Entering day three of free agency and things have been pretty quiet in 76er land. Of course, we weren’t expecting fireworks since the team has three max contracts eating up much of their cap space in Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons. The biggest question going into free agency was primarily what if any trades might the Sixers make during the frenzy of signings. So far the answer has been “not much” on any front.
The Danny Green situation
A top free agent on the market, Danny Green is no stranger to waiting things out. Recall in 2019, he was wondering what team he might play for, long after many other lesser talents signed. With the Raptors, Clippers and Lakers all in the mix to acquire unrestricted free agent and 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, it became clear that whoever did not land Leonard would have a load of cap space available for Green. That helped him get paid and led to him helping the Lakers win a championship in 2020.
Fast forward, and the latest rumors make it sound like talks have stalled between Philadelphia and the Long Island native. Per Harrison Sanford, a cohost of “Inside the Green Room” a podcast featuring Green, the sides are nowhere close:
Danny Green has spoken with the Sixers over the past 24 hours multiple times. The sides are nowhere close to a deal.— Harrison Sanford (@HarrisonSanford) August 3, 2021
Representatives from Milwaukee, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans are among some of the team that have reached out.
And while the Sixers can offer Green more cash than other contenders in the thick of it, it doesn’t sound like Green is desperate to return.
“[The Sixers] also have still have early Bird rights on unrestricted free agent Danny Green, who has yet to sign a contract. If Green were to return, the Sixers would be approaching that $143 million apron threshold once again, which makes me wonder whether last night’s decision on [George] Hill isn’t related to negotiations going poorly with Green. The main reason to waive Hill is to have the full non-taxpayer MLE available. If they were close to re-signing Green, and thus relegated to the taxpayer MLE, the case for bringing Hill back would have been stronger.”
Now it could be a default negotiating stance for Green’s team to say something like “look we don’t want to come back to Philly, we have a couple of offers in the $10M range, so if you want him you’re going to have to go much higher than that.” Even if Philly was his top choice he might be wise to say that in order to double his annual earnings. But who knows...
George Hill, waived, expected to land with rival Milwaukee
The Sixers had the chance to pick up George Hill’s option, around $10M for 2022. They declined it and let him walk. He’s expected to sign on with the Bucks now, a potentially wicked turn of events.
As Bodner mentions above, the decision to waive George Hill might lend further credence to reports Green wants a new home; in the event Green did not return, the team might dodge the luxury tax and at least access a larger mid-level exception as they pursue other names still available. But all of that would sting.
League sources: Forward Georges Niang has agreed to a 2-year, $6.7 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.— Ben Dowsett (@Ben_Dowsett) August 3, 2021
That’s where a tidbit within yesterday’s report that the Sixers signed stretch big George Niang becomes interesting. Per Kyle Neubeck, PhillyVoice:
“....a source told PhillyVoice the Sixers are using part of their non-taxpayer midlevel exception in order to sign Niang.”
The *non* taxpayer MLE?!— Bryan Toporek (@btoporek) August 3, 2021
That means Green is likely gone and is not getting S&Ted for substantial value in return. https://t.co/GLDjsmP5w5
An idea: if the Sixers sign a player for more than the veteran’s minimum, they should facilitate a sign-and-trade to take that player into a trade exception, and in turn keep their MLE untouched.— Adam Aaronson (@SixersAdam) August 3, 2021
They can take in up to $8.2M in their trade exception from the Al Horford trade.
If the Sixers had hypothetically emerged from this free agency period having re-signed Green, re-signed Hill, while adding a player like Niang it wouldn’t have been sexy, but it would have been a big relief. Those dudes can play, they can all shoot and there would also be the option to trade them down the road for value.
As it stands now, some conference rivals like the Miami Heat (who added Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker) and the New York Knicks (who added Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker) have gotten better, while the Sixers could wind up worse (should they lose Green and Hill with little else to show for it). Teams like the Knicks and Bulls may have even narrowed the perceived contention gap between themselves and the Sixers which could become relevant if anyone like Dame Lillard ever becomes available.
Philadelphia being able to keep Green or at least sign and trade him to one of the teams he’d prefer to play for would be much better than simply watching him pick a different team; especially if he were to choose a conference rival like Hill may.
The optics are already rough and could get worse...
The Hill thing was FUBAR’d from last summer. First, the Sixers didnt loop him into the the Horf deal and instead got back a TPE they haven’t used. Then they gave up 3 second rounders and used Bradley to match and not Scott. Now they’re punting on his expiring for this season. Wow— Marty Teller (@mwteller) August 3, 2021
The Sixers signed two-time All Star Andre Drummond yesterday for a minimum salary as well.
Andre Drummond and the Sixers have agreed to a one-year, vet minimum deal, source confirms @wojespn.— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) August 3, 2021
Exactly like last year, when the team signed Dwight Howard for a vet min deal, we can say it’s a tremendous value and a potentially weird fit. Drummond is better than Howard, and still young at 27 years old. But it’s impossible to see this signing and not wonder about Ben Simmons. Since Drummond won’t be here to play at the same time as Embiid, that would potentially mean some ugly Drummond-Simmons lineups. Those could one day occupy as much real estate in Sixers’ fans heads as the Dwight-Ben lineups we suffered through currently occupy.
Ben Simmons latest?
In that Youtube clip above from ESPN’s “The Jump,” Ramona Shelburne mentions that the Sixers would “prefer” to keep Ben Simmons. She acknowledges that Simmons’ camp may not want the same thing, given the way things played out and some emotional comments that were made by a frustrated Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers.
So if these reports are true, it’s especially odd to see the team sign Drummond since the former Piston, Cavalier, and Laker does not stretch the floor. If you were Daryl Morey and you “preferred to keep Ben Simmons” as Shelburne mentions and Zach Lowe agreed with it would be difficult to sit down with Ben or his agent Rich Paul and say “ok we’re committed to making sure there are more shooters around you, here’s Andre Drummond.”
Some fans might wonder “why should the team avoid a good value because of Ben’s limitations, limitations he’s had for years now?”
I'm sorta stunned that "But how does he fit with Ben Simmons?" is such a big part of the Twitter discussion around this Drummond signing. If Ben is still around next year we have much bigger concerns than how well he meshes with our minimum backup center.— Andrew Unterberger (@AUgetoffmygold) August 3, 2021
It’s a reasonable question. And clearly, the Sixers think factoring in Simmons’ shooting weakness is not enough of a reason to avoid landing a guy with Drummond’s skillset for such a low cost. Maybe they figure either a) we trade Simmons and the fit doesn’t matter or b) we can lean on coach Rivers more this year to make sure he doesn't overplay toxic lineup combos like in 2021.
Anyway, it’s interesting to see how so many of these dominoes are related. All eyes now on Danny Green:
Waiving George Hill isn't crazy considering how much he struggled last season. It's also not surprising considering the potential tax savings the Sixers could get. But he also was a mid-level salary that could've been used in trades.— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) August 3, 2021
All eyes on Danny Green now.
If Money Green leaves money on the table in Philly for a better chance at a title somewhere else it would not only be a big on-court loss for Philly, it might also help a top rival, and further still, might feel like a referendum against this team as a destination city with title aspirations.