The start of free agency is nearly upon us, and you can’t have a conversation about the Philadelphia 76ers without discussing the Run It Back movement (even here on this website). Unsurprisingly, then, people are seeking clues as to what the Sixers’ key free agents are thinking, whether it’s watching Jimmy Butler drill a penalty kick by Neymar, or Joel Embiid trying to trick Tobias Harris into saying he’ll re-sign at a charity soccer event.
Of course, the man who removed himself from social media, JJ Redick, has been much less visible in the public eye. Redick’s under-the-radar offseason goes hand-in-hand with how underdiscussed JJ has been in the whole Run It Back scheme of things. What will happen with Butler has assumed first billing (whether it’s his re-signing, or going to Houston, an LA team, Brooklyn, etc.), followed by potential suitors for Harris, and then, it’s largely taken as a given that JJ will return to complete the starting lineup Voltron.
Somewhere along the way, someone threw out a number of $10 million to bring back Redick, and now everyone just runs with it in their possible cap scenarios as though it’s as locked in as Zhaire Smith’s rookie scale contract. Folks justify the figure as being more than he could get from a team using a mid-level exception, but less than he made last year, which would make sense for a player entering his mid-30’s.
Now, sure, that explanation is perfectly logical and could end up being the case. But then again, Redick averaged a career-high 18.1 points per game last season, and prior to the Butler and Harris moves, was arguably the team’s offensive engine between his DHO game and two-man action with Embiid. He also shook off those postseason naysayers by handily winning his matchups with Joe Harris and Danny Green, performing admirably as a lock-on-his-man defender, rather than trying to switch and getting exposed in that manner.
Do we really expect him to, no doubt about it, just take a paycut? Isn’t it possible that the $12.5 million was already lower than his true market value, and he was fine with it because he knew the team had overpaid him so drastically the year before?
He has been open about liking the team and Philadelphia is close enough to his home in Brooklyn to make the slightly annoying, but manageable commute. Still, you know what team is even closer to Brooklyn? Brooklyn. They have a ton of cap space and are widely anticipated to add Kyrie Irving to what was a playoff team last season. If the Nets were to strike out on a second max free agent and throw something like 3 years, $42 million at Redick, would that be appealing to him? With all the teams out there with cap space, could some other team offer a number to give him pause enough that the Sixers would need to at least make their offer more competitive?
With less information and speculation floating around regarding Redick, I gave the most recent episode of The JJ Redick Podcast with Zach Lowe a close listen to see if anything of note was evident. There was the usual fun nonsense like learning JJ does not have a stylist and thinks people actually bring their own cats to cat cafes (the cats are already there and the cafes basically serve a dual role as adoption centers, fyi). But largely, there was nothing of relevance to be gleaned, with JJ even acknowledging at one point how careful he is with that stuff:
“The interesting thing – again, I’m just legally obligated not to break any news – the interesting thing to me is the amount of contradictory noise…Two days ago, Player X to this team was a done deal, and now, a different source, or sometimes the same source, will say, no, Player X to this team.”
So when Redick says something like the following on Philadelphia’s backup center situation…
“Obviously, that will be a huge piece for us, er, for the 76ers in free agency, just figuring out someone to fill those minutes.”
We should recognize it as a slip of the tongue, and only natural for someone who has been a Sixer for two seasons, not a sure sign he’s coming back.
During a discussion of he, Butler, and Harris for the Sixers, Redick did whisper, “I’m not the first priority.” But that’s so obviously a reality that he even felt comfortable saying it.
Here was what I felt was the only potentially relevant tidbit regarding Redick’s free agency:
“For a player, it’s a gift and a curse, this player movement. Right, because it’s exciting for the league. I think you can sort of get out of situations easier than maybe you would be if you got locked in. But then at the same time, I think there’s a lot of guys that basically for the foreseeable future, unless something changes with the cap or strategy of teams, we’re gonna be locked into short-term deals. And that’s just, to me that’s the new normal.”
If he accepts it as the new normal, maybe he really is OK continuing to go down the path of shorter deals, rather than trying to lock in one last long-term contract as he approaches the tail end of his career. From the Sixers’ perspective, that would be a boon, allowing them to bring him back to compete in the present without having one more long-term deal on the books as part of what’s likely going to be an exorbitant cap sheet if everyone is brought back and Ben Simmons signs an extension.
So maybe it really is a case of where there’s no smoke, there’s no fire, and Redick will re-sign without much hand-wringing for a team-friendly price. I just find it strange that in a league where every move and rumor gets endlessly (and often needlessly) discussed and dissected, Redick’s free agency has almost entirely flown under the radar. We’ll find out the end result soon enough.