With the Philadelphia 76ers effectively finding themselves handcuffed by the ongoing James Harden saga, the front office went completely mum on the first day of the 2023 NBA Free Agency. Still stuck at limbo, the team’s silence is understandable given their loose grasp on team needs ahead of the resolution to the Harden situation.
That being said, the Sixers brass is on deck to face decisions independent of Harden ultimately sticking with the team or forcing himself out of town. After all, with the reigning Most Valuable Player in Joel Embiid still on board, the franchise is compelled to bolster the roster — even if it takes a substantial retooling around the margins.
However, the team is current hard-capped and is heavily limited on how they can maneuver in the free agency market. In fact, for that very reason, highly touted guard Tyrese Maxey will reportedly not be slated for a lucrative extension this summer in anticipation of the team freeing up massive cap space next season.
That being said, standing idly may have just caused the 76ers to blow a golden opportunity.
The 76ers standing idly may have just caused them to blow this golden opportunity
The Indiana Pacers sent shockwaves around the league by signing Bruce Brown to a two-year deal well above his projected cost this summer. The move effectively sapped most of their practical cap space this summer, but it was definitely the right move in account of their actual needs and the cost control.
Why is this relevant? Well, the Pacers were one of the very few teams that expressed willingness to take on Tobias Harris’ mammoth contract, which will expire next year. However, with Brown now in the picture, that should castrate any chance of the 76ers freeing up ginormous money to bring in free agents or strike high-upside swing deals.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, other salary matches on their roster such as Myles Turner and Buddy Hield are not available for plucking, per common sense.
Exercising some more patience by simply letting Harris play out his expiring deal bears credence, but only inasmuch as similarly letting the roster remain as it is. On the flip side, dangling him away will give the 76ers a ton more leeway to spend and improve the roster beyond the mere $7 million of wiggle room they have to operate below the luxury tax.
With Harris still in the books, seeking external help in the market or via trade becomes highly difficult with Philly having just nine players under contract. At this rate, their best bet could be to trade Harden for multiple players in return and shoehorn Harris is possible, though highly unlikely.
Anyhow, that the 76ers could have quickly become key players in free agency by going full-throttle on the Indiana Pacers’ inquiry prior to the latter’s spending spree is inarguably a missed opportunity. Other factors are in play of course, but you can only wonder about the possibilities had the team acted with more resoluteness and urgency.