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Philadelphia 76ers Offseason Primer

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The Sixers have lots of decisions to make over the next few months.

Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The favored Philadelphia 76ers lost in seven games to the Atlanta Hawks last week, failing to get to the Eastern Conference Finals yet again. This team had high aspirations coming off of a largely successful season — a full-scale title run in mind after securing the first seed in the East for the first time in 20 years. This was a failed series and it’s led to huge questions surrounding what might be the most important offseason yet.

The Atlanta series has raised many questions about the Sixers, most specifically with star Ben Simmons. Do they go forward with him after Atlanta showcased his flaws on the biggest stage in the NBA? While that might be the biggest headline of the Sixers offseason, there’s a lot more aspects in which they’ll have to navigate the NBA landscape. After all, the franchise has four impending free agents, a possible super-max contract to be signed, the 2021 NBA Draft and free agency on the horizon — and that’s not even talking about potential trades to shake up the roster.

This will be Daryl Morey’s first real offseason with the team, as his first was rushed heavily due to the shortened offseason. While some might see doom and gloom after the Hawks upset, there is hope for the future as the Sixers do have some flexibility to utilize in a major offseason. Morey managed to take a six-seed team in salary cap hell and flip it into the first-seed contender with flexibility within basically a week. If anyone can fix the Sixers’ flaws, it’s him.

This offseason will be one to watch very closely, as it can determine the franchise’s trajectory with this core for seasons to come. So it’s important you know all of the specifications, exceptions, options and more that come with this season. Welcome to the Philadelphia 76ers’ Offseason Primer: your guide to what they can and can’t do, along with most of the questions that will need to be addressed.

This will cover: the Sixers’ Free Agents and Bird Rights, Joel Embiid’s super-max extension, financial/trade exceptions, luxury tax considerations, factors into a Ben Simmons trade, potential free agent targets, and a lot more.

The whole purpose of this piece to help educate and inform you all on some of the specifics and more advanced aspects of the NBA business. I hope this ends up being viewed as a useful tool to you, the reader, so you can know everything that can or cannot happen in this crucial offseason. Without further ado, let’s dive into the Sixers’ own free agents.

The Sixers’ Free Agents

The Sixers will have four unrestricted free agents this summer with Danny Green, Furkan Korkmaz, Dwight Howard and Mike Scott. The Sixers have a variety of bird rights on each of the before-mentioned players.

Before diving into each specific player, I’ll briefly go over how Bird Rights work within the NBA and how much exactly the Sixers can offer to each respective player — assuming the team and player have mutual interest in staying together for future seasons to come. There are three types of bird rights in the NBA CBA: Full Bird Rights, Early Bird Rights, and Non-Bird Rights. Bird Rights are an exception that allow NBA teams over the salary cap to maintain their roster if they can come to an agreement with the player. The Sixers are a team over the cap, so these exceptions are very important to keep track of.

Furkan Korkmaz is the only player of this group in which the Sixers’ own his Full Bird Rights. Full Bird Rights are acquired when a player has been with one specific team for three consecutive seasons. In Korkmaz’s case, he’s actually been with the Sixers for four seasons — two of the first four being on his rookie deal and the other two coming on a minimum contract. Full Bird Rights allow the Sixers to spend as much as they want to — with a max contract being the only real “limit”.

Both Danny Green and Mike Scott will have Early Bird Rights with the Sixers. Early Bird Rights are the middle-ground of the three variants of Bird Rights — coming from two years of service with a NBA team.

Those of you might be wondering: How do the Sixers have Green’s Early Bird Rights if he only spent a year here after being traded from the Lakers/Thunder? Bird Rights do transfer in trades/transactions. Danny Green’s original contract was a two-year deal with the Lakers in which he didn’t leave the team — he was traded. Meaning that the Sixers do own Early Bird Rights on Danny Green.

So what are Early Bird Rights? As stated before, they come from a player serving two years with a NBA team without leaving via free agency. This exception allows the Sixers to pay 175% of his previous salary or 104.5% of the league average salary — whichever is higher depending on the player. In most cases, it’s usually the 175% of the prior salary, but the latter is in place to protect players on minimum contracts.

