The first apron would complicate a Dorian Finney-Smith trade for the Sixers with the Nets the,first,apron,would,complicate,a,dorian,finney,smith,trade,for,the,sixers,with,the,nets,liberty,ballers,front-page,nba-free-agency,76ers-analysis,76ers-free-agency-rumors-news,76ers-trade-rumors

Once the Sixers finalize their signing of Paul George, their $60-plus million in cap space will be a thing of the past. Based on current projections—which are fluid at this time of year—they’ll be left with roughly $8.9 million in cap space to spend if they waive Paul Reed while keeping Ricky Council IV on their books. (If they keep KJ Martin’s cap hold to perform some CBA shenanigans, they’d have $8.0 million.)

After the Sixers spend that cap space, sign Tyrese Maxey to his max contract, re-sign Kelly Oubre Jr. (presumably with the room mid-level exception) and fill out their roster with minimum contracts, they’ll be perilously close to the $178.1 million first apron. That’s something to keep in mind while proposing solutions to their current vacancy at power forward.

Brooklyn Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith gained steam in recent days as a possible Sixers trade target, and Michael Scotto of HoopsHype poured gas on that fire earlier this week. He reported the Sixers have “exploratory interest” in trading for Finney-Smith, although he noted “nothing is considered imminent there.”

The NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement may be the main reason why.

Teams above the first apron can’t acquire more salary than they send out in trades, among other restrictions. The Sixers could be less than $1 million below the apron once they spend the rest of their cap space and fill out their roster with minimum deals from there. That means they’ll need to send out nearly as much salary as they take back in any trade.

Finney-Smith is earning $14.9 million this season. The only players whom the Sixers have under contract other than Embiid are Reed ($7.7 million) and Council ($1.9 million). The math isn’t mathing there.

The Sixers could arrange a sign-and-trade involving Martin, whose $2.1 million cap hold could be key to the rest of their offseason plans. However, Base Year Compensation issues might complicate any effort to move him before Jan. 15 if they give him a short-term balloon deal.

The Sixers’ reported “exploratory interest” in Finney-Smith might have been an inquiry about the Nets’ asking price if they don’t trade him until the deadline. At that point, any of the Sixers’ players who sign contracts this offseason will be eligible to be traded, which opens the door for a potential midseason shakeup.

The hard-cap rules still apply once the season begins, though. If the Sixers take back more salary than they send out in a trade, they’d get hard-capped at the first apron. They’ll still need to send out almost an equivalent amount of salary than they take back in any trade given their proximity to the first apron.

On the bright side, they wouldn’t run into BYC issues with Martin in a midseason deal. If they give him a two-year deal with a non-guaranteed second season—a contract basically designed to be traded—they could aggregate his salary with anyone else’s on the roster to acquire a player earning even more. The Sixers would be hard-capped at the second apron if they did aggregate contracts, but it’d be hard for them to reach that level of spending this year without wildly overpaying Martin (something like $20-plus million per season).

The TL;DR version: If the Sixers are going to acquire another player with an eight-figure contract, it seems far more likely to happen in-season—when they can aggregate the contracts they sign this summer, including multiple minimum deals—than it does over the rest of the offseason.

With cap space drying up around the league, the Sixers might prefer to wait out the market and see if they can find another Oubre-esque steal like they did last summer. If not, they can package some of the deals they sign this offseason for a midseason trade.

Either way, it’s encouraging to hear that the Sixers are sniffing around players such as Finney-Smith, Caleb Martin and Haywood Highsmith. That suggests they’ve correctly identified the glaring hole on their roster and are proactively working to address it.

That just might not happen right away, or even this offseason at all, much to fans’ chagrin. Like clockwork every year, team president Daryl Morey stresses that he’s less concerned with what the roster looks like in October than what it looks like April, May and June. He might be planning on pursing an upgrade at that spot at the trade deadline and doing some early information gathering.

In the meantime, go back to debating Martin vs. Highsmith, everyone.

2024 NBA free agency: How the Sixers should exploit KJ Martin’s cheap cap hold after landing Paul George nba,free,agency,how,the,sixers,should,exploit,kj,martin,s,cheap,cap,hold,after,landing,paul,george,liberty,ballers,front-page,76ers-analysis,76ers-free-agency-rumors-news

The Sixers made their big free-agent splash overnight Monday, agreeing with Paul George on a four-year, $211.6 million maximum contract. They’ve also agreed to re-sign Kelly Oubre Jr. (two years, $16.3 million), Andre Drummond (two years, “$10-plus million”) and Eric Gordon (one year, $3.3 million veteran minimum), which means they’ve already burned through most of their spending power this offseason.

From here, the Sixers must get creative to round out their roster. KJ Martin might be their best lottery ticket in that regard.

Martin is an unrestricted free agent, but he has a tiny $2.1 million cap hold, and the Sixers have his full Bird rights. They’d slightly cut into their cap space if they kept him on their books instead of an incomplete roster charge ($1.15 million), but having Bird rights on him allows them to re-sign him to anything up to his max salary.

The Sixers could take advantage of that cheap cap hold to both their own benefit and Martin’s. They could keep it on their books, spend the rest of their cap space and then overpay him on a two-year contract with a non-guaranteed second season. They could later look to flip him as salary filler in a midseason trade.

The Indiana Pacers gave Bruce Brown a two-year, $45 million contract last offseason, only to ship him to the Toronto Raptors six months later in the package for Pascal Siakam. The Sixers were reportedly open to emulating that strategy with Klay Thompson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this offseason if they struck out on George, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Martin could enable them to do a miniature version of it.

If the Sixers had a specific midseason target in mind, they could do an exact dollar-for-dollar match on Martin’s new contract. That would enable both the Sixers and the other team to trade those contracts in a straight one-for-one deal and not trigger a hard cap. If they were instead just looking to add a tradable contract to their books, they could use the dollar amount of the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.168 million), room MLE ($7.983 million) or non-taxpayer MLE ($12.822 million) as options.

The Sixers could try to sign-and-trade Martin if they’re looking to fill that void more quickly, although as cap specialist Yossi Gozlan noted, Base Year Compensation rules would complicate that. Only 50 percent of Martin’s new contract would count as outgoing salary, which would make it more difficult for the Sixers or whichever team trades for him to avoid triggering a hard cap at the first apron. They’d be better off signing Martin to a balloon deal and preserving his contract for a midseason trade.

