Philadelphia 76ers

Key decisions coming up for Sixers after pick-less draft night 

We examine what's next this offseason for the Sixers.

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Thursday evening was much less dramatic than Daryl Morey’s first draft night as the Sixers’ president of basketball operations. 

Morey and the Sixers’ front office had a very productive draft three years ago. They made three strong picks (Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, Paul Reed) and two good trades (Danny Green-Al Horford and Seth Curry-Josh Richardson deals) that meaningfully improved the team’s outlook. 

In contrast, Thursday is likely to be most memorable for the Sixers’ lack of in-draft action. They entered with no picks and their efforts to buy a second-rounder yielded no results. Minutes after the draft wrapped up, the team agreed to two-way contracts with three rookies, including a couple of guards — Arkansas’ Ricky Council IV and NC State’s Terquavion Smith — who appear set to rack up highlights next season with the Delaware Blue Coats. There's a good chance they'll be entertaining in summer league next month, too.  

Beyond that, there’s not much to say about the Sixers’ 2023 draft night. The rest of the team's offseason is guaranteed to involve more moves, though. Let’s briefly preview: 

Internal free agents 

We’ll soon see how the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, which will take effect on July 1, impacts free agency. 

One major change is the implementation of a second apron set $17.5 million above the luxury-tax line. Teams exceeding that apron will face serious limitations, including the loss of access to the taxpayer mid-level exception. The new CBA also increases the value of the room mid-level exception (estimated at approximately $7.7 million for the 2023-24 season, per Spotrac) and the non-taxpayer mid-level ($12.4 million) while decreasing the taxpayer mid-level value ($5 million). 

Essentially, front offices are incentivized against big, risky contracts that will severely restrict options. On paper, it now seems especially important not to make mistakes with substantial contracts for non-stars. Teams will also be wary of multi-year deals that start out fine but end up “overpaying” past-their-prime players. 

Outside of James Harden, the Sixers’ significant in-house free agents are Paul Reed (restricted), Georges Niang, Jalen McDaniels and Shake Milton. Their next contracts will be somewhat of a barometer for how much teams feel it’s worth paying role players under this CBA. 

“That is something our front office is very good at,” Morey said in May, “finding areas to take advantage of the new set of guidelines we work under, and being creative and finding solutions to make the team better.”

James Harden 

Harden has been a hot topic of this NBA offseason. 

Amid the heavy speculation and rumors, the bottom line has been that the Sixers would like him to return. They’re also cognizant of Harden’s age (34 in August), his flaws, and the fact that a sizable, long-term contract doesn’t sound sensible. 

Notably, the Rockets — long reported to be a possible destination for Harden this summer — drafted Overtime Elite point guard Amen Thompson at No. 4 and Villanova wing Cam Whitmore at No. 20. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday night that Houston is expected to be a “real threat” to sign center Brook Lopez in free agency. 

Maxey's extension 

As the 21st selection in 2020, Maxey is slotted to make $4.3 million next year. He’ll undoubtedly earn far more than that beginning in 2024-25; the 22-year-old is eligible for a rookie-scale extension this offseason. 

Maxey averaged 20.3 points and 3.5 assists last year while shooting 43.4 percent from three-point range. His continued improvement still looks to be a vital part of the Sixers’ future. 

De’Anthony Melton is another key extension-eligible Sixer this summer. The do-everything, up-for-anything combo guard is entering the final season of the four-year contract he signed with the Grizzlies in 2020. 

Trade talks 

The Sixers obviously have little to offer teams in terms of future draft picks. And as far as young players with potential to grow, Maxey and reigning G League Finals MVP Jaden Springer are the only current Sixers under 25 years old (besides the undrafted rookies). 

With the fifth and final year of his contract coming up, Tobias Harris remains a clear trade candidate. The veteran forward has a $39.3 million salary for the 2023-24 campaign.

Of course, Morey has not historically been inclined to settle in trade discussions or to deal away a player just for the sake of change. We’ll see how things play out with Harris. 

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