The 76ers played the most depressing game of chicken in NBA history with Ben Simmons during the first two-thirds of the season before trading him along with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round draft picks to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden and Paul Millsap. James Harden happily joined the 76ers, the supposed Robin to Joel Embiid’s Batman, and everything went according to plan at first. The 76ers concluded the regular season going 16-8 after the All-Star break and were a dark horse pick to win the title. Then they lost for the second season in a row in the Eastern Conference Semis to the Heat, regressing with Harden in and Simmons out.
The 76ers ostracized Ben Simmons for the way he played hot potato with the ball during last years playoffs, only to see James Harden follow the same route, averaging a sad 5.3 points per game off only 5.3 field goal attempts during the second half of each contest against the Heat. Joel Embiid wasn’t much better in the Semifinals, turning into a massive ball hog, averaging only 1.8 assists versus 3.0 turnovers per game as he slogged his way toward a 19.8 PPG nightly average against Miami’s swarming defense.
Despite The 76ers disappearing act against the Heat, they head into the offseason set up incredibly well for the future. They have almost-MVP Joel Embiid locked up for the foreseeable future, and they’re stocked with several excellent young players—Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and Shake Milton — on cheap deals.
At the same time, they have a giant James Harden question they’ll have to address this summer, and Tobias Harris’s massive contract is wrecking their cap space. The 76ers will be one of the most interesting teams to watch this offseason.
Here, we’ll examine the 76ers players’ status for next season and decide what the front office should do with each member of the team.
Joel Embiid - $33.6 Million
Entering Final Season Of A 5-Year, $148 Million Contract, Signed a 4-Year, $196 Million Supermax Extension August 17, 2021, Which Will Kick In During The 2023-24 Season
Whenever a close family member leaves you, there are only two likely reactions; a deep longing that turns into a hole inside your chest, or a mix of indifference and blah that slowly becomes a feeling of joy. After Joel Embiid was struck by Raptors forward Pascal Siakam during the First Round of the playoffs, leaving him concussed with an orbital fracture, he was sidelined for the first two games of the 76ers’ Second Round series against the Heat. Philadelphia was trounced by Miami, suffering two double-digit losses as Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo overwhelmed them.
The Philadelphia 76ers didn't just miss their superstar big man; they had a gaping hole swirling inside their chest. Joel Embiid surprisingly returned for games three and four and led the 76ers to two convincing wins over Miami. And all was right in the City of Brotherly Love. Then, the Miami Heat demolished the 76ers in game five 120-85 as Joel Embiid passively watched Jimmy Butler take over for Miami while he even more passively refused to take over for Philly, scoring a measly 17 points off 12 field goal attempts during the most important game of his career. Then during game six, Joel Embiid switched gears and overcompensated for his earlier passivity by storming recklessly through double and even triple teams on his way to 7-24 shooting night as his 76ers were ushered out of the Eastern Conference Semis in their own building.
This is all so confusing. Is Joel Embiid the missing piece to the 76ers championship puzzle, a genuine difference-maker who proved his MVP-ness as his squad crumbled in games one and two without him and then won games three and four with him? Or, after the Heat crushed the lifeless 76ers with Embiid in the lineup during games five and six, did it become obvious we crowned him the NBA’s “True MVP” too soon?
Joel Embiid averaged 23.6 PPG during the playoffs and only 19.8 PPG in four contests against the Heat, not exactly awe-inspiring numbers. And his 76ers quietly exited the playoffs without even making the NBA’s final four again.
At the same time, Embiid is playing with a torn ligament in his thumb, a broken face, and could still be feeling the lingering remnants of Siakam’s elbow to the head. No matter how you view Embiid’s playoff performance compared to his otherworldly regular season heroics, he’s a surefire top-5 player in the NBA and worth every penny of his upcoming four-year supermax extension. His presence alone will ensure the 76ers “process” days are far behind them for the foreseeable future.
James Harden - $47.4 Million (Player Option)
Entering Final Season Of A 4-Year $171 Million Supermax Extension
James Harden has sparked a debate that has been storming across the internet for weeks now. The pro-Harden faction admits he can’t score the way he used to but fully believes he’s still a valuable player whose passing and isolation skills are incredibly useful. The other half wholly disagrees that Harden is a valuable player, using his low shooting percentages and ineffective defense as their proof.
James Harden’s career playoff resume is littered with early exits. He’s never come close to winning a title, and he’s never made the Finals as his team’s number one option. Harden’s 2022 postseason didn’t help his case, either. He averaged 18.6 PPG while shooting 40.5% from the field across 12 playoff games for the 76ers. And with Embiid sidelined during Philadelphia’s first two contests of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, The Beard scored 16 points (5-13 shooting) in game one, followed by 20 points (6-15 shooting) in game two.