The only downside to this strategy is if the Sixers plan to hard-cap themselves at either apron with another move. They won’t be adding unnecessary salary to their books in that case. Otherwise, there’s no reason not to do this. They’re going to be over the luxury-tax threshold when they fill out their roster either way, so they might as well go deeper into it to increase their midseason flexibility.

Without Martin factored in, the Sixers can still create roughly $9.2 million in remaining cap space even if they keep Ricky Council IV ($1.9 million) but waive Paul Reed’s $7.7 million non-guaranteed contract. If they keep Martin’s cap hold as well, they could still have around $8.3 million in cap space. Based on the prices for Derrick Jones Jr. (three years, $30 million), Naji Marshall (three years, $27 million) Goga Bitadze (three years, $25 million) and Gary Harris (two years, $14 million), that should be able to net them at least one more solid player.

Once the Sixers used the rest of their cap space, they’d use a minimum exception to sign Gordon, officially sign Tyrese Maxey to his five-year, $203.9 million extension (without a player option!) and presumably use the $8.0 million room mid-level exception to sign Oubre. That means George and Drummond are the only two who are going into the Sixers’ cap space.

The Sixers could also take advantage of expanded salary-matching rules and look to flip Reed’s contract for a more expensive salary—they can take back up to $7.5 million more than they send out as long as they stay below the first apron. Staying below the first apron might be a challenge once they finalize Maxey’s new max deal, though. (Keep that in mind regarding any Dorian Finney-Smith trades you cook up over the coming days.)

They’d be better off spending the remainder of their cap space and then signing Martin to a 1+1 balloon deal with the intention of potentially moving him at the trade deadline. Signing him to such a deal would give the Sixers a way to upgrade midseason that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Again, the only risk here is if they hard-cap themselves some other way.

If not, the Sixers owners should be willing to foot a larger tax bill to improve their new Big Three’s chances of winning a championship. There are no more half-measures after signing George. The Sixers are all-in on winning now.

With some creativity, Martin—and his next contract—could help them do just that.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Spotrac and salary-cap information via RealGM.

2024 NBA free agency: After landing Paul George, Sixers’ surge to second overall in 2025 title odds nba,free,agency,after,landing,paul,george,sixers,surge,to,second,overall,in,title,odds,liberty,ballers,front-page,nba-free-agency,draftkings,76ers-analysis,76ers-free-agency-rumors-news

In the wee hours of the night here on the East Coast, the Philadelphia 76ers were making it rain. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped the bombshell scoop that Paul George is signing a four-year $212M deal, with a player option for the 2027-2028 season, with the Philadelphia 76ers. Not long after that we learned that All-Star Tyrese Maxey was receiving a max extension and the team was also retaining last season’s stellar minimum level acquisition wing Kelly Oubre, Jr. on a new team-friendly deal. Big Penguin Andre Drummond is back on board, and Morey lands another one of his favorite former Rockets in Eric Gordon too.

Having utilized cap space for the nine-time All-Star George, Philadelphia still has the No. 16 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, sniper Jared McCain, the No. 41 overall pick, Adem Bona, an absolute freak athlete which he proved at the NBA pre-draft combine, plus the 76ers still possess four more future first-round picks to work with, and swaps.

We owe so much of it to our beloved Tyrese:

Tobias Harris is finally gone, landing big money to play for the Detroit Pistons (addition by subtraction?)

And they’ll look to round out the rest of the roster with a bit of remaining cap space before exceeding the cap by fleshing out the rest of the roster with veteran’s minimum deals for ring-chasing stars who can expect a fair amount of playing time — on such a now top-heavy roster.

Per Woj:

“George and his agent, Aaron Mintz of CAA, met in Los Angeles with a 76ers contingent that included owner Josh Harris, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, general manager Elton Brand and Sixers legend Julius Erving, sources said. The Sixers even brought a front office executive, Peter Dinwiddie, who is a familiar face and friend of George’s from their years together with the Indiana Pacers, sources said.

The meeting came on the heels of months of unsuccessful negotiations between George and the LA Clippers on a deal to stay in his Southern California home.”

Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and the gangs’ odds on Draft Kings were around +1000 back when we thought there was a chance they might sign George.

Then their odds dropped precipitously to +1400 when Shams Charania reported the Sixers’ interest in the six-time All-NBA teamer had “significantly waned.”

It also didn’t help the Sixers’ cause when the New York Knicks traded for Mikal Bridges, and were soon able to retain OG Anunoby.

But by the time many of us woke up Monday morning, odds makers’ opinions of the current NBA hierarchy had shifted dramatically. Daryl Morey’s group has now peaked at +800, pushing the Knicks’ down from +800 to +950, following their loss of Isaiah Hartenstein.

The Boston Celtics have re-signed Derrick White, and even though Kristaps Porzingis is set to miss significant time as he rehabs from surgery, the reigning champs are still given a massive edge, +295.

The Celtics’ implied odds to win the 2024-2025 title are now around 25 percent. Philadelphia’s are near 11 percent. As many of you might remember, Morey said that if you have about a five percent chance it makes sense to cash in your future picks to go for it. Well, if that’s still the case, possessing an implied 11 percent should certainly entice him to keep looking to add firepower.

We’ll see how this plays out because it’s gotta be relatively unprecedented for a team that basically only has a handful of players (e.g. Embiid, Maxey, George, Drummond, Gordon, Oubre, Jr. McCain, Bona) in tow to be favored so heavily. So we’ll pay close attention to what happens with the final few roster spots. One name to watch could be veteran guard Reggie Bullock (pronounced Bull-LOCK which likely helps him lock up opposing guards).

The former Knick and Maverick is meeting with the Sixers and head coach Nick Nurse should be able to sell some helpful connective vets by offering a key role on a now true title contender.

Paul George-Sixers free agency rumor tracker: Where will the nine-time All-Star end up? paul,george,sixers,free,agency,rumor,tracker,where,will,the,nine,time,all,star,end,up,liberty,ballers,front-page,nba-free-agency,76ers-analysis,76ers-free-agency-rumors-news,nba-rumors-news

Buckle up Sixers’ fans.

Paul George has opted out of his $48.7M player option and is set to take some meetings this weekend. What the SoCal native decides to ultimately do next will begin a chain of dominoes around the NBA. Reports indicate he will meet with the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers sometime after 6 p.m. Sunday once rival teams can make their pitches to UFAs.

Teams like the Sixers and Magic can offer George up to $212M on a four-year deal. Because of the NBA’s over 38 rule, the Clippers can only offer him up to a max salary beginning in the same range, although L.A. — possessing PG’s Bird Rights — can offer 8 percent raises increasing the total to $221M. But they don’t seem to have any interest in even offering him a fourth year so far. Whether or not that’s a bluff and they’ll cave to his demands is yet to be determined.

