The Philadelphia 76ers turned some heads late Thursday night when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported that the team would be bringing back center Montrezl Harrell on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum.
Free agent F Montrezl Harrell has agreed on a one-year deal to return to the Philadelphia 76ers, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 7, 2023
Montrezl Harrell's new deal with the Sixers for this season is for the vet minimum and is fully guaranteed, per source— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) July 7, 2023
This raised eyebrows for a few reasons. One being that Harrell distinctly fell off in the latter half of last season, going from being the main backup big to Joel Embiid to playing just ten of the Sixers’ last 40 games, including the postseason. As Harrell continued to struggle at the position throughout the season, Paul Reed earned more and more time on the floor until he completely had taken over the backup center role by the end of the season.
And that is the next reason for some skepticism at the decision to bring Trez back: where does that leave Bball Paul? The Sixers currently have Embiid, Mo Bamba and Harrell in addition to Reed on the roster at center. The depth behind Embiid is nice, but it doesn’t exactly leave room for all of them to contribute. With Reed a restricted free agent, the signing of Harrell had a lot of Sixers fans wondering if Bball Paul is closer to the chopping block than previously thought.
In Friday’s episode of the Clap Your Hands podcast, Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice was asked about the odds of Reed returning in the wake of the Harrell news.
“I think it’s a coin flip at this point,” Neubeck said. “I was told all throughout that he’s going to explore the market … so I would assume he’s still probably talking to teams, seeing what’s out there, and it’s going to come down to ‘are the Sixers going to match whatever he commands in free agency?’”
As Neubeck alluded to, with Reed as an RFA, the Sixers would have a chance to match any deal he may be able to get from another team to bring him back to Philadelphia. So far, it had sounded like that’s what the franchise was aiming to do. Now, it feels a bit more up in the air.
Neubeck went on to describe the situation of teams like the San Antonio Spurs, who need to spend more money to hit the salary floor for 2023-24 — a requirement that must be met by the first day of the regular season under the new CBA. So, it’s not out of the question for a team in that scenario to throw a bigger-than-expected contract at someone like Reed just to reach that floor, even if free agency is past it’s opening boom.
“It’s later in free agency now. This is not the initial rush where you might get a bigger deal,” Neubeck said. “A team might actually probably offer [Reed] shorter term ‘we’ll give you a balloon payment for one year because we just need to go up to the salary floor.’”
Another candidate looking for a center as of Friday afternoon is the Utah Jazz, who waived Vernon Carey, Jr. The Jazz, like the Spurs, have the money to spend, and now a center-sized hole in their roster to fill.
The Utah Jazz have waived center Vernon Carey Jr, league sources told @hoopshype.— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) July 7, 2023
Again, the Sixers have a chance to match any deal potentially offered to Reed... but how high are they willing to go to match teams that have money to throw around?
“I don’t think they are going to pay a ton of money to keep Reed on the roster,” Neubeck said. “I think if it’s a reasonable deal, they’ll bring him back. I don’t know where his free agency is at at the moment so we’ll have to wait and see about that.”
So, the questions remain for now: Will Reed get an offer from another team in free agency? If so, how high is too high for Daryl Morey to match it?
Like Neubeck said, for anything definitive, we are all stuck just waiting and seeing. How fun.