Mike Scott likely won’t be back with the team so I won’t dive too deeply into his contractual situation. Danny Green, on the other hand, will have a very intriguing free agency. Green is a coveted veteran that could realistically fit on any NBA roster — giving him a long list of teams that could be bidding for him. It’s possible that Green could cash out, so how much can the Sixers offer him at most if they choose to retain him?

Danny Green roughly made $15.3 million this season, so if we factor in his Early Bird Rights the Sixers could offer him a contract of anywhere up to around $26.7 million roughly. Obviously it’s extremely unlikely that Green will have any team offering him that amount, but this just goes to show you that the Sixers do have some flexibility in keeping Danny Green around if they so choose. Which is a really good thing, as he’s been a huge factor behind their team’s success and is a great role model for some of the team’s younger players.

It would also do the Sixers a lot of good to retain Green from a financial standpoint. Matching salaries can be sometimes tricky on contending teams deep into the luxury tax. Giving Green a reasonable contract, let’s say around $10 million a year, could allow the Sixers to easily match salaries in the event of a trade. You could theoretically combine Green and George Hill’s salary to match salary north of $22 million. Letting Green walk could limit the Sixers’ flexibility in trade situations.

Dwight Howard is the last player of this group in which the Sixers own his Non-Bird Rights, as he signed a one-year veteran minimum contract with the team in the prior offseason. Non-Bird Rights allow teams to pay the player 120% of his prior salary. In Dwight’s case, he roughly made $2.5 million, so the Sixers could offer him anywhere from another minimum deal to $3 million per year.

Whether the Sixers bring Howard back will be a question that is without a clear answer as of right now. Howard ended up becoming one of the Sixers’ fan favorites, and he’s someone Joel Embiid helped recruit in free agency last year. He was a solid backup center to Embiid during the regular season. The lack of shooting from Simmons, however, made it hard for him to be on the floor for much of the playoffs. I’d consider this a toss-up on if he returns or not.

The Sixers also have two two-way contracts that they’ll need to evaluate with Rayjon Tucker and Gary Clark. It’s anyone’s guess at this point in time if the Sixers will choose to bring either of them back, but I personally hope they opt to hang onto Rayjon Tucker. He’s shown flashes of being an athletic player with some defense. If he can continue developing his shot, he very well could develop into a role player given some time.

Joel Embiid’s possible super-max deal and future contract extensions

Keeping with the financial theme, we have to talk about the contract extensions that will be a huge area of focus for the Sixers. If you thought the prior numbers being thrown around were large, wait until you see these.

The Sixers’ franchise player, Joel Embiid, will be approaching his contract extension period. This will be a critical point for the Sixers as they can completely avoid an unrestricted free agency for Embiid, that will come after the conclusion of the 2022-23 season. Negotiations on this can immediately start in the 2021 free agency — as Embiid will have two years left on his contract.

This should be the top priority of the Sixers offseason, without a doubt. Embiid made an All-NBA team this year making him eligible for the league’s super max contract. The super max contract is worth 35 percent of the team’s salary cap, with each year of the deal climbing by eight percent. 35 percent might seem like a small number alone, but Utah’s Rudy Gobert is a perfect example at how huge these deals really are — who was gifted with a five-year, $205 million extension.

Joel Embiid has two years left on his deal, meaning that if the Sixers do agree to an extension at any point this year, it’ll be a four-year extension on top of the two remaining years — kicking in for the 2023-24 season. Embiid’s contract would look like this if they came to an agreement on a super-max deal, with the bold symbolizing the extension:

2021-22: $31.6 million

2022-23: $33.6 million

2023-24: $42.5 million

2024-25: $46.0 million

2025-26: $49.4 million

2026-27: $52.8 million

It’s important to note that the Sixers and Embiid don’t have to come to an agreement on this for this offseason or season. If Embiid makes an All-NBA team again next year he’ll be eligible for the super-max yet again — which would allow him to sign a five-year extension on top of his current deal.