Players like Klay Thompson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, DeMar DeRozan and a handful of multi-billion dollar franchises’ fates hang in the balance of what’s the 2024 summer version of “The Decision.”

George was rumored to be considering an extension with the Clippers at multiple points during this season and offseason. More recently, we also learned that he was considering opting in and seeking a trade. Well, neither of those materialized, and perhaps Daryl Morey and the Sixers’ $60M in cap space might have appeal, along with stars in place like Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

Here we’ll track some of the latest rumors before he makes his big decision.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, appearing on Sports Center:

Per Woj:

“Paul George has had a year to negotiate a deal with the Clippers that he wants to take and they’ve gone back and forth, certainly in the last several months…. He wants that fourth year on his contract, the Clippers have not offered it. And certainly he’s looking at that Clipper roster and asking himself too ‘are we a championship contender?’ All other factors. I think being in Southern California and being part of the Clippers as they go into the new Intuit Dome, I think those are things that are still very appealing to him but Philadelphia out in the marketplace, Orlando to an extent out in the marketplace for him, can offer him that fourth year. And Philadelphia certainly. Is there a clear path in the Eastern Conference to try to win? Although you still have to be able to go through Boston and Philly sees Paul George as a player that can help them get through the Celtics.”

According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, there is more than a bit of room for optimism here.

Per Pompey:

“Sources believe Philly is the frontrunner to acquire the 6-foot-8, 220-pounder. However, the Orlando Magic, another potential destination, cleared up available cap space to offer the max. And you have to wonder if he’ll remain in Los Angeles if the Clippers give into his demands for a fourth year….If he comes to Philly, sources believe George will help recruit solid role players for the Sixers’ pursuit of an NBA championship-caliber roster.”

If the Sixers whiff on PG, they may continue to look at names above like KCP and Klay as free agents, although Thompson has now been connected with the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Pompey adds that Brandon Ingram is another possibility via trade:

“But the Pelicans are “unlikely” to offer a maximum salary and will look to trade him if no deal is reached. However, their asking price has been steep.”

The problem there is that Ingram isn’t as good as George, and would cost them significant draft capital to acquire. What more they can add with those picks should PG sign into Philly’s cap space will definitely be part of Daryl Morey’s pitch to George this weekend.

Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report thinks the Sixers are a legitimate threat in this race.

Monte Poole with NBCS, who covers the Golden State Warriors, believes the Clippers still have the inside track here.

With this much interest around the NBA, I can’t help but wonder if the Clippers don’t find SOME number in between their current three-year bid and the four-year max Philly and Orlando will likely offer — ultimately retaining PG.

Heck, the Clippers could always sign him and then turn around and try to trade him before February’s 2025 NBA Trade Deadline in exchange for some draft picks and maybe a young player or an expiring contract at least then, right? That all seems better than nothing. But then again, maybe PG would remember what happened once to Blake Griffin (signing a max then quickly getting shipped off to Detroit) and worry he’d later land somewhere far less preferable than Philadelphia and their live title aspirations.

If I were PG, weather, and family aside, I’d head to the Sixers. He’s already considered one of the best to ever do it. A championship ring on his finger would vault him way up that all-time ladder, and since Morey would still have up to four first-round picks to play around with, this would be his best chance to get there, in our biased opinion.

Game on.

We will continue to update this post as news develops over what’s set to become a landmark weekend for the Joel Embiid era.

Six under-the-radar free-agent targets for the Sixers in 2024 six,under,the,radar,free,agent,targets,for,the,sixers,in,liberty,ballers,front-page,nba-free-agency,76ers-analysis,76ers-free-agency-rumors-news

Now that the 2024 NBA draft is over, the Sixers have to quickly turn their attention to free agency. Teams have been free to negotiate with their own free agents for more than a week, but they (legally) can begin to reach out to free agents from other teams at 6 p.m. ET on June 30.

The Sixers’ top options are already flying off the board, though. On Wednesday, OG Anunoby agreed to a five-year, $212.5 million contract to stay with the New York Knicks. Malik Monk and Pascal Siakam have likewise agreed to re-sign with the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers, respectively. And LeBron James is presumably staying with the Los Angeles Lakers after they spent the No. 55 pick on his eldest son, Bronny.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George was reportedly the Sixers’ Plan A this offseason, but even that might be on life support. Earlier this week on the Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst shared that George doesn’t seem keen on leaving the West Coast.

The Sixers reportedly plan to pursue Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency, and they could always use their cap space to absorb contracts via trade, too.

Regardless of which big fish (if any) they land, they might need to round out their roster with a few value signings, too. Here, we’ve assembled six potential candidates to consider.

Naji Marshall, SF

Naji Marshall might not be a starting-caliber wing, but he’d be a valuable addition to the Sixers’ rotation nonetheless.

Marshall has spent his entire four-year NBA career with the New Orleans Pelicans, over which time he’s averaged 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in only 19.5 minutes per game. He also knocked down a career-high 38.7 percent of his three-point attempts this past season (albeit on low volume) and ranked in the 91st percentile leaguewide in Dunks and Threes’ defensive estimated plus/minus.

Standing 6’7” with a nearly 7’1” wingspan, Marshall has the frame to soak up minutes on the wing. He might not be much more than a three-and-D option, but that’s the exact archetype that team president Daryl Morey is aiming to add alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

In April, Will Guillory of The Athletic told HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto that the Pelicans were “pretty much sold” that Marshall would leave in free agency “because they’ve got all these other financial situations going on.” It’s unclear whether the $8.0 million room mid-level exception would be enough to snag him or if the Sixers would need to offer him a double-digit annual salary to pry him away from other suitors, though.

Caleb Martin, SF

If (when) Caleb Martin declines his $7.1 million player option, he’ll be one of the better wings on the free-agent market. He averaged a career-high 10.0 points per game to go with 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 three-pointers, 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks in only 27.4 minutes per game this past season despite starting in only 23 of his 64 regular-season appearances with the Miami Heat.

Martin has also been a plus defender in recent years, which adds to his three-and-D appeal. He’s been a relatively low-volume shooter throughout his five-year NBA career, but he’s shot 35.7 percent from long range.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks told Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald that he projected Martin to receive the full $12.9 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception this summer. The Sixers won’t have access to the NTMLE if they dip below the cap—they’ll only have the $8.0 million room mid-level exception instead—so they’d likely have to sign Martin with a portion of their cap space.

