The Philadelphia 76ers have had a pretty interesting off-season up to this point. They came within a few lucky bounces of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. With Kawhi Leonard’s departure and Kevin Durant’s absence due to injury next season, they would presumably be battling it out with the Milwaukee Bucks for conference supremacy next season.
But GM Elton Brand has made some questionable decisions in free agency after starting out on fire after taking the job last September. He didn’t cripple the team but for the amount of maneuvering and scheming that has taken place, breaking even isn’t the premium outcome.
Free Agency Recap for the Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers scooped veteran Center, Al Horford, from the Boston Celtics albeit at a hefty price tag. They gave him a 4-year, $109 million deal ($97 million guaranteed). While adding Horford to the mix in Philadelphia isn’t a bad thing, his contract is extremely player friendly. He adds veteran savvy and experience to a roster that is in need of both. But Father Time is steadily creeping up on the Dominican big man. He has shown signs of aging that every player encounters and his salary most likely will exceed his production on the back end of his deal. Horford will help them next year but his impact beyond 2020 will not be the same.
Brand also managed to get some return on Jimmy Butler in Philadelphia besides cap space. He brokered a sign and trade with the Miami Heat and brought Josh Richardson into the fold. Richardson is a capable two-way player and is coming off his best pro season where he averaged 16.6 points per game and 4.1 assists per game. He also shot 35 percent from three-point range which is a plus because the 76ers will need spacing. They also added Kyle O’Quinn and Raul Neto on vet minimum contracts.
The obvious one here is Jimmy Butler. Philly got the embattled star from the Minnesota Timberwolves last year in one of Brand’s first big moves as GM. This was definitely a “win now” acquisition for Philadelphia as well as trading for Tobias Harris mid-season. In the end, the 76ers got three-quarters of a season out of Butler and a second-round playoff exit. Butler was the 76ers most consistent player in the playoffs but reported friction with teammates and questions surrounding if he and Ben Simmons could both remain satisfied while sharing the ball most likely led to him being dealt. They lost an elite guard who plays both ends of the floor at an exceptional level. But apparently, the 76ers brass thought it would be best to move the fiery superstar.
They also had a few cap casualties this summer. J.J. Redick bolted for the New Orleans Pelicans on a 2-year, $26.5 million deal. While the 76ers weren’t eager to get rid of Redick, he acted quickly in securing the biggest contract he could get. It would have been a gamble for Redick to wait around until Philly figured out where all their big money was going to go. He could have been left with scraps. T.J. McConnell and Boban Marjanovic also left more lucrative deals elsewhere.
Who’s Still Around
The 76ers, of course, will return their duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. They also brought back Tobias Harris on a monster deal (5-years, $180 million). They will expect Harris to flourish in a complementary role with the one-two punch of Embiid and Simmons. His skill set meshes well with their style of play. They will also have a full offseason together to better familiarize themselves with one another and build on their cohesiveness from last season. Notable reserves, Mike Scott and James Ennis, will also be back for the 2019-2020 campaign.
The 76ers are not in a terrible spot at all. They lost Butler but added Richardson and got the cap room to sign Horford. They also were able to retain Harris by offering a max deal even though they did not have any cap room by holding on to his Bird Rights. Losing Redick will definitely hurt given that the 76ers will most likely roll out a starting lineup of Simmons, Richardson, Harris, Horford, and Embiid. Simmons and Embiid shrink the floor and spacing will be an issue. Richardson will help alleviate some of that but he isn’t the sniper Redick is and he will not be as effective in the two-man game.
There are also some head scratchers in here as well for Philadelphia. While Horford is a terrific player, he is 33 yrs old. Offering a player that age that type of contract isn’t ideal. Brand also inexplicably moved Jonathan Simmons and a 2nd rd pick to the Washington Wizards just to clear a minuscule $1 million in cap room. It seemed hardly beneficial and rather useless in the grand scheme of things. Overall the 76ers get a B- for the free agency season. They didn’t hurt themselves but they didn’t drastically improve their position either. The Toronto Raptors and Celtics and won’t be as good and the Brooklyn Nets won’t be at full strength but they still have to contend with the Milwaukee Bucks. It remains to be seen how this all plays out for the 76ers.
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