Embiid has had a MVP-caliber season and was arguably the best player in the postseason this year on a bad knee. Let’s hope the Sixers and Embiid can come to an agreement sooner rather than later.

Embiid is obviously the name to watch with Sixers’ contract extensions, but you should also keep Matisse Thybulle and Shake Milton in your mind with this topic. They aren’t eligible for contract extensions yet, but their next upcoming seasons will be huge in determining how much they cash out, as they’ll be eligible for extensions in 2022.

Further Financial Exceptions to Watch

The Sixers will have two other exceptions that I have yet to touch on. The first of the two being their Al Horford trade exception — which is worth roughly $8.1 million and expires on December 8, 2021. For those unfamiliar with how trade exceptions work, please check out this piece I wrote a few months back, which gives you everything you need to know in terms of understanding trade exceptions.

Giving a very simple and brief explanation: trade exceptions can be used in trades to absorb a certain amount of salary (in this case anything at or under $8.1 million). Trade exceptions can’t be added onto additional salary from a player and they can also be split up — for example you could absorb a player’s contract making $4 million and use an additional $4.1 million on another player.

The Sixers would definitely benefit from using this trade exception at some point in this offseason or early in the NBA season. This is a fairly large exception in which they would likely be able to get a valuable rotation player. For perspective, here’s a list of a few players making less than $8.1 million next year that aren’t on rookie deals: Cedi Osman, DJ Augustin, Chris Boucher, Aron Baynes, and Kevon Looney. There are definitely quality players to be found within this salary range.

The Sixers’ other exception will apply to their free agency — the mid-level exception (or the MLE for short). This is where things can get a bit complicated. There are two main types of MLEs — the full MLE and the taxpayer’s MLE. The full MLE is worth around $9.5 million a year, and you can negotiate a deal up to four years in length (this is what Seth Curry originally signed in Dallas). The taxpayer’s MLE is rewarded to teams over the tax and is worth roughly $5 million a year. The taxpayer’s MLE also only allows team to negotiate up to three years of length with the contract.

So which MLE will the Sixers have? It entirely depends on what happens with George Hill and Danny Green. The Sixers are projected to be around $5 million below the tax line with their current list of players under contract next season. This is without re-signing any of their free agents. If the Sixers were to retain Danny Green’s bird rights and re-sign him, they’d be given the taxpayer’s MLE. The Sixers could possibly do some salary cap gymnastics here to get them the full mid-level exception — if they were to deal Hill or waive and stretch his partially guaranteed deal and sign Green to a reasonable deal, that would put them below the tax line. However, this is somewhat tricky and unlikely in my eyes — so you can probably take a safe bet that they’ll only have the taxpayer’s MLE.

It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to use a mid-level exception on just one player — you can split it up. If you want to use $3 million on one player and $2 million on another, you can completely do so. The Sixers actually split their taxpayer’s MLE up last season — using it on Isaiah Joe and Paul Reed’s contracts.

Possible Luxury Tax Considerations & Questions

When talking about a contending team one must always factor the luxury tax into every transaction. The Sixers’ ownership group has been adamant about paying what it takes to create a championship-caliber team, however the Sixers did not fully use their taxpayer’s mid-level exception last season. Whether this was Daryl Morey’s own decision or the ownership group cheaping out is anyone’s guess.

For those unfamiliar, the luxury tax is a progressive tax found within the NBA’s CBA. The more teams spend over the salary cap, the deeper they get into the luxury tax, which acts as a penalty for overspending. For example, if the Sixers are $5 million over the luxury tax, every dollar they spend in payroll to a player will cost $1.50. That multiplier becomes more and more as a team spends, with it even going up to $3.50 per dollar spent as they get deeper into the tax. While that might seem like not a lot, we have to keep in mind players are being paid millions of dollars.

The Sixers are very much a luxury tax team, and likely will be next season, as they are only around $5 million under the projected luxury tax — which is only taking into consideration the players already signed into next season. Assuming the team re-signs Danny Green and fully utilizes their mid-level exception, next year’s Sixers may end up being the most expensive team we’ve ever seen here.

