76ers' Complete Offseason Blueprint After Playoff Exit vs. Hawks

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 24, 2021

76ers' Complete Offseason Blueprint After Playoff Exit vs. Hawks

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    This was supposed to be the breakout season for the Philadelphia 76ers.

    They had tantalized with talent before, but this group was different. They had an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, an overdue commitment to shooting, a proven leadership group with a new coach and front office and the Eastern Conference's clearest path to the NBA Finals.

    This year, the stars were aligned for The Process to finally deliver The Results—until they weren't. Everything seemed to snowball at once, with Danny Green straining his calf, Embiid partially tearing his meniscus, key shooters going cold and Ben Simmons deciding he was done shooting. Suddenly, no second-half lead was too big to blow.

    Before Philly knew what hit it, the team had been ousted from the conference semis by the fifth-seeded, upstart Atlanta Hawks. Now the Sixers are in the tricky spot where offseason changes are needed but won't be easily conducted.

Roster Situation and Assets

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Philly's roster isn't cheap, but it could get considerably more expensive going forward.

    The Sixers have at least $118.8 million on next season's payroll despite only eight players holding fully guaranteed contracts. That rate could rise if Philly guarantees George Hill's $10 million salary (only $1.3 million is guaranteed for now) and again if it re-signs Danny Green. Given the Sixers' struggle finding consistent perimeter production this postseason, they should want to keep both.

    Philly might also dip into some future flexibility, as Embiid is now eligible for a supermax extension. According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, the extension could net Embiid another four years and $190 million on his deal. He would have a colossal $52.7 million salary in 2026-27, his age-32 season. He's worth the money if healthy, but he does have a lengthy injury history, so this could spawn some spirited debates inside the front office.

    Beyond Green, Philly's biggest free agent of note is Furkan Korkmaz, who hasn't spent the duration of his four-year tenure inside the team's circle of trust but resided there plenty each of the past two seasons. He can thank his rise as a shooter for that (32.3 percent from three his first two seasons and 39.0 since).

    Should the Sixers explore the trade market, they have multiple assets to offer. The most noteworthy is perhaps Ben Simmons, though good luck calculating the value of a 24-year-old, three-time All-Star who looked broken on the biggest stage. They also have two picks in this draft (Nos. 28 and 50) and a handful of intriguing prospects like rookie Tyrese Maxey and sophomore stopper Matisse Thybulle.

Toughest Decisions

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    While Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has a lot on his plate this summer, it feels like this section should be devoted to the Simmons situation.

    His playoff performance seemingly pushed him past the point of return in Philly. He wouldn't even look at the basket late in games, not even if he had a dunk. Embiid cited Simmons' passivity as the turning point of Game 7 against the Hawks. Coach Doc Rivers said he didn't know whether Simmons was capable of being the point guard of a championship team.

    In the eyes of many, this all but seals Simmons' fate and puts him in a different jersey before the start of next season.

    But with Simmons' value at an all-time low, maybe this isn't the time to trade him. The Sixers can get something in return, but it won't be a 24-year-old All-Star. This would be the definition of selling low, but if they don't think the situation is salvageable, it may not get any better by waiting.

Areas of Need

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Embiid needs more help.

    It says a lot about his tremendous talent level that he could lead an offense while playing on a partially torn meniscus. It says even more about his supporting cast that they asked so much from their hobbled star. It says just as much that the second option (and primary playmaker) was sometimes Seth Curry, a journeyman on his eighth team in seven seasons.

    The Sixers could really use a shot-creator, but those are hard to find with limited assets. Ideally, Philly could broker a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry, but that requires cap creativity and the cooperation of a lot of different parties.

    Beyond that, they need more shooting—off the bench and from the frontcourt. Having a stretch big who can play behind and with Embiid could help open Philly's offensive menu.

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