Depending on what your expectations were, the Philadelphia 76ers season was a resounding success or a complete failure.
It took the eventual champion Toronto Raptors 7 games and one insane shot from Kawhi Leonard to beat the young Sixers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. But on the other hand, the Sixers had to trade away a number of assets in order to get a half-season rental on Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. This could look even worse with the news so far that both unrestricted free agents have not given any firm indication of staying in the City of Brotherly Love, with Harris being linked to Brooklyn (Source) and Butler reportedly being heralded by the Rockets and Lakers.
In the draft, Philly had picks 24, 33, 34, 42 & 54; trading Jonathon Simmons and pick 42 for cash in order to clear up some cap space, trading 33 and 24 for the Celtic’s pick 20 (Matisse Thybull), 34 for two future second-rounders courtesy of Atlanta and pick 57 (traded to Detroit). These picks are nothing to write home about on paper, however they have pulled some relatively good role-players later in the draft (Landry Shamet drafted 26th, Dario ‘The Homie’ Saric drafted 12th and Timothe ‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls’ Luwawu-Cabarrot drafter 24th).e. These picks are nothing to write home about on paper, however the Sixers have pulled some relatively good role-players later in the draft in recent years (Landry Shamet drafted 26th, Dario ‘The Homie’ Saric drafted 12th and Timothe ‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls’ Luwawu-Cabarrot drafter 24th) so who is to say how good these picks will end up being…
Only 6 players have guaranteed contracts going into next season for the Sixers: Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Zhaire Smith, Jonah Bolden & James Ennis (Player Option). This totals about 62M leaving a tasty 70M before luxury cap, enough for 2 max spots plus some half-decent role players to fill out the bench.
So who should they target?
The Sixers need some solid wing shooting to balance the interior might of Embiid and Big Simmo, they ranked 8th in 3 point percentage and need to replicate this to continue their success.
Jimmy Butler makes the most sense as he provides tough perimeter defense with great shooting and good secondary ball handling. He has declined a near 20M player option which is about half of what a maximum contract would be worth (5 years at ~190M). He hasn’t put up superstar numbers over his career (highs of 23.9ppg, 5.5apg and 5.8rpg) but they are still all-star level stats and opposing teams have to regard him as one of the top threats on whatever team he plays for.
He is 100% an asset to this young team and has shown great maturity since being traded. He has taken Ben Simmons under his wing on how to be a floor general, use his frame to attack both offensively and defensively1,2 as well as showing the correlation between wearing matching headbands as teammates and excellent defence.
If the Sixers are unable to sign him, they should look to see if they can pry Khris Middleton (Player Option) or Malcom Brogdon (Restricted Free Agent) away from Giannis and the Bucks (unlikely), sign/re-sign JJ Redick or Kyle Korver (are they ever going to retire) and/or Harrison Barnes (opted out of a 24M player option).
Barnes makes would be an underrated pickup for the Sixers: he shoots well from downtown (39.5% this season, 37.4% career) can defend positions 2 through 4 and can play power forward in a small-ball lineup. People forget that he is only 27 and still has a lot left to give for a contending team, Sacramento is looking at signing him to a long-term deal3 but Philly may be able to poach him if the small-market Kings can’t come up with the cash.
Philly also need a stretch 4 to create space for Embiid to work inside, Tobias Harris is one of the best available Power Forwards and is the best fit for the Sixers due to his shooting, ability to make plays from the pick and roll as well as not clogging up the space for Embiid and Simmons.
Harris is going to be in demand so Elton Brand may have to break open the piggy bank to keep him, they have his bird rights so can offer him a 5 year – $188 million deal whereas other teams (namely the Nets, Jazz and Pacers) can only offer him a 4 year – $141 million.
If I had the choice of paying Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris it would be no question I would be looking at Jimmy; he can lead a team and is much more versatile defensively. However if Jimmy leaves, paying Tobi a near max (whilst leaving enough money to re-sign Embiid and Simmons) should be a top priority.