JJ Redick

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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ESPN's Zach Lowe gives his guess for Sixers' starting five on JJ Redick's podcast

ESPN's Zach Lowe gives his guess for Sixers' starting five on JJ Redick's podcast

ESPN’s senior writer Zach Lowe was a guest on JJ Redick’s podcast on Thursday to talk all things NBA.

The two hoops junkies discussed their favorite parts of the NBA calendar: the draft into free agency, the playoffs and the Finals, and the trade deadline.

They also havd a thoughtful conversation on the role — and often perils — of the media covering the league and use an an example of a story Lowe wrote about Ben Simmons frequently being in the dunker's spot as an example. All interesting stuff.

But the most newsy item from the pod came when Redick asked Lowe about what he thinks, if he had to guess, the Sixers’ starting five will be once free agency shakes out.

“Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, and Player X. Who. I don’t know. Not Tobias Harris,” Lowe said. “That would be my guess. But I don’t know who Player X is, I don’t know how they’re getting him. I don’t know what the mechanism is. Probably the safest guess is the [starting five] will be exactly the same. If you had to rank likelihood, it’s probably exactly the same but it feels like there’s too many tremors of noise for it to be exactly the same.”

Redick goes on to talk about all of the “contradictory noise” floating around but says he’s not going to be breaking any news.

“We’ll know in 76 hours,” Redick says.

One other fun nugget: JJ on Landry Shamet getting four cookies and cream milkshakes for Joel Embiid from Chic-fil-a when the team traveled.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen Joel drink all of those milkshakes,” Redick said. “Most of the time the milkshakes got taken to the back [of the plane] and got consumed by other guys.”

You can listen to the full podcast below.

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Mike Scott's heel injury could be a big problem for Sixers vs. Raptors

Mike Scott's heel injury could be a big problem for Sixers vs. Raptors

CAMDEN, N.J. — Considering the depth of the Toronto Raptors, the Sixers possibly missing a key part of their bench is not ideal.

Mike Scott, who is essentially the team’s sixth man, is listed as day to day with a heel contusion and plantar fasciitis. Scott left Game 5 Tuesday against the Nets late in the second quarter and did not return. We’ll know more about his status for Game 1 when the official injury report comes out at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

When asked if he was game planning for Scott to play, Brett Brown bluntly said, “no.” Brown mentioned it would be a “blessing” if Scott were to be available.

While his veteran savvy, toughness and shot-making — especially in Game 4 — will clearly be missed, Scott’s versatility will be crucial in this series. With Boban Marjanovic, it’s hard to know what you’ll get. He was excellent in the Brooklyn series, but could be a poor matchup against Serge Ibaka, who the Raptors have been using as their backup five.

Scott offers the ability to play backup five if Marjanovic struggles. Ibaka is lethal in pick-and-pop situation with his midrange jumper. While Ibaka may be tough for Scott to deal with in the post, he’s a much better option for pick-and-roll defense.

Scouting Kawhi

Kawhi Leonard is really freaking good. That’s not breaking news, but it’s a point being drilled into the Sixers as the team is being pelted with questions about the All-Star forward.

Leonard is arguably the best two-way player in the league and has killed the Sixers this season, averaging 30.3 points a game and tormenting Ben Simmons defensively.

Brown, who was with the Spurs as an assistant when Leonard was coming up, acknowledged some of the issues Simmons and the Sixers have had against Leonard. Brown didn’t want to put too much stock into the regular season matchups, but has ideas on how to help his young point guard deal with the former Defensive Player of the Year.

“Obviously, I’m not going to tell you,” Brown said. “Maybe the knowledge I have coaching him [will help]. The history we’ve had having a little bit of success [against him], some unsuccessful that we have to do better at. We hope that we’re studied. I believe we are. He still remains an All-Star and one of the great players in the NBA for a reason.”

After having arguably the best regular season of his career, Leonard has carried it over into the postseason. He averaged 27.8 points a game in the Raptors’ first-round matchup against the Magic while shooting 56 percent from the field and a ridiculous 54 percent on 5.2 three per game.

“Kawhi is a bonafide superstar in this league,” JJ Redick said. “There’s only a handful of guys like that spread over 30 teams much less 16 teams in the playoffs.”

Does he look all the way back from the quad issues he dealt with in San Antonio?

“I think he looks better,” Redick said. “Yeah, he’s pretty damn good.”

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