This is another area where George Hill’s contract could be a massive asset, as the Sixers could both waive and stretch his $1.27 in the event that they don’t want to bring him back or use him in a trade. This could end up saving the Sixers major cash in regards to the luxury tax.

Flexibility in Trades

You can certainly bank on Daryl Morey being active to further improve the Sixers’ roster. The great news for him and all of the fanbase: the team has newfound flexibility and assets to do so. Morey’s moves have treaded carefully on the line of helping the present moment without sacrificing the future.

The Sixers have assets outside of their active roster. While their draft pick stash has certainly seen better days, they own all of their first-round selections outside of a 2025 pick, which is now owed to the Thunder (via Al Horford trade). This trade does limit them a bit in trading first-rounders outright — as they can only do so with this year’s pick and the 2023 first-rounder. Teams cannot trade first round picks in consecutive seasons, due to the Stepien Rule.

The Sixers can trade away more than two first-rounders in a different way though, as they can trade away pick swaps. A recent example of this was the James Harden deal conducted between the Rockets and Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn traded away three first-round picks along with multiple unprotected pick swaps — giving Houston full control on getting the better of their or Brooklyn’s first-rounder in multiple drafts.

The Sixers could also avoid the Stepien Rule by trading for a 2025 first-round selection from another team, though it’s unlikely that a contending team is sacrificing any win-now asset for a first-rounder that wouldn’t convey for a few years.

The Sixers own two picks in this upcoming draft alone: picks 28 and 50. It’s possible that the team could opt to package a late first-rounder along with salary for a better player. A recent example of this would be the Lakers packaging Danny Green and their late first-round pick for Dennis Schroder in the prior offseason. It’s common for teams to practice this, especially with franchises entering a rebuild.

George Hill’s contract will also be a huge factor in almost any deal they do. He’s on pace to earn a solid chunk of salary — just over $10 million. Matching salaries is half the battle of making a deal in the NBA, so you can likely assume Hill would be gone in most deals in which the Sixers are acquiring a player making north of $15 million in salary. Hill’s deal is much more intriguing though, as its only partially guaranteed with $1.27 million. This means that a team could acquire Hill and potentially save over $9 million of payroll by simply waiving him. For any teams trying to stay below the luxury tax or entering a rebuild, this could be incredibly valuable.

Speaking of non-guaranteed contracts — the Sixers have another one with Anthony Tolliver, who was brought aboard mid-season. Morey gave Tolliver an additional year of non-guaranteed salary after this season, at around $2.6 million. Tolliver would have to be waived before August 5 before it would become fully guaranteed money. This was quietly a really good move from Daryl Morey that simply isn’t going to get the shine and appreciation it deserves. While $2.6 million isn’t a huge chunk of money in NBA standards, every dollar counts in many types of situations.

Breaking down a possible Ben Simmons trade

I put out a tweet a few weeks ago asking what everyone wanted in this offseason primer piece. It was very clear to me that you all wanted me to break down possible trade scenarios, questions, and specifications going into a Ben Simmons trade.

The Hawks series showed how much of a liability Ben Simmons was to the team. Shooting has always been a question mark with him, but there wasn’t any moment where this skill (or lack of skill) screamed louder than in that series. Going forward ,the Sixers will likely evaluate their roster around Embiid. It’s good, but it’s not good enough to win a title, at least yet. Ben Simmons’ future with the team is now very murky, and there’s a good chance they might shop around with him.

What can the Sixers get for Simmons? I think it’s entirely dependent on which team you’re doing a deal with. I think his value will range drastically from team to team. Simmons would likely be best suited in a role where he isn’t “the guy” on the team, but rather the third option offensively. He does a lot of things well; defense, playmaking, rebounds, etc. Playing alongside some stars that are gifted with the ability of shooting that could take offensive pressure off of him could do him wonders. I could see him being a Draymond Green type for some teams, a third or fourth option offensively while providing crucial playmaking and defense to a roster.

That’s where things get tricky though. If you’re trading for Ben Simmons, you’re likely a team that’s trying to win now and compete. You wouldn’t necessarily be willing to part with your best player in a deal for him. The suitors for Simmons are... pretty slim, at least on paper. You have to look for a team with an abundance of shooting that is in need of a playmaker/defender with size. There’s only a handful of teams that fit that mold without making some major changes to their respective roster.

