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.
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
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
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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