There’s always a concern about Heat players falling apart once they leave Miami, but Max Strus hopefully dispelled that notion after joining the Cleveland Cavaliers last offseason. Besides, that’s what the Sixers have Nick Nurse for.

Mario Hezonja, SF

In mid-June, longtime NBA insider Marc Stein reported that Mario Hezonja was “increasingly coming up as a free agent to watch this offseason when it comes to an NBA return.” Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Hezonja has an NBA out clause in his contract until July 19 and “is receiving interest from multiple teams to return to the NBA.”

The Orlando Magic originally selected Hezonja with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2015 draft, but he never lived up to his draft stock. Shooting was supposed to be a strength of his, but he shot only 31.9 percent on 2.5 three-point attempts per game across his five-year NBA career.

Hezonja hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2019-20 season, but he might have earned himself another look after his past two seasons with Real Madrid. This past season, he averaged 11.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.8 threes in only 22.3 minutes per game across 81 appearances. He also shot 39.0 percent from deep overall and 43.1 percent on 5.1 attempts three-point attempts per game in 38 Euroleague games.

The 29-year-old Hezonja might be mostly a shooting specialist in the NBA—he doesn’t offer much as a playmaker or on defense—but he could be a slightly younger alternative to someone such as Doug McDermott. Given Morey’s fixation on adding shooting, Hezonja should at least merit consideration as the Sixers probe the fringes of the free-agent market.

Gary Trent Jr., SG

If the Sixers land Caldwell-Pope or Klay Thompson in free agency, they presumably won’t splurge on another shooting guard as well. But if they strike out on both, Gary Trent Jr. will be among the better remaining options. (Granted, the Sixers might have two even better alternatives on their own roster in De’Anthony Melton and Buddy Hield.)

Trent had the best years of his career in his two full seasons with Nurse on the Toronto Raptors. He averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 three-pointers and 1.7 steals per game across those two years, although he went from starting all but one game in 2021-22 to coming off the bench 22 times in 2022-23.

However, it’s unclear whether Trent would want to reunite with Nurse. According to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, Trent said after last season “that he got used to the coach’s criticism coming out in the media before Nurse told him in person,” which hardly sounds like an enjoyable workplace experience.

After picking up Bruce Brown’s $23 million team option on Friday, the Raptors may have bigger changes afoot. That could make Trent expendable, which should at least put him on the Sixers’ radar as a backup option if their top shooting guard targets fall through.

Patrick Williams, PF

Full disclosure: There’s a chance that Patrick Williams is just Tobias Harris 2.0. On the bright side, he shouldn’t cost anywhere close to a max contract.

Like Harris, Williams is a frustratingly low-volume three-point shooter despite being an above-average marksman. He has drilled 40.9 percent of his 3.4 long-range attempts per game over the past two seasons, which begs the question of why he isn’t firing away far more often.

The good news is that Williams has been a plus defender in each of the past two seasons. At 6’7” and 215 pounds with a nearly 7-foot wingspan, he has the exact type of physical toolkit that Nurse has maximized on both ends of the floor in the past.

According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, the Bulls offered Williams an extension in the neighborhood of four years for $64 million with a team option,” while he reportedly wanted “in the vicinity of De’Andre Hunter’s four-year, $90 million deal with Atlanta.” However, Johnson added that Williams “might’ve come down to $20 million annually.”

If the Sixers strike out on their top wing options (Paul George, Brandon Ingram, etc.), it might not hurt to throw an offer sheet at Williams and dare the Bulls to match.

Jonas Valanciunas, C

The Sixers’ never-ending search for a reliable backup to Joel Embiid might continue anew this offseason if they waive Paul Reed before his $7.7 million salary becomes guaranteed in January. Andre Drummond will be a popular free-agent target—and we’ll address him quickly later—but Jonas Valanciunas should be on the Sixers’ radar as well.

Multiple reporters have suggested that Valanciunas is unlikely to re-sign with the New Orleans Pelicans, particularly after they began trimming his role this past season. He averaged only 23.5 minutes per game—his fewest since the 2018-19 campaign—as head coach Willie Green would often downsize with Larry Nance Jr. in his place.

Valanciunas is more of an old-school big man than a modern-day, switchable center, although he can knock down an occasional three-pointer. Still, his value to the Sixers would be primarily as a backup, although he could be a viable starting fill-in whenever Embiid missed time.

Valanciunas might not be ready to be demoted to a full-time backup yet, although it’s hard to see a starting opportunity available to him this summer. Given the likelihood of Embiid missing time next season, the Sixers might be his best option to both fill a consistent role off the bench and still prove himself as a starter at times.

Minimum-contract targets

Andre Drummond, C: Drummond was a fan favorite two years ago, and he remains one of the most prolific rebounders in the NBA. He might not be a heavy-minute player in the playoffs, but the Sixers wouldn’t need him to be as long as Embiid stays healthy.

Dennis Smith Jr., PG: After the Dallas Mavericks took him with the No. 9 pick in the 2017 draft, Smith has reinvented himself as defensive specialist. However, he’s a career 29.8 percent shooter from deep, which could make him a liability in the playoffs.

Kris Dunn, PG: Like Smith, Dunn is a former lottery pick—No. 5 in 2016—who found his niche as a defensive stopper. He’s also a mediocre, low-volume three-point shooter, but he could be someone to pair with rookie guard Jared McCain in the reserve unit.

Lonnie Walker IV, SG: Finally, a shooter! Walker signed a minimum contract with the Brooklyn Nets last offseason and drilled 38.4 percent of his 4.7 three-point attempts per game. Walker won’t provide much defensively, but he could be a far cheaper alternative to Hield.

Malik Beasley, SG: Beasley would fill the same niche as Walker as a one-dimensional shooter off the bench. He signed a one-year, minimum deal with the Milwaukee Bucks last summer and knocked down a career-high 41.3 percent of his 6.9 three-point attempts per game, although he seemed to fall out of favor with head coach Doc Rivers late in the year.

Torrey Craig, SF: A quintessential three-and-D guy. Craig has shot 39.4 percent from deep on 3.1 attempts per game over the past two seasons combined. He signed a minimum-salary deal with the Bulls last summer, so the Sixers would likely prefer to land him at somewhere in that price range.

Gary Harris, SG: Harris has played 65-plus games only once in the past eight seasons, so the Sixers might not want to pin their hopes on another oft-injured player given Embiid’s injury history. However, Harris is a career 37.0 percent three-point shooter and a plus defender, which would make him an easy fit off the bench.