While most might view Simmons as complete negative after his collapse, there is some hope. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst did report that there are around a dozen teams that would have interest in Ben Simmons if he was made available. This is somewhat shocking in my eyes, as Simmons has had a roster built to suit his needs in Philadelphia with it not performing well. It seems like teams have hope that they can develop his game or feel he can be the next big step to their core. Pretty interesting to say the least.

Adrian Wojnarowski went on to further echo Windhorst’s comments as he reported that the Sixers plan to keep Simmons on the team for the time being. Woj went on to also report that Simmons still has “significant value” within the trade market, if he were to be made available by the Sixers.

The main takeaway from recent reports: the Sixers want to build with Simmons and they want him to begin making progress in his shooting weaknesses. If a deal comes along that they feel can propel the team to a better chance of winning a title — they’ll likely do it.

So what are the best suitors for Simmons? On paper, there aren’t many teams that currently have a roster that would complement Simmons perfectly, but here are a few teams I think make sense. Keep in mind, both sides have to agree to a deal that they feel is bettering their respective team. The teams I have listed as possible Simmons suitors at the time of this writing: the Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, and Chicago Bulls. A common trend you’ll see with the majority of these teams is the fact that they currently have a big capable of spacing the floor at a high level — with the Blazers really being the only exception with Jusuf Nurkic.

There’s a plethora of players that I’m sure popped into your mind when I listed these teams, as they’re home to some really great players. Don’t get your hopes up too high though. All of these teams are looking to win now, meaning that they’ll exhaust any and all effort to keep their talent in house.

We will start with the Portland Trail Blazers, who are coming off of a disappointing season with a lot of question marks. Most will point to Damian Lillard, whose future with the team is very murky. While Lillard is arguably the best player to possibly become available this offseason, I think it’s easy to predict that the Blazers will do everything possible to shuffle the roster before looking to possibly deal him. Simmons would be a great running mate alongside Lillard, as he could take a lot of the playmaking pressure off of him and also provide stellar defense to a team needing help in that area.

In comes CJ McCollum, a player that has always been on the mind of Sixers fans. While he certainly isn’t Damian Lillard, he’s a solid player that hasn’t fit seamlessly alongside Lillard from a defensive standpoint. He’s an undersized shooting guard that can score from all three levels, and is coming off of a career season that was cut short due to a broken foot. McCollum could provide the Sixers much improved floor spacing and offensive creation on the perimeter.

I think this trade would definitely benefit the Sixers and Embiid, but it couldn’t be their only move. The Sixers roster is stripped of any guard that is capable of running an offense reliably, and the Sixers would definitely have to look elsewhere for that, as they wouldn’t be getting it with CJ McCollum. Trading Simmons for McCollum would also create a huge defensive drop-off, and I would have great concerns on how he and Curry would fare against some backcourts in the East.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are arguably the best fit for Simmons in the entire NBA. Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the best shooting big men of all time. While he’s an amazing offensive talent, his defense is certainly not the best — where Simmons could complement him perfectly.

The problem with any trade involving the Timberwolves would be what can the Sixers get back that could help them win now? Well, that’s not an easy question. There’s D’Angelo Russell, but he’s far from a perfect player — and that’s not even mentioning his injury issues over the past few seasons. Does he move the needle much? Probably not. Outside of that, they could offer Anthony Edwards or draft picks which sounds like a pretty underwhelming return.

I’ll circle back to the Timberwolves in a minute, but I’ll also mention the two remaining teams I have listed as Simmons suitors. The first of which is the Indiana Pacers. Simmons could be a great fit with the team, depending on who they choose between Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner — which will happen at some point, maybe? It seems like that question has been asked throughout the past three seasons without Indiana making a decision.

Sabonis and Simmons would be a pretty clunky fit, but Myles Turner would be perfect alongside Simmons. The two would be great defensively, and Turner has proven to be one of the better shooting big men in the NBA. Indiana has a plethora of good players that they could offer in a trade, with Malcolm Brogdon being arguably the best trade target on their roster.

