Where Do The Philadelphia 76ers Go From Here?
The Philadelphia 76ers were just bounced from the NBA Playoffs for the fifth straight season. I will explore two different paths that they could take this coming offseason. The first of which is an intriguing James Harden trade!
The Sixers find themselves in an odd situation, after trading for James Harden midseason they finished as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They were able to defeat the Raptors in 6 games in round one, after winning the first three games of the series. They followed that up by losing the first two games of the series to the Miami Heat, and then eventually losing in six games. The Sixers go into the offseason with almost all their players still under contract, and team options on Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton, and Mattisse Thybulle.
The 76ers have now gone 12 straight playoffs without reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
That's the 4th-longest streak in NBA history of playoff appearances without a conference finals berth. pic.twitter.com/dHqsYqUlrV
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 13, 2022
The major question mark is whether or not James Harden will pick up his $47.4 player option. If he does decide to exercise his player option he will be eligible for a supermax contract which would be worth $222.8 million over four years. I see two paths the Sixers could take in the offseason if Harden picks up his player option, like he is expected to. Firstly, trading James Harden for another star player and someone that can potentially take them over that Eastern Conference finals hump. On the other hand, resigning Harden and running it back with a similar team.
James Harden Trade
James Harden who has consistently come up short in the playoffs, with every team he has been on is in trade talks once again this offseason. If Harden were to be traded it would be the third time in the last two years and the fourth of his career. With that being said I am going to see what a potential Harden trade would mean for not only the Sixers but the entire NBA. The trade that I am proposing is James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and a 2024 first round draft pick to the Utah Jazz for Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley.
This is a trade that the Jazz and the Sixers would be thrilled with. For Utah, who is experiencing a locker room rift between star players Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, they get a superstar in James Harden who gets to be the focal point of a team once again. In the hopes he can get back to the player he was in Houston. Additionally, they get a young budding star in Tyrese Maxey who averaged 21 points a game in the playoffs at only 21 years old, and a future first round pick to help their team in the future.
The 76ers get an ALL-NBA caliber player in Donovan Mitchell who averaged 26 points a game last season, and should be one of the best players in the NBA for years to come. The pairing of Mitchell and Embiid would be one of the best duos in the league, and a lethal pick and roll combination. Although Mike Conley is on the decline he is still a very solid PG and would provide the Sixers with valuable playoff experience. A Sixers lineup consisting of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Danny Green, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid would be a scary lineup for anyone to matchup with.
Stay The Course
The other option for the Sixers of course is to retain James Harden, and go into next season with a similar roster to what they have now. This is not a bad option whatsoever as after the Harden trade the 76ers had a 14-7 record and were one of the title favourites heading into the playoffs. They have many different options in this scenario including Harden picking up his player option, and then becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2023.
"I'll be here. Yea, I'll be here."
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 13, 2022
Inversely, Harden and the 76ers could agree to a contract extension of up to $222.8 million after he picks up his player option. Harden hinted at potentially taking a smaller contract saying in an interview after the Sixers game six loss, “I’ll be here,” and, “Whatever it takes to help this team grow.” The Sixers have so many options with what they can do this summer, and all of them involve James Harden in some capacity. It will be very interested to see which route they take and if it’s successful or not.