Eric Gordon, SG: Gordon turned down his $3.4 million player option Thursday, per Charania, and reportedly has interest from “multiple contenders.” Given his shooting prowess and the years he spent with Morey in Houston, it’s likely safe to assume the Sixers are one of those suitors.

Gordon Hayward, SF: Maybe he isn’t as washed as he looked in OKC last year? It could at least be worth a training camp deal to find out.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Spotrac and salary-cap information via RealGM.

Pelicans trade for Hawks’ Dejounte Murray; what’s next for possible Sixers’ target Brandon Ingram? pelicans,trade,for,hawks,dejounte,murray,what,s,next,for,possible,sixers,target,brandon,ingram,liberty,ballers,front-page,76ers-analysis,nba-rumors-news

Just days after the 2024 NBA Draft, and days before the free agency period, the Atlanta Hawks and the New Orleans Pelicans have made a big trade.

After two seasons, the Hawks are pulling the plug on the Trae Young-Dejounte Murray backcourt. And the New Orleans Pelicans have swooped in, sending out draft capital and Larry Nance Jr. in exchange for the former Spurs’ 2022 All-Star, Murray.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story in bits and pieces on X: “Full trade on ESPN: Dejounte Murray for Larry Nance Jr., Dyson Daniels, 2025 first-round pick (via Lakers), 2027 first-round pick (least favorable of Bucks-Pels),” Woj reported.

In a follow up tweet, Woj added:

“New Orleans was 0-24 when trailing entering the fourth and 2-14 in close games and see Murray as a player who can generate offense late in games. Pels remain committed to core that includes Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum. Pels are trying to find common ground with Brandon Ingram contract.”

Woj said there is still more work to be done in Atlanta, remaking the young core in place there. Is Nance Jr. now a name the Sixers could eye? Daryl Morey and co. once showed some interest in acquiring the versatile and bouncy forward back in 2021.

But it’s that last line from Woj above about Ingram that will likely have most Sixer fans attention… will the Pelicans ultimately find common ground on a new extension with Ingram? I think most insiders would still guess that Ingram will be traded and not wind up extending with the team who traded for him five years ago in the Anthony Davis Lakers’ blockbuster. But this certainly gives them a bit more optionality.

PG has things on hold for at least another handful of hours

Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, speaking earlier Friday on ESPN’s “Get UP:”

“[The Sixers] have the most cap space out there, around $60M. They are obviously interested in signing Paul George. They have to hold their other business, their other free agent aspirations, until they see what Paul George’s decision is. That decision could come [Friday or Saturday] it may not be into free agency.”

So the Sixers may have real interest in trading for Brandon Ingram here. We’ve heard that he’s atop some of their fallback plan options in the past. But Daryl Morey and Co. likely won’t want to part with the precious draft assets for Ingram (they can still trade up to four first-rounders following their selection of Jared McCain Wednesday) until they know where they stand with PG.

Signing PG into Philadelphia’s cap space for a $212M max four-year deal would not only allow them to acquire a player more feared by defenders and scorers than Ingram, but additionally retain their significant draft haul to target even more help via trade between July and February’s 2025 NBA Trade Deadline.

But in the more likely event that PG remains on the West Coast, this big move by the Pelicans should:

  • probably signify a willingness-acceptance to move on from Ingram without any positional needs (the good part) and
  • give them more leverage in a potential deal — since their own fans will likely want to see how the current core looks together (the bad part).

Ingram has never played more than 64 games for the Peli’s in a single season, but the 26-year-old can create his own shot, pass, draw free throws, space the floor and knock down triples at a respectable clip.

We’re all waiting to see what happens with George. And before that, we’re keeping a close watch on names like Chris Paul and Andrew Wiggins, to see if the Warriors can find a way to thwart Morey’s plans just like the Clippers would love to do.

But New Orleans making a move like this could certainly be interpreted as a team that has accepted the very real possibility of moving on from the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and 2020 All-Star.

Earlier Friday, Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer wondered if three first-round picks might be enough for Morey to land Ingram.

Could the Murray deal, sending out two picks, increase NOLA’s appetite to restock their future draft coffers? Or does GM David Griffin think they can work something out to keep BI around, having now added one more key piece to this Pelican puzzle?

Woj’s wording that New Orleans remains committed to Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum is probably the most interesting nugget from the Sixers’ POV. Keep watching that clock to see what Paul George does… he has until Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern to make up his mind. Because Woj did not say they’re fully committed to building around BI, and Murray’s presence may be further evidence they’re ready for a retool. I wonder if B-Ball Paul Reed might appeal to them now that Nance Jr. is in Hotlanta. I guess they could use a low-priced athletic big.

Finally, the Hawks, still owe unprotected picks in 2025 and 2027 plus a swap to the Spurs San Antonio from the 2022 trade when they landed Murray. The Hawks may be thinking fire-sale if Morey wants to place a call and offer future draft ammo there too. Names like Trae Young, De’Andre Huter, Bogdan Bogdanović, Onyeka Okongwu, could all be left wondering about their future now as well.

New York Knicks acquire Brooklyn Nets’ Mikal Bridges in blockbuster trade ahead of NBA Draft, free agency new,york,knicks,acquire,brooklyn,nets,mikal,bridges,in,blockbuster,trade,ahead,of,nba,draft,free,agency,liberty,ballers,front-page,76ers-analysis,nba-rumors-news

Boom. In the quiet, with less than 24 hours before the start of Wednesday’s 2024 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks have pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Knicks are shipping out four future unprotected first-round picks, a protected first-round pick via the Milwaukee Bucks, an unprotected swap, a second-rounder and Bojan Bogdanovic for Mikal Bridges.

In a follow up tweet, Woj added: “The Knicks pay a steep price to land one of the league’s most coveted trade assets and the Nets get a massive haul to replenish assets and embark on a rebuild with mass cap space and future draft picks.”

With Jalen Brunson, fresh off his first All-Star bid, the All-NBA Second team, and having finished fourth in MVP voting, along with Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo, Bridges will now round out the Villanova Knicks.

The Nets once depleted their draft warchest for James Harden, who they then traded for Ben Simmons back in 2022. So this allows Brooklyn, who has reportedly turned down numerous other offers for the quintessential 3-and-D stud in the past, to restock and then some.

The next major question for the Knicks is what this could mean, if anything, for OG Anunoby’s future?