Brogdon is a talented shooter and much improved playmaker on a very reasonable contract. He’s also versatile defensively, though the Sixers might want to trade for a guard-oriented defender in this scenario. The only real question marks surrounding a Simmons/Brogdon deal would be his health, as Brogdon has had his fair share of injury troubles.

The Chicago Bulls are the last team I’ll mention specifically, as they recently traded for Nikola Vucevic, another stretch big. Obviously Zach LaVine would be the prime target here. I don’t think Chicago would do this deal unless LaVine specifically told the Bulls that he wouldn’t be re-signing there — which isn’t too outlandish a prediction. Remember: LaVine was not happy that Chicago made him hunt for offer sheets in his restricted free agency. Factor in that they’ve failed to make the playoffs again and it’s something that very well could play out.

There’s also the Marc Eversley connection — who was one of Elton Brand’s colleagues in the Sixers’ front office. He’s seen what Simmons can do up close, and he could have interest. Eversley is also one of the prime reasons Matisse Thybulle is a Sixer — he scouted and coveted him for many years. Could including Thybulle in a deal be enough for Chicago to pull the trigger on a deal?

It is entirely possible that the Sixers could do a deal outside of these before-mentioned teams — though it would probably take a three-team deal. Bradley Beal and Stephen Curry are two other names that would be dream targets for the Sixers to acquire if they become available. However, Simmons would be a clunky fit with both rosters as currently constructed. It’s possible that the Sixers could bring in one of the teams above that could offer other talent/draft compensation and provide a seamless fit for Simmons.

There’s also an outside chance that the trade market is dry, and the Sixers simply hang onto Simmons for the time being. While I imagine most wouldn’t like this, it might be the best move. You have to find a player capable of moving the needle for the Sixers, which will likely take a great talent such as Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, or Steph Curry. A lot of the players I listed above help and are productive, but they simply aren’t quite the caliber of player that would completely change things for the Sixers. You can’t just do a trade to do a trade; the Sixers have to make this roster better. On the other hand, you only have so many seasons of Embiid’s prime. It’ll be a tough line to walk, but if anyone can make it happen, it’s Daryl Morey.

We’ll get a better understanding for the trade landscape and how the Sixers view Simmons’ future in the coming weeks/months. My main takeaway/prediction: it’ll likely be a multi-team deal if it’s outside of those before-mentioned teams. I’ll keep with the theme of outside players joining the Sixers, so let’s dive into some targets in free agency that they could take a look at.

Possible Free Agent Targets

This is the fun part of this offseason primer, where I get to speculate and say some of my favorite targets. Unfortunately, this free agent class is pretty weak compared to most. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was supposed to headline this class, but he, along with other players, signed an extension that will avoid a free agency period this summer.

That being said, there is talent to be found throughout with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Victor Oladipo being some of the biggest unrestricted free agents. Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard are two other big names that might be on the market, as both have player options.

The biggest name and one of the best fits would be Toronto’s Kyle Lowry — a player the Sixers were heavily involved in discussions for at the trade deadline. Toronto’s asking price was reportedly way too high, which led to Lowry staying put and essentially resting the season away. Since then, the Athletic reported that the Sixers plan to pursue Lowry in a possible sign-and-trade scenario.

Kyle Lowry is a capable point guard and proven champion whose addition to the Sixers would give them another perimeter threat, playmaker, and solid defender. The question marks surrounding Lowry are mainly his age, as he’s already 35 years old. How he will age remains to be seen, but he’s put together some of his best seasons in his advanced age. While Lowry would be one of the better case scenarios for an offseason signing, it is far from a make or break situation for the Sixers.

Speaking of another point guard, the Sixers should pay close attention to Charlotte’s Devonte Graham as he enters restricted free agency — especially if Ben Simmons is dealt. Graham is not a flawless player, he’s someone that has struggled a bit with efficiency and defense. However, he would be an absolutely perfect fit alongside Joel Embiid. Graham is one of the most underrated playmakers in the entire league, and while he isn’t efficient, he’s one of the best high-volume 3-point shooters in the entire NBA. The Sixers won’t have nearly enough cap space to outright throw an offer at Graham, but Charlotte very well could engineer a sign-and-trade — which would be the only way of getting Graham to Philly.

