2019 NBA free agency: Predictions for where Sixers' Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, JJ Redick will sign

2019 NBA free agency: Predictions for where Sixers' Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, JJ Redick will sign

The Sixers have a heap of unrestricted free agents, but there are a few names drawing the majority of the attention.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick predict where Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick will land.

Jimmy Butler 

It’s hard to see Butler wanting to force the reported sign-and-trades to the Rockets or Heat. He forced his way out of Minnesota in part because the Timberwolves weren’t willing to give him a max deal. Would he now pass an opportunity to get the max with the Sixers, the team that got him out of Minnesota? Don’t underestimate the fact that Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee, was reportedly instrumental in getting Philly involved. He clearly saw a long-term fit with Butler and the Sixers.

Sure, Butler’s from Tomball, Texas, just outside of Houston, and there’s certainly an appeal to playing next to two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul, but is that enough for Butler to force the Sixers into a sign-and-trade? Plus, it’s hard for me to imagine Butler playing defense next to Harden. With Miami, their cap situation is a disaster. Butler would basically play his age-30 season knowing he has no chance at a title.

It’s also important to note that Butler has openly talked about wanting to retire at 35. The Sixers are the only team that can offer him a five-year deal, which would take him to his age-35 season. He signs the deal and continues to be a cult hero in Philadelphia. —Hudrick

There are parts of Jimmy Butler's personality that are easy to understand, like the dogged competitiveness, and his love of the big moment and minivans. Still, Butler is an enigmatic person. He’s a “free spirit,” according to Brett Brown, and that makes predicting his next move more difficult.

From an outside perspective, the Sixers seem to present the best situation for him. There’s the chance to be a leader to young stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, something Butler seemed to enjoy last season. There’s the responsibility of having the ball in his hands in the clutch. There’s the knowledge that he’d be on a team good enough to contend for a championship. And, of course, there’s also the extra year and extra $49 million the Sixers can offer him. Given the amount of reported interest around the league in Butler, the Sixers may very well have to offer the full max.

I expect them to do so, and for Butler to stay in Philadelphia. —Levick

Tobias Harris

Harris is the trickiest to predict. Like Butler, Harris can only sign a five-year deal with the Sixers. But unlike Butler, Harris is just 26 and will likely still have another big NBA payday coming down the road. All of this comes to down to what Harris truly wants and the demand.

If Harris wants the most money and the best chance to win, that’s in Philly. If he wants a bigger role, that might be elsewhere. The issue may be that there aren’t a ton of choices and he’ll likely have to wait to be a team’s consolation prize. Maybe Brooklyn is a fit, but the Nets are going to try to court Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. If just Irving signs, perhaps they could target Butler. Maybe Indiana is a fit if they choose not to re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic. 

The rumored interest the Sixers have in Al Horford could be related to Harris. Perhaps the team already knows that Harris is pursuing other options. Maybe the Horford rumors are a negotiating tactic to hurry Harris’ decision. It’s also possible that Horford is simply their Plan B if another team entices Harris.

Harris knows he still has years to pursue a championship. If he can find a team willing to pay him the max to be a bigger scoring option, he leaves. I’ll put it at 50-50 on his chances of returning. —Hudrick

Harris is the hardest to figure out of the Sixers’ free agents. My sense is he’s not someone who will sign shortly after free agency officially begins. The New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy reports Harris will conduct meetings on the East Coast on Sunday, and on the West Coast on Monday.

You can understand if he takes his time to make an important decision, though the Sixers might not have the luxury to be patient. Plenty of non-star free agents’ next destination could be tied to where Harris ends up, and they’re not going to wait forever. The worry over free agents possibly discarding the Sixers as an option if there’s prolonged uncertainty over Harris could in turn lead to the Sixers having limited willingness to wait for his decision.

As far as Harris himself is concerned, he has a complicated choice. Like with Butler, there’s the additional year and additional money the Sixers can give him, as well as the opportunity to play on a highly competitive team. He’s said he’ll prioritize style of play and culture in free agency, both areas where the Sixers would seem to score well. Though Harris took a similar number of shots in Philadelphia as he did in Los Angeles (14.8 vs. 15.5 per game), the widespread perception seems to be that his role diminished, and that he wasn’t a “star.” That might be a factor, despite Harris being consistent in saying he values ball movement and doesn’t place a massive emphasis on personal production. 

