1. Return the starting five
On the eve of free agency, there’s no question that the widespread interest will be in whatever top free agents such as Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving decide to do. For the Sixers, the focus remains on three stars of their own, doing whatever it takes to have one of the league’s most formidable starting lineups continue on their quest for a title. The problem: there’s a very legitimate chance of that not happening.
Jimmy Butler, an individual who evokes the winning mentality incumbent on an athlete in The City of Brotherly Love, is obviously the central target. His rejoining the team next season has been of vital importance since he was traded in November, and rightfully so.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers could offer him a five-year, $190 million contract, whereas opposing teams like the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat could only grant him up to four years and $140 million. The Rockets have been the latest contenders, essentially imploring Philly to agree to a sign-and-trade. The sensible option for Elton Brand and the front office is to, of course, not do that.
Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick are slightly different cases. While the Sixers vow to retain all three players this summer, there are looming scenarios where they could wind up with either one, two or just whiffing altogether. The latter of which could call for the greatest concern. If so, Milwaukee Bucks guard and restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon have been thrown around as part of a Plan B option, as he would serve as the secondary ball-handler alongside Ben Simmons.
One impediment to having the ideal free agency — and in this case — attempting to convince 60 percent of a starting lineup to put pen to paper, is the fact that other teams are pushing with just as much vigor. The interest in Butler, Harris and Redick, (most notably Butler), league-wide is evident.
As it would be egregious to see the Sixers really agree to a sign-and-trade with Houston, a team such as the Lakers appear to be the only serious threat currently in free agency. They recently cleared enough cap space for another max player next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
How Butler feels about being the third member of that trio, we’ll soon find out.
Harris could take the second max contract the Sixers have freed up, but then keeping Redick becomes tricky, even if he comes back on the same $12.5 million, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic noted last month.
In what was a fantastic season, nearly knocking off the NBA champion Toronto Raptors in a Game 7, the story of this group might just be too special to close the book on. Sunday night and the early part of this week will be the judge.