The former Raptor recently opted out of his one-year player option. And all insiders seem to agree that he’s all but certain to re-sign in New York. Would adding Bridges, someone who essentially plays the same small forward position as OG, change the equation? Could this be a form of “insurance” should Anunoby somehow walk? There have at least been rumors that OG’s camp was not satisfied with the extension offers he received from Knicks’ President Leon Rose — fueling rumors out of Philadelphia, a team named by numerous sources as having interest.

But there is still plenty of room to keep him around in New York if they trim in other places.

According to Yossi Gozlan, previously with Hoops Hype, the Knicks are now hard-capped yet could still theoretically retain both Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein.

Where would they cut costs then? We’ve already seen rumors that Mitchell Robinson could be on the move, with the Wizards being one team named.

Another former All-NBA Second Teamer, Julius Randle, also has a hefty salary, and should offer back some value if the Knicks looked to move the former Lakers and Pelicans power forward too. If they truly want to avoid the hard cap, then it makes sense why SNY’s Ian Begley had this to add:

As far as the Sixers are concerned, well, you can figure out the bad news rather quickly. Not only does Bridges’ name go off the trade market, he lands with the very team that just knocked Joel Embiid and the squad out of the playoffs back in May.

In many ways, Mikal would have made a perfect fit playing alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey — and it doesn’t make things any easier to swallow remembering the Sixers once drafted the rangy wing before quickly trading him on Draft Day 2018.

As for Paul George? Well, the Knicks were one team that had been rumored to potentially have interest in PG should the nine-time All-Star opt in to his one-year player option. Brian Windhorst, Marc Stein and other reporters had previously named the Knicks as a team to watch should the Clippers’ former All-NBA forward pass up the chance to hit free agency — where Daryl Morey and the Sixers would almost certainly have a $212M max four-year deal waiting for the Palmdale native… assuming they don’t surprise us between now and July 1 like the Knicks just did.

With this move, George may lose one option he may have had in an opt-in and trade scenario. That is likely the one part of this move that Morey will — at least momentarily — enjoy. But the Golden State Warriors have already been named as another team to keep close watch on if PG doesn’t wind up hitting free agency but rather seeking trade from his native L.A.

The Athletic’s Fred Katz has been reminding fans that Anunoby is likely re-signing with the Knicks. And with this news bomb, Katz doesn’t appear to be changing his tune much:

Same goes for SNY’s Ian Begley:

If the Knicks really started to feel a cap crunch, in the instance they do keep Anunoby on a deal somewhere in the (rumored) $35M annual-range, perhaps Hartenstein would ultimately become New York’s casualty of this Bridges blockbuster.

The Nets were not done either.

More fro Woj on X:

“Another massive deal: Brooklyn has a deal with Houston to return the Nets’ 2026 first-round pick for a 2027 Phoenix Suns first-round pick, sources tell ESPN. Rockets also acquire 2025 right to swap Houston/OKC first for 2025 Suns first-round pick. More details coming on picks deal.”

So not only do the Nets “make up” for some of the picks they lost in that Harden deal by moving Bridges to the Knicks, they recouped some of their own picks they once moved in 2020-2021.

That means… wait for it… you guessed it… the Nets can finally tank and “improve” their own picks — something they couldn’t do back when the Boston Celtics possessed Brooklyn’s lottery picks — helping Danny Ainge and subsequent execs like Brad Stevens begin building the current 2024 champs back in 2016.

On the Rockets side of things, Woj had this to add:

So now Morey and co. can keep watching the clock hoping that there isn’t a news bomb that PG has opted in; unless of course the Sixers have one of these shockers brewing themselves.

And oh right, maybe Kevin Durant could be available too, I guess? Add Durant to your wish list along with PG, Jimmy Butler, Anunoby and Brandon Ingram.

Must be nice….

Having Nick Nurse should widen the Sixers’ offseason options this summer having,nick,nurse,should,widen,the,sixers,offseason,options,this,summer,liberty,ballers,front-page,76ers-analysis

Sixers head coach Nick Nurse became increasingly nihilistic by the end of the first-round series against the New York Knicks, but his impact was otherwise felt up and down the roster this year.

Joel Embiid averaged more than a point per minute this season and might have cruised to his second straight MVP had he met the NBA’s new 65-game minimum requirement. James Harden’s departure opened the door for Tyrese Maxey to flourish as the Sixers’ starting point guard, and he seized the opportunity with his first All-Star nod and the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

Nurse’s impact wasn’t just limited to the Sixers’ two stars, though. During the playoffs, Kelly Oubre Jr. described Nurse as a “basketball genius” who was giving the team energy and motivation by being so “locked in.” Meanwhile, Nicolas Batum credited the Sixers’ coaching staff for his game-saving block against the Miami Heat in the play-in tournament, telling reporters that they had showed him the exact play that Miami wound up running “literally like a minute before.”

Not only should that give the Sixers confidence that they have the right coach in place, but it could also widen their options this offseason as they ponder how to spend up to roughly $65 million in salary-cap space.

Take Brandon Ingram, for instance. According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, the New Orleans Pelicans have already contacted the Sixers about a potential Ingram trade, and Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports reported the Sixers do have interest in him.

To some extent, it’s easy to see why. Ingram is one of only 10 players who averaged at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game in each of the past three seasons. Standing 6’8” with a 7’3” wingspan, he has the physical tools to wreak havoc defensively, even though that’s never been one of his strong suits. (His 190-pound frame doesn’t help in that regard.)

Ingram would also bring some major fit questions with him to Philadelphia. He shot 38.6 percent from deep on 6.2 attempts per game across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, but he knocked down only 35.4 percent of his 3.9 long-range shots per game over the past three years. He’s also missed at least 18 games in each of the past three seasons and hasn’t topped 65 games since his rookie year in 2016-17 (!), which is hardly ideal for a team built around an injury-prone center.

Oh, and Ingram is fresh off a horrific playoff showing—he averaged only 14.3 points on 34.5 percent shooting as the Oklahoma City Thunder swept him and the Pelicans out of the first round—and is a year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. According to Christian Clark of the Times-Picayune, the Pelicans aren’t keen on handing him the four-year, $208.5 million max extension that he’ll be eligible for this summer, which explains why they’re shopping him around.

So, why are the Sixers reportedly interested in Ingram? They might be less concerned about his perceived fit issues with Maxey and Embiid thanks to Nurse.

Ingram has long been a dismal pull-up three-point shooter, but he’s far more potent on catch-and-shoot attempts. He shot a blistering 42.5 percent on those looks between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, whereas he knocked down only 29.5 percent of his pull-up three-point attempts across that span. If Nurse could coax Ingram into cutting down his pull-up jumpers and taking a higher volume of catch-and-shoot triples each game, he might be able to unlock some untapped upside in the 26-year-old forward.