Why would Charlotte want to deal a young upcoming guard? He had a bit of a down year, and the Hornets have a loaded backcourt with LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier — who had a breakout season. Factor in Malik Monk’s restricted free agency and the opportunity just isn’t there for Graham. He isn’t a perfect player, but he’d be perfect in Philadelphia.

There’s some coveted role players who could provide skills and plug holes that were previously found in the Sixers roster. One of the biggest areas of need was definitely a stretch big — a role that Mike Scott was supposed to fill. Unfortunately, most of the good rotation stretch bigs within the NBA are currently under contract. Though, there are a handful of good options to look at.

One of the best case scenarios would be Milwaukee’s Bobby Portis — who has a player option for $3.8 million. Why would Portis leave a contending team that he fits perfectly on? First, he could/would get much more offensive opportunities and playing time on the Sixers. The Sixers are also able to offer him a larger amount of salary than his $3.8 million option — as they could throw their mid-level exception at him. Portis would be a tremendous fit with the roster, as he’s capable of playing power forward or center. He’s also developed into one of the best 3-point shooters in the entire NBA, hitting 47.1 percent of 3s in the prior season.

The Sixers could get a perfect stretch big on their roster while also taking a valuable part of their rival’s rotation away. This is definitely a player the Sixers should look at.

The Sixers have two wings — Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz — who will be approaching their free agency periods. It’s possible that both could walk, leaving the Sixers to look elsewhere for wing depth. There’s some solid 3&D players in this free agency class, with Torrey Craig being one of my favorites.

Craig was originally on Milwaukee, being glued to the bench. He was dealt to Phoenix in the PJ Tucker deal and has been a tremendous role player for them. Craig is capable of guarding 1-4 on the positions scale, and has had his 3-point shot come alive this year — shooting a respectable 37 percent from 3. He’s due for a massive pay raise, as he was on a minimum contract last season. Having a defensive duo of Matisse Thybulle and Torrey Craig off the bench would be an absolute joy to watch.

Those are just some of my personal favorites, but I’ll compile a list of possible targets below for you all to scan over and be the judge of. I’ll list some restricted free agents (RFA) here, just keep in mind that the only way they’d come to Philadelphia is via sign-and-trade.

Guards: Lonzo Ball (RFA), Malik Monk (RFA), Josh Hart (RFA), Sterling Brown, Ben McLemore

Wings: E’Twaun Moore, James Ennis III, Andre Iguodala, Garrett Temple

Bigs: Frank Kaminsky, Paul Millsap, Nemanja Bjelica, Patrick Patterson, Nerlens Noel

There are many more talented free agents beyond these names, but these are just some that the Sixers could realistically acquire from a price/trade standpoint. The Sixers will only be able to offer veteran minimum deals outside of their mid-level exception.

Wrapping it all up

As stated before: this Sixers offseason is incredibly important. While many will look at free agency or a possible Ben Simmons trade, it’s clear that none of this matters without signing Embiid long-term. His super-max deal is the biggest part of everything, with or without a Ben Simmons trade.

A lot can change instantly in the NBA, and I didn’t even mention how some elite talents such as Steph Curry, Bradley Beal, or Damian Lillard might become available in the future. The Sixers have a chance to acquire one of these talents to pair next to Joel Embiid. Speaking of Joel Embiid — he’s the key. He’s the key to the Sixers, their title aspirations, and the future. No matter what direction the Sixers go in, they’ll likely have him, which is the biggest aspect of it all.

Daryl Morey has done a terrific job of placing the Sixers in a spot where they have flexibility to work with. The team still has the majority of their first-round draft picks along with a few non-guaranteed contracts to use in transactions. While the Sixers’ loss to Atlanta is certainly disappointing, it’s far from the end. It might just end up being exactly what the Sixers need to get themselves back on track and headed in the right direction.