Mailbag: Tobias Harris Trade Ideas, Free Agent Targets, James Harden and more
Who will be back and who will be exiled?
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
The Sixers’ disappointing playoff exit, charged by the collapses of Joel Embiid and James Harden, has sent the organization into disarray. With the offseason looming, the team faces perhaps more questions than ever before that must be answered during the summer.
Let’s talk about some of those problems and potential solutions with a mailbag:
From Jacob Kravitz: What players are out there that make 25-40M who aren't quite right for their current team, and probably have a negative value relative to their contract, but who would be a better fit for Philly than Tobias?
Almost half of my replies on Twitter were various versions of this question. After Tobias Harris let the Sixers down once again during these playoffs, calls to move him have been more plentiful than ever. And it is finally a feasible outcome -- as much as I believed for years that the Sixers should get off Harris’ five-year, $180 million contract, I never viewed it as an actual possibility. Which team would possibly want to volunteer to pay the remaining years of the deal?
But, we are now entering the final season of the Harris albatross. His contract is expiring, and that means he could realistically be moved, even with his cap hit coming in at just over $39 million.
Clearly, the Sixers are not going to move Harris in exchange for a star. But he could perhaps be dealt for a collection of cheaper role players if there is a team out there looking to consolidate their rotation.
Sticking to that archetype of a deal, I have a few teams marked down as possible suitors.
The team that first comes to mind is the Dallas Mavericks. There are many ways a deal could get done here. Almost all of them involve Tim Hardaway Jr. joining the Sixers. While his defense is far inferior to Harris’, he would drastically improve the team’s starting offense if he were to replace Harris. Hardaway Jr. has taken more than seven three-point attempts per game in each of his four full seasons with Dallas, making 38.5 percent of them. His combination of shooting ability and decisiveness would massively improve the Sixers’ floor spacing. He would fill the offensive role that Harris has flirted with and frustratingly ditched time and time again. Reggie Bullock is on an expiring contract and could help make up for the loss of Harris on defense. The Mavericks would love to move Davis Bertans. And JaVale McGee quickly fell out of their rotation this year -- if Harden is back, that fit could make sense.
The Charlotte Hornets jump out to me as well. They have Gordon Hayward on an expiring contract about $8 million cheaper than Harris’ deal. Hayward would make a lot of sense as a target if Harden walks, as the Sixers would need more reliable ball-handling. The Hornets also have former Sixers Killer Terry Rozier, though he has three more years remaining on a deal that isn’t exactly cheap either. They also have a few medium-sized salaries who could be included to make the trade work, such as Cody Martin and James Bouknight.
A team that could stomach Harris’ salary pretty easily is the San Antonio Spurs, who have a massive amount of cap space heading into a summer in which they begin to build around Victor Wembanyama. They could value Harris’ leadership and perceived offensive consistency as a veteran worth putting next to the presumptive first overall pick. They lack the kind of solidified role players the Sixers would want, though. Players like Doug McDermott, Devonte’ Graham and Zach Collins all have some value in theory, but I’m not sure if any of them are viable rotation pieces. Perhaps the Sixers could flip Graham and/or Collins to a young team in exchange for an established veteran?
From Demarco: how do you see Morey handling some of the issues with the bench this offseason?
The Sixers are in an odd spot as far as their bench goes. Despite being a team vying for championship contender status, many of their bench contributors are young players.
Georges Niang is a free agent this summer, but the team’s other free agents are Paul Reed (restricted), Jalen McDaniels (restricted) and Shake Milton. Bringing back Niang and at least plugging him back into the regular season rotation feels like a no-brainer.
It will be hard to stomach letting Reed or McDaniels go, but each of them could theoretically fetch an offer sheet from a rebuilding team that’s hefty enough to make the Sixers nervous about matching.
In an attempt to mitigate short-term risk, I see Morey and his front office attempting to sign McDaniels, Reed and perhaps Milton as well to longer-term deals that bring the average annual value of the contracts down but guarantee the players more total dollars. Long-term security often becomes paramount for a young player seeking their first contract in free agency.
But there are more than just internal options. Which leads us to the next question…
From Eamon: Leaving Harden aside, what are some avenues to improve the roster this summer? Can they get a contributor for Tobias's expiring? Anyone appeal to you as a mid level FA?
While it will be difficult for the Sixers to unlock the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception this summer, projected to be worth about $11 million, they can certainly get access to the taxpayer’s mid-level exception, projected to be worth around $6.8 million. For now, let’s assume they have the taxpayer’s MLE.
One target that comes to mind is Malik Beasley, whose tremendous movement shooting ability would add another layer to the team’s offense playbook, one that the Sixers have not enjoyed since the days of Marco Belinelli, JJ Redick and Landry Shamet.
Jae Crowder was a massive disappointment for the Bucks after he was finally sent to Milwaukee at the trade deadline. Could that tank his value enough that the Sixers could be in play to make a bet that he can return to the version of himself that started for two straight NBA Finals participants?
This will not be the first time I have suggested this player, but if Reed actually does depart for a young team eager to price the Sixers out, why not bring back Andre Drummond?
It is not the best summer to find guys to fit into the NT-MLE, but there are always at least a few guys out there who could make a real difference.
From Robby: Is Spike right? Is the reward of the process the friends and experiences we had along the way?
I want to preface what I am about to say by saying first that I entirely understand why the last few weeks have been tremendously upsetting for Sixers fans. And one thing I will never do is tell someone else how to enjoy sports. But the reward for all of this truly was the joy experienced over the last several years.
This era of Sixers basketball crashing and burning without as much of a Conference Finals appearance would be unspeakably disappointing. But even if this core leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it should not entirely taint the memories and experiences you had because of this team.
What happened in the last two games against the Celtics cannot erase the pride you felt when Embiid first stepped on an NBA floor or won his first MVP. It cannot erase January of 2017, memories of TJ McConnell and Robert Covington hitting game-winners, the 16-game winning streak in 2018, Markelle Fultz finally hitting a three against the Bulls in the home opener, Embiid’s game-winner against Portland and step-back dagger against Denver, the excitement of trading for Jimmy Butler and then Harden, and all of the other moments that brought you hope and joy.
Even as a happy ending seems less and less likely, those memories do exist. Cherish them!