As many Sixers fans slept in the first hour of Thursday morning, the team answered one of its largest lingering questions.
Danny Green will return to Philadelphia on a two-year, $20 million contract, strongly suggesting that retaining key players (Green and Furkan Korkmaz) and seeking to make upgrades on the margins (Andre Drummond and Georges Niang essentially replacing Dwight Howard and Mike Scott) is the gist of the team’s free agency.
Salary-cap situations tend to fluctuate frequently during free agency, but it’s difficult to see a way the Sixers could pull off a big-money move besides a trade.
If the team stays with the initial plan of Niang being part of the mid-level exception, there’d be $2.6 million or so to spend under the taxpayer mid-level. It now appears imperative to stay under the taxpayer mid-level amount of approximately $5.9 million after re-signing Green. According to The Athletic’s Rich Hofmann, the Sixers are at about $142 million in team salary, just under the $143 million luxury tax apron. Teams that use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (spend more than $5.9 million of mid-level money) hard cap themselves, meaning they’re prohibited from exceeding the apron. Additionally, the Sixers still have the entirety of the $8.2 million Al Horford trade exception.
As for the team the Sixers have at the moment, here’s a brief look via a very rough depth chart:
Starter: Ben Simmons
Bench: Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton
Milton is listed here for the sake of balance, though head coach Doc Rivers was frank at times last season about not liking how the 24-year-old dealt with ball pressure. He still projects as a guard capable of scoring spurts off the bench, regardless of positional label.
Maxey will be in action next week when the Sixers begin summer league play. There’s a lot of positives to build on from his rookie year, including a game in which he helped save the Sixers from elimination (for a couple of days, at least).
As things stand, it seems president of basketball operations Daryl Morey’s offseason will be judged mainly by what he does with Simmons. If he pulls off a Simmons trade — tremendous, underwhelming, or somewhere in between — that will be the dominant story of the Sixers’ summer. The same is true if Simmons is on the team when the 2021-22 season begins.
Starter: Seth Curry
Bench: Isaiah Joe, Jaden Springer, Rayjon Tucker (two-way contract)
The Sixers should be very pleased that Curry is under contract for two more seasons. Joe could have a chance to seize a rotation spot, while it would be quite impressive if first-round pick Springer earned playing time in Year 1. Morey didn’t sound on draft night like he thought that would happen, but perhaps Springer’s defensive chops will vault him into consideration.
Starter: Danny Green
Bench: Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Aaron Henry (two-way contract)
Though Thybulle improving enough offensively to become an above-average NBA starter would be a welcome development for the Sixers, there shouldn’t be pressure on him to do so this season. The defensive whiz still might be a starting option in the event he has a brilliant three-point shooting season and Green struggles, but Rivers trusted Green last year to work through any mini-slumps. Meanwhile, Korkmaz was the player Rivers picked as the replacement starter when Green strained his right calf during the Sixers’ second-round series loss to the Hawks.
Starter: Tobias Harris
Bench: Georges Niang, Paul Reed, Anthony Tolliver
Niang is a better bet to play good playoff minutes than Scott. His job will be to make catch-and-shoot threes at a high rate and play adequate defense; anything else would be gravy.
We’ve got Reed as a power forward, but he could be an option at center, too. Tolliver’s contract is non-guaranteed. It would be unsurprising if he’s not a Sixer when next season begins.
Starter: Joel Embiid
Bench: Andre Drummond
Can Drummond have a neutral or positive postseason impact for the Sixers? His résumé is far more robust than the typical backup center’s; starting in the regular season shouldn’t be a problem if Embiid is sidelined with an injury. However, the Sixers are at a stage where regular-season success is nice but feels hollow relative to their grander ambitions.
Charles Bassey, the 53rd pick in this year’s draft, has yet to sign.