir Johnson and Greg Monroe – all who have cap holds worth $1.6 million. If they are looking to add new faces to the mix and maximize their cap space, it appears all could be renounced.
The most interesting question will be whether or not they retain JJ Redick, who has a cap hold of $15.9 million this offseason. The veteran sharpshooter offers valuable floor spacing as a three-point specialist alongside franchise stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
If they renounce everyone except Redick, they would have $44.7 million in space this summer, according to USA TODAY SMG’s Yossi Gozlan. He also notes that if they keep McConnell and Ennis, that figure would jump to $43.2 million.
However, one route they may go if they know Butler is not going to re-sign would be a sign-and-trade.
The understanding here is that it would be to supplement James Harden and Chris Paul, not to replace either of them. Adrian Wojnarowski outlined what the Houston Rockets, for example, would need to do to acquire Butler in such a scenario (via ESPN):
“Butler would be eligible to sign a four-year, $140 million contract on the way to the Rockets, but Houston would likely need to include center Clint Capela and guard Eric Gordon to make the financial deal work, sources said.”
Philadelphia would essentially only be able to keep one of these two players due to a cause in the collective bargaining agreement that is called base year compensation (BYC).
The other player, which would most likely Capela because he isn’t a great fit next to Embiid, would presumably be shipped to a third team into space for a future draft pick. They could add PJ Tucker or Nenê instead of Capela but it means they would have less spending money and one fewer draft asset.
Overall, the total value of Capela to a third team may be their best move for financial reasons.
Regardless, Gordon could be a fantastic complementary piece who is a plus defender and would likely replace Redick in the rotation. This saves spending money with his cap hold no longer on the books.
Additionally, their core would remain intact with Embiid and Simmons. They would then have Eric Gordon as well as 2018 first-round draft pick Zhaire Smith and 2019 first-round draft pick Mattise Thybulle in their backcourt. They would also have 2017 second-rounder Jonah Bolden in the frontcourt.
Not including second-round pick Marial Shayok, who is presumably going to earn a two-way deal, they would have a total of seven players who would have guaranteed contracts on the books.
They would have $46.6 million in cap space to complete their roster construction if they have Gordon on the team after a sign-and-trade, per Gozlan.
Wojnarowski has also reported that superstar free agent and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard could meet with Philadelphia about a deal (via ESPN):
“I’m told that Leonard may very well take visits in free agency, meetings at least, with the Knicks, the 76ers, possibly even the Nets in addition to the Clippers.”
Of course, this may just be a courtesy meeting similar to the one that LeBron James (by way of his agent Rich Paul) had with the team last summer. One would assume a more realistic candidate would be Al Horford, reportedly in the mix if he opts out of his deal with Boston.
Perhaps the best player to bet on would be D’Angelo Russell, who was high school teammates with Simmons and would provide some of the three-point scoring punch the team desperately needs. Horford and Russell would both require max contracts and Philly would have the space to sign either one or the other.
But if they are unable to land a top free agent, there are several role players who can be worth exploring using the aforementioned cap space and a room exception worth $4.8 million.
Jeff Siegel recently wrote about this exact situation for Philadelphia (via EarlyBirdRights):
“The thing to do with all the money they have, rather than trying to sign the biggest names on the market, would be to add as much depth as possible and try to mimic how the Raptors won the 2019 title – one superstar in Embiid, a secondary star in Simmons, and at least six solid role players who can all play both ends and complement the teams’ stars … They would have the opportunity to add significantly to a roster that already has a top two intact.”
In the frontcourt, this includes Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic, Thaddeus Young and Kenneth Faried. On the wing, some names who make sense include Bojan Bogdanovic, Terrence Ross, Rudy Gay and Danny Green or bringing back James Ennis. Potential backcourt options for the Sixers include Patrick Beverley, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph or bringing back TJ McConnell.
If there are even some players above who are allured by the idea of playing alongside Embiid and Simmons, the rebuild in Philly may be faster than it took time the process first began.
USA TODAY Sports Media Group’s Yossi Gozlan contributed research to this report.