NBA Free Agency, Philadelphia 76ers

5 offseason needs for the Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated by the Raptors in a heart-breaking Game 7 loss. What do they need to work on this summer?

After a hard-fought seven-game series, the Philadelphia 76ers’ season came to an end in heartbreaking fashion Sunday night when they fell 92-90 against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena.

Fresh off Kawhi Leonard ending their season on the first-ever Game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA history, the Sixers must now turn their attention to one of the most critical offseasons in franchise history.

Three-fifths of their starting lineup — Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick — will be unrestricted free agents in July, and all three will be hotly pursued by other suitors. Both Butler and Harris figure to receive max-contract offers, while title hopefuls would happily shell out for Redick’s sharpshooting ability and veteran leadership.

Throw in uncertainty about the future of head coach Brett Brown, All-Star point guard Ben Simmons becoming eligible for a contract extension and a bench in dire need of upgrades, and Sixers general manager Elton Brand has his work cut out for him this summer.

By taking the Raptors to a one-possession game in a seven-game series, the Sixers proved their core is championship-caliber. How much of that core will be back, and how can they bolster the supporting cast? That’s what Brand and the team’s owners must figure out.

5. Pony up for Jimmy and Tobias

The fates of Butler, Harris and Redick are far more important than any other roster decisions Brand has to make this summer.

The Sixers have full Bird rights on both Butler and Harris, which allows them to exceed the salary cap to re-sign either (or both). They’ll also be able to offer each of them five-year, $189.7 million contracts while opposing suitors will be limited to four-year, $140.6 million deals. They don’t have matching rights on either player, but that financial advantage over other teams could loom large in free-agent negotiations.

Philly only has Early Bird rights on Redick, which means it can offer him a starting salary no more than 175 percent of his current salary. Since he earned $12.25 million in 2018-19, the Sixers can’t offer him a starting salary north of roughly $21.4 million next season, although it’s difficult to imagine him receiving a larger offer on the open market.

While the Big Four model will become prohibitively expensive once Simmons’ extension begins in 2020-21, Sixers co-managing partner Josh Harris has pledged his willingness to dive into luxury-tax territory if necessary. Considering how much the Sixers gave up for Butler and Harris and how far the team went this season, ponying up to retain both should be the team’s No. 1 priority come July 1.

Redick shouldn’t be an afterthought, though. If the Sixers do retain Butler and Harris, they’ll only have salary-cap exceptions, draft picks and minimum contracts to round out their bench. That makes keeping Redick (via Early Bird rights) and reserves such as Mike Scott and James Ennis imperative, too.

Redick’s defensive limitations expose a weak spot in the Sixers’ starting five, but his sharpshooting ability is key to making Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons compatible. If he walks, the Sixers will have a difficult time finding a long-range shot-maker as reliable as Redick.

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