DeMar DeRozan is another potential Sixers target this offseason who’d come with major fit questions of his own. He’s an even lower-volume three-point shooter than Ingram, and his on/off splits were a glaring red flag throughout most of his tenure in Toronto. However, he’s been one of the NBA’s kings of crunch time over the past few seasons.

Nurse might be able to devise an offensive scheme that mitigates the spacing concerns DeRozan would bring to Philadelphia. By introducing foreign concepts such as off-ball movement this past season, he helped Embiid take a major leap as a passer. Who’s to say he couldn’t have a similarly positive effect with DeRozan, who has averaged 25.5 points on 49.6 percent shooting, 5.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds over the past three seasons with the Chicago Bulls?

The Sixers should keep Nurse and the rest of their coaching staff in mind while evaluating their offseason options. He doesn’t seem keen on offensive-minded players who are traffic cones on defense, which should give the Sixers pause before they spend major resources on someone who fits that mold. If they don’t have organizational alignment between their front office and coaching staff, they’ll be drawing dead from the jump.

But if Nurse believes he’d be able to get the best out of a particular player, fit issues be damned, that should give the front office more confidence as well. Acquiring that player might still be a gamble, but it might be an educated one thanks to Nurse and the rest of his coaching staff.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Spotrac and salary-cap information via RealGM.

Report: Clippers could be ‘calling [Paul George’s] bluff’ in contract talks report,clippers,could,be,calling,paul,george,s,bluff,in,contract,talks,liberty,ballers,front-page,76ers-analysis,76ers-free-agency-rumors-news

That’s a wrap on the NBA Season, and the dreaded Boston Celtics fans get to party in the streets for the 13th time since 1957.

If the Sixers want to beat a team with as much top-end firepower as the team that Danny Ainge (now with the Jazz, although he did most of the heavy lifting here), Mike Zarren and current President Brad Stevens have built, they’re going to need major reinforcements.

The name at the top of Daryl Morey’s wishlist is Clippers’ star Paul George. PG has a player option for the coming season worth $48.7M.

But we heard reports earlier this season that Steve Ballmer, by far the NBA’s richest owner worth an estimated $129.7B, was hesitant to allow his front office to offer PG more money than Kawhi Leonard on a potential extension.

Leonard, the two-time NBA Finals MVP, is the Clippers best player when healthy. But as Sixers fans know all too well, that “when healthy” distinction is kind of a big asterisk. PG, now 34, isn’t exactly an exemplar of perfect health himself, but he was the safer bet than Leonard to be healthy by playoff time. And he seems like the safer bet for the next three-four seasons as well.

On ESPN’s “Get UP” Monday, insider Brian Windhorst speculated on the latest from Clipperville:

“What is interesting to me is that is that the Clippers are very aware that somebody is going to offer [George] a four-year max contract. Whether that’s the 76ers or the Magic or a team could even trade for him. But there’s another thing with Paul George that I want to point out. He has an option in his contract. It’s known as ‘The Chris Paul Move.’ Where you come to a team and say ‘I’m either going to sign with this team over here, or you’re gonna pick up my option and trade me there.’ So even if you don’t have cap space, a team for example, like the New York Knicks. Okay, if they wanted Paul George they could say ‘okay, you could come to us, we’ll trade for you.’ You don’t have to sign him outright. Clippers know all this is gonna go on. And yet they’re still not making this offer. They’re still not [inaudible] to do this. And so if you get to July 1st, and the Clippers have done this, they’re gonna play hardball, that’s when you know he’s truly gonna be in the market. I suspect the Clippers read, at least on June 17th, is that they’re calling his bluff. They don’t actually think he’s gonna leave his hometown of L.A. to go to Philly or Orlando or some thing like that.”

This stalemate would seem to have begun back in January.

The Clippers essentially drew a line in the sand implying PG wasn’t deserving of what Kawhi was (three years, $152M) received last January, offering him less on an extension. PG wisely scoffed at the insulting, paltry bid. Now that miscalculation may bite them.

If George opts out, he is eligible to sign a four-year deal (the NBA’s “Over 38” rule forbids teams from offering him a fifth year) max deal worth up to roughly $221.1M. Possessing George’s Bird Rights, the Clips can offer the nine-time All-Star 8 percent raises, while all other teams can only offer 5 percent raises.

That means the Sixers can “only” offer George $212.5M over the same deal. Still, it’s only an $8.6M difference.

As one might expect in any ongoing negotiation, the PG-to-Philly barometer has swung a few times lately. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski back in May reported that, “The Clippers are determined to keep Paul George and James Harden in free agency, and the organization will move into the new, state-of-the-art Intuit Dome for the start of next season.”

But Windy is, more recently at least, singing a different tune.

Examining that Chris Paul opt-in-and-trade scenario (the kind Daryl Morey, while in Houston, once famously executed to rescue Chris Paul from Doc Rivers the Clips), with an expanding salary cap, it does seem PG could make more money long-term by opting in.

But he’d have to wait six months, and if any player knows that catastrophic injuries can occur, it’s PG, who broke his leg in multiple places back in 2014 during USA Team play.

If I were deciding between $212M today or waiting I’m not sure I’d want to risk playing from November through January for the additional ~$12M. Additionally, PG could learn the “Carmelo Anthony” lesson, and try to avoid depleting whichever new team he wants to play for of precious draft assets they’d need later to beat the Celtics.

So the best news here is that it appears the Clippers are still playing hardball with George. They’ve done nothing to suggest thus far that they feel he’s worth every penny of a max deal. As stellar as the quintessential triple-threat-3-and-D wing has been, with a new arena set to open, deciding he couldn’t make as much as Leonard, now trying to catch a bluff? It’s all pretty weird. Imagine how Kawhi would feel if they wound up letting him walk for nothing in return?

Is there any chance they’re pulling a bit of a 2023 version of the Morey-with-Harden, and sending these silent signals in hopes he opts in, so that they can make a blockbuster move? Unlike Beard, PG has max offers elsewhere tempting him not to do that.

The less good news for the Sixers here is this idea that PG could ultimately make more money by opting in, which could give him incentive to listen to pitches from contenders without cap space. Yuck.

The Sixers can spend up to $65M in cap. But if other teams can trade for him — with plans to extend him come January for even more than the max he’ll command in July — well, you can see the problem there. Miami? Cleveland? New York?