The meetings with Harris are likely going to matter. It wouldn’t be a surprise by any means if Harris returns but, if I had to guess, I’d say he ends up going elsewhere — perhaps to the Pacers — and the Sixers turn to a Plan B, whether that’s Al Horford or a couple of solid role players. —Levick

JJ Redick 

It’s hard to imagine Redick not being back. He makes the Sixers’ best player better and has enjoyed two of the best seasons of his NBA career in Philadelphia. I thought he really bounced back this postseason after a tough playoff run in 2018.

Both sides will be motivated to make this work. Redick is back. —Hudrick

Redick said at his exit interview in May that he’d like to finish his career in Philadelphia, so there’s no question about his preferences. He laid out a clear set of items he’ll consider in free agency, including money, stability and “the opportunity to win,” which he said becomes more important to him each year. 

The Sixers value Redick’s outside shooting along with all the things he does that are hard to capture through stats, like constantly circling around screens, setting good ones himself and garnering respect and attention from opposing defenses. 

If the Sixers sign both Butler and Harris to max or near-max deals, they’ll have to be thrifty in how they fill out the remainder of the roster. Even in that scenario, though, it seems probable that Redick sticks around. —Levick

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Remembering the emotional night when Sixers retired Charles Barkley's jersey

Remembering the emotional night when Sixers retired Charles Barkley's jersey

Nineteen years ago today, the Sixers rose Charles Barkley’s No. 34 up to the rafters.

Barkley, who’d retired the year before after a stint with the Rockets, was touched by the honor. (You can check out footage from that night in the video above.)

“This is one of the greatest nights of my life and I’m honored to share it with you guys,” he said.

In eight seasons as a Sixer, Barkley made six All-Star games and averaged 23.3 points and 11.6 rebounds. He made the NBA Finals with the Suns and was named MVP in 1993, the season after he was traded from the Sixers. 

The team unveiled a statue of Barkley on Legends Walk in September at their practice facility in Camden, New Jersey. Never hesitant to speak his mind, he doubled down on calling the Sixers the “stupidest organization in the history of sports” for having Joel Embiid play through a back injury last January and said not taking Brad Daugherty No. 1 in the 1986 NBA Draft was “the biggest mistake the Sixers ever made."

Barkley still looks back fondly on his time as a Sixer while acknowledging things often weren’t smooth or painless.

“This is not an easy city,” he said in September, “but it’s an amazing city to play in because if you bust your hump, they’re giving to give you nothing but love. Now, if you don’t bust your hump, you’re going to think, ‘Charles Barkley, you suck.’ You’re going to think that’s your middle name.”

As a footnote, the Sixers beat the Warriors on the night of Barkley’s jersey retirement for their 50th win of the season. Allen Iverson had 35 points and nine assists, while Tyrone Hill scored 21.

“You see someone as tough as Charles Barkley try to hold in his tears, that’s a moment that I’ll never forget,” Iverson told reporters. “It just looked great. It looked like something that I’d definitely want to be a part of.”

Iverson’s No. 3 would be retired nearly 14 years later. 

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Theoretical odds for a Sixers-Celtics playoff series are out

Theoretical odds for a Sixers-Celtics playoff series are out

If the NBA season resumes and goes directly to the playoffs, the Sixers would be the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and play the Boston Celtics. 

While there’s obviously uncertainty about what might be next for the NBA with the season currently suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, we can still analyze that matchup. Westgate SuperBook, in fact, released theoretical odds for all the playoff series that would take place if the 2019-20 season resumed and immediately went to a normal playoff format.

Sixers-Celtics is the most even series. There’s actually no favorite, as a wager of $110 on either team would win you $100. 

The Sixers took the regular-season series over Boston, 3-1, although the Celtics blew the Sixers out on Feb. 1. Joel Embiid struggled badly that night, shooting 1 of 11, but was excellent on Dec. 12 against the Celtics, posting 38 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Embiid’s decision-making when double teamed would likely be one of the keys to the series. 

Another factor that would seem worth considering is the Sixers’ dramatic home-road disparity. The team is 29-2 at home, best in the team, and 10-24 on the road, the worst mark of any team in playoff position. If games were to be played under modified conditions (without fans in attendance, at a neutral site, etc.), that wouldn’t come into play. These odds, however, do account both for how great the Sixers have been at Wells Fargo Center and how poor they’ve been away from it.

In theory, this hiatus could be helpful for the Sixers if it allows Ben Simmons (nerve impingement in lower back) to return to the court. 

If the Sixers got past the Celtics, they’d be slated to play the Raptors or Nets in Round 2. 

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