76ers

NBA free agency rumors: If fifth year is of 'critical importance' to Jimmy Butler, then offer it

NBA free agency rumors: If fifth year is of 'critical importance' to Jimmy Butler, then offer it

Silly season is in full swing and Jimmy Butler and the Sixers are at the forefront of it all.

There’s a report that the Rockets want Butler in a sign-and-trade. Another report is suggesting that Butler is “very interested” in the Heat, but that would also require a sign-and-trade. All along, it seems like the Sixers’ stance of wanting to bring Butler back hasn’t changed.

What the Sixers have that no other team can offer is a fifth year on his next contract. The latest report from Shams Charania of the Athletic says that fifth year “will hold critical importance” to Butler and his agent Bernie Lee.

So … offer it. Let Butler sign it. Get it done.

From Butler’s perspective, of course that fifth year “will hold critical importance.” Part of the reason he wanted out of Minnesota was that the Timberwolves weren’t going to offer him the max. He’ll also turn 30 in September, making this Butler’s last chance for a big payday. He’s openly talked about the idea of wanting to retire at 35. If he signs elsewhere, it will be a four-year deal, meaning he’ll hit free agency again entering his age-35 season. Even if the Sixers don’t offer the full max at $190 million, whatever he makes in that fifth year will most likely be more than what he’d get on the open market.

Elton Brand should also be ready and willing to offer that fifth year. He gave up strong assets to get the four-time All-Star. That’s not to say he should throw money at a sunken cost. Butler was the team’s best player in the postseason. He emerged as a leader and, despite the reputation he came with, bonded with the team’s two young All-Stars.

There’s an argument to be made that Butler’s presence could stunt the growth of Ben Simmons. The concern is understandable. As Butler initiated the offense more and more in the playoffs, it put Simmons in the “dunker” spot on the floor, making him less of a threat. I’d argue that Butler’s presence takes the pressure off Simmons. And as Butler begins to decline, Simmons can assume a larger and larger role. In Game 6 against the Raptors, Simmons and Butler were both spectacular. That’s something the duo can build off of.

Of course there’s risk here for both sides. If Simmons and Joel Embiid don’t take the necessary steps in their progression, Butler may not have the chance to win he’s hoping for. If Butler has a steep decline, the contract could start to look bad in a hurry. 

But there’s more risk in letting him walk and having him help another team win a title. 

Offer the fifth year. End the silliness.

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How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

They say that shooters shoot.

Tobias Harris has been shooting plenty — they just haven’t been going down.

After going 0 for 11 from three on Tuesday night against the Cavs, Harris went 0 for 3 and 3 of 13 overall in the Sixers’ loss to the Magic in Orlando Wednesday (see observations).

The last three Harris hit was in the first quarter of the Sixers’ loss in Phoenix on Nov. 4. He’s missed his last 23 attempts since.

When Harris was acquired from the Clippers last season, he was shooting 43.4 percent from downtown in a healthy sample size.

So what the heck is going on?

“I'm not making shots, I'm not in a rhythm,” Harris said to reporters postgame. “That's it. Obviously, it's easier said than done but I'm going to find my rhythm and once I do those shots are going to be there and they're going to be able to be made. Until then, I'll watch film and see the looks I can get, see the easy ones I can get to, but when they're not going for me, get to the free throw line. 

“In the fourth quarter I thought that was two questionable whistles, a travel and offensive [foul]. So those are two turnovers that kind of affected our fourth quarter. But I just gotta find a rhythm. That's it.”

On top of missing, Harris just looks indecisive. During early parts of the season, he appeared to be passing up open shots. In his pregame availability before Tuesday’s win, Brett Brown made a point to talk about needing Harris to have a scorer’s mentality.

Over the last two games, Harris seems like he doesn’t know when to shoot the basketball. After shooting so poorly from the outside against Cleveland, in Orlando he appeared to just get caught in between while trying to drive to the basket more.

It just seems like Harris is in his own head.

“I think it's just human nature,” Brown said. “He wants to please, he wants to shoot the ball, he wants to score, we need him to score.”

Harris is an easy target for fan ire. GM Elton Brand gave up an awful lot to get him before last year’s trade deadline. During the summer, the Sixers gave Harris a five-year, $180 million deal — the richest in franchise history.

But to his credit, Harris hasn’t made any excuses. He faced the music Wednesday night after not playing well and not feeling well.

Brown mentioned Tuesday that Harris had been dealing with an illness. Harris didn’t want to take the easy way out and attribute that to anything.

“When I get out there and play, I'm playing,” Harris said. “I'm under the weather, yeah, but if I get out there and play, I believe I can go.”

Forget the big contract and disappointing start for a second — Harris is a worker. He’s worked on his game tirelessly to rise to the level he did last season in L.A. During the offseason, he stepped up as a leader that all of his teammates are eager and willing to follow. He’s been depended upon by the young players and veterans alike.

Now, it may be Harris who needs their support.

“Tobias has had great looks and he's a great player, great shooter,” Ben Simmons said. “I mean, at times, everybody gets down when they're not playing their best game. They know that they can do better. But he's one of those guys. He's always positive. And we all believe in him.”

The Sixers’ road trip continues Friday with a date with the Thunder. Oklahoma City is the site of Harris’ finest game as a Sixer. On Feb. 28 of last year, Harris poured in 32 points and led a tough road win without Joel Embiid.

Maybe the memory of that game will spark something in Harris.

If that doesn't work, what else can you really say?

“Keep shooting,” Brown said. “Don't listen to any of you guys. Don't read anything. Keep shooting.”

After all, shooters shoot.

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Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

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NBC Sports Philadelphia/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Tobias Harris' struggles continuing, Ben Simmons' unwillingness to shoot the ball, and why Matisse Thybulle isn't seeing more playing time.

• Another rough night for Harris. What the heck is going on?

• Simmons was strong, but still refuses to shoot the basketball outside the paint.

• Should Thybulle be getting more minutes?

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