George, a CAA client shares an agent with Knicks’ star Jalen Brunson. The Knicks have been linked to PG in some reports too.

If PG felt Brunson is a safer bet than Embiid to be healthy come next year’s playoffs… maybe that throws a monkeywrench in the works for Morey — even if things fall apart with PG and the Clips.

But let’s focus on the good news for today. The Clippers appear to think that PG won’t leave, they certainly aren’t rolling out any red carpets like Morey is, and are perhaps “calling a bluff.” That would, I’d argue, mark the second time they’ve insulted him in five months. First, by deciding he’s not worth what Leonard was last January, and again now, knowing that other teams are prepared to drop a full stack, while they quibble over an amount that equates to about 0.17% of Ballmer’s total net worth.

Is Daryl Morey setting expectations too high for Sixers fans in free agency? is,daryl,morey,setting,expectations,too,high,for,sixers,fans,in,free,agency,liberty,ballers,front-page,76ers-analysis

A few weeks into last summer’s James Harden Trade Demand saga, Sixers president Daryl Morey went on the Anthony Gargano Show and revealed his long-term plan.

“What we’re attempting to do is have the best team possible this year, but also have the ability that, if we get into a next-season situation, to be a very unique team with the most cap room of a team that’s as good as us,” he said. “That’s a very unique situation to have.”

The Sixers now have the ability to create nearly $65 million in cap space this summer, which puts them in the neighborhood of the Detroit Pistons for the league lead. The Pistons certainly do not have an established MVP and a first-time All-Star as their top two players at the moment, so Morey is technically correct in that regard.

However, the Sixers aren’t the only playoff team with that type of flexibility this offseason. The Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder both aren’t far behind. And those two wouldn’t be the Sixers’ only threats for any stars that do become available.

Cole Anthony is Orlando’s highest-paid player under guaranteed contract next year at $12.9 million, as Jonathan Isaac’s $17.4 million contract is fully non-guaranteed until Jan. 10. Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs both become extension-eligible this summer, and Paolo Banchero will follow next offseason, so the Magic won’t have cap space for long. But they have the ability to carve out more than $65 million in spending power this year.

The Thunder can’t quite meet those same heights. They can create up to $37.8 million in cap space at most, barring any trades. Still, they’re fresh off a Western Conference-leading 57-win season and an appearance in the conference semifinals. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams all under contract for at least the next two years, there’s no better time for them to strike than now.

Unlike the Sixers, who enter the offseason with virtually no one under contract, the Magic and Thunder could each offer young fliers to sweeten sign-and-trade offers as well. Josh Giddey’s stock took a beating this season, especially in the playoffs, but he could be a second-draft candidate who thrives in a more ball-dominant situation elsewhere. Cole Anthony, Jett Howard and Anthony Black should all have at least some modicum of trade value, too.

All things being equal, win-now veterans would likely prefer to join Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey than Banchero and Wagner, and OKC can’t carve out max cap space. That should still put the Sixers in the lead for Paul George, LeBron James or any other star that decides to leave their team in free agency this summer.

However, some of the Sixers’ top targets aren’t even guaranteed to become free agents. They could pick up the player options in their respective contracts, which would widen their list of potential destinations thanks to the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement.

Teams over the first apron—projected to be $178.7 million in 2024-25—can’t acquire players via sign-and-trade. Among others, the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns all project to be over either the first or second apron next year, which would take them out of the running for any sign-and-trades unless they shed a significant amount of salary.

Anyone who picks up their player option rather than becoming a free agent wouldn’t have to worry about that. They’d just be subject to the league’s normal trade rules, which are far less restrictive for teams below both aprons. Teams above either apron aren’t allowed to take back more salary in a trade than they send out, and teams above the second apron can’t aggregate contracts in trades either. Meanwhile, teams below both aprons can take back 125 percent of the salary they send out plus $250,000 as long as they send out at least $29 million in salary.

Take Paul George, for instance. The Sixers’ Plan A, per Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. The Sixers and Magic could both afford to sign him to a max contract in free agency, although they wouldn’t be left with much cap space with which to round out their roster. Instead, George could pick up his player option and force his way to a specific destination via trade by threatening to leave the Clippers empty-handed in free agency if they didn’t comply.

That isn’t just baseless speculation, either. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested that as a legitimate possibility during a recent appearance on the Pat McAfee Show.

All of this is to say: It is far more likely than not that the Sixers will whiff on signing either George or James in free agency. That doesn’t mean that they’ll be doomed or that the cap-space plan was a mistake from the start, but it means Morey and the Sixers front office might have to get creative.

“I think the actual big transactions this summer will be trades,” Windhorst added on McAfee. “Teams taking on salary in trades. Philly, potentially, if they don’t get Paul George, try to trade for guys into their cap space.”

Brandon Ingram and Zach LaVine may be the more realistic high-end targets available to the Sixers this offseason. Whether they acquire either one will likely come down to asking price and offers from other teams. And if they strike out on all of their top options, Morey plans to sign players to shorter-term deals to maintain his flexibility for the next star that hits the market.

“The main mistake that could be made—that we won’t make—is if some of the better options don’t go our way,” Morey said at his end-of-season press conference. “Trade into our cap space, free agents, turn our draft picks into things. If all of those things don’t yield what we want, we are definitely not going to just sign for a lot of money some player who’s just an OK player. That’s not happening. Because that will be where we can’t continue to build a contender around Joel and Tyrese. In those scenarios, we’ll be doing shorter deals and then using our draft picks to set ourselves up for trades or set ourselves up for the next opportunity when it comes.”

That’s all well and good, but it’s clear that the Sixers plan to go star-hunting this summer. Morey telegraphed it during his end-of-season presser, and reporting since then has confirmed it.

”Philadelphia, according to league sources, views its opportunity this summer as something just shy of Golden State’s rare opening to sign Durant as a free agent without the league’s cap smoothing in 2016,” Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported in late May. “Teams with an MVP and an All-Star can’t typically afford to sign a maximum-salary third banana into room, while holding other avenues to spend and mid-level levers to pull, plus a cupboard of draft picks. The penalties baked into the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement are almost designed to dissuade that exact coalition.”

The Durant signing led the Warriors to win two straight championships and make it to a third straight Finals before Durant and Klay Thompson both suffered major leg injuries. The Sixers would be lucky to make a single Finals thanks to whatever they do this offseason. It’s clear that they’re aiming high, though, which means they’re setting themselves up for criticism and setting fans up for disappointment if they come up short.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Spotrac and salary-cap information via RealGM.