James Harden’s days of strapping his team on his back and carrying them to victory are long gone. He’s clearly lost two steps this season, his shooting figures have plummeted (41.0 FG% and 33.0 3P%), and he’s a negative defender.
Still, Harden is an elite floor general. He’s a passing maestro who can drop an easy 25 points on any given night. He’s also shown a nice pick-and-roll chemistry with Joel Embiid, and while he’s too slow to lockdown speedier guards on the perimeter, he’s no Trae Young style pushover on the less fun end.
Whichever way you land on the James Harden debate, it’s nearly impossible to argue he’ll be worth $47.4 million next year, and it’s even more difficult to argue the 76ers should hand him a new max contract. James Harden could opt into his massive player option for next season and test the free agency waters in 2023, but there are risks with that strategy. His overall skill set could further decline next season, tanking his asking price for his next contract. At the same time, the 76ers traded All-Star Ben Simmons for Harden, and would hate to walk away empty-handed from that deal if The Beard decides to move on for the third time in three years, next summer.
James Harden and the 76ers would both benefit from sitting down this offseason and hashing out a reasonable multi-year contract; three years at $80 million seems fair for both sides.
Tobias Harris - $37.6 Million
Entering 4th Season Of A 5-Year, $180 Million Contract (2022-23: 37.6 Million, 2023-24: $39.3 Million)
Tobias Harris’s agent is his father, Torrel Harris. Torrel Harris represents precisely two players, his son, and Kelly Oubre Jr. While Torrel Harris is a real-life human being, his career is epically similar to Jerry Maguire’s, the movie sports agent who left his massive agency to make a difference by himself. McGuire’s selling point for the few athletes interested in staying with him as he transitioned to his own boutique firm was simple; he’d shower them with his full attention, really getting to know them and helping maximize their value.
Torrel Harris never left a top-tier agency, but the second part of the equation is oddly similar. He has indeed showered his son with his Jerry Maguire-esque full attention, and he has indeed helped him maximize his value, guiding Tobias Harris toward a massive five-year, $180 million contract with the Clippers although he’s never come close to making the All-Star team, he has a 36.7% career three-point mark; he has a career -0.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus, and he can’t create his own shot with regularity in the half-court.
Despite Harris’s none All-Star numbers on an All-Star contract, he’s a solid athlete who plays well off Joel Embiid, helping spread the floor for his big man while cutting hard to the basket and hitting timely mid-range jumpers. The 76ers certainly don’t hate having Tobias Harris in their starting lineup, but they’d also certainly love to escape the $80 million-ish they owe him over the next two seasons. Philadelphia would be wise to dangle Harris in the trade market during the offseason and see if any teams bite for some combination of a backup center, a more defensive-minded power forward, and another 3-and-D wing.
Tyrese Maxey - $2.7 Million
Entering 3rd Season Of A 4-Year, $12.1 Million Rookie Contract (2022-23: $2.7 Million, 2023-24: $4.3 Million Team Option)
Is Tyrese Maxey the best bargain in the NBA? Desmond Bane might push Maxey down to second place on the best bargain contract leaderboard, but they’re close.
Tyrese Maxey averaged 17.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, and 4.3 APG while shooting 42.7% from deep during the 2021-22 regular season, all while earning less than $3 million, a contract figure that ranks 57th among all NBA point guards. The good and cheap days will continue into next season for the 76ers, with Maxey set to earn a measly $2.7 million, a figure that will land him somewhere around the 60th highest paid point guard in the league.
Tyrese Maxey’s statistics were excellent for a second-year player, but he was also one of the most malleable athletes in the NBA, a player who took over the 76ers primary playmaking duties with ease during the early stages of the season as starting point guard Ben Simmons went on strike. And when the 76ers acquired James Harden at the trade deadline, Maxey slid into the shooting guard spot, working more as a spot-up threat from deep, nailing 48.0% of his triples after the All-Star break off 5.3 attempts per game.
Tyrese Maxey is the type of player championships are built upon. A young potential All-Star on a steal of a deal who is good enough to start for a contender while soaking up next to none of the 76ers cap space.
Danny Green - $10.0 Million
Entering Final Season Of A 2-Year, $20 Million Contract
Can I be honest with you? Danny Green has always been one of my favorite players. I love the way he seems to not care at all, while actually caring a great deal. Green’s demeanor never changes. He can hit the game-winner or clank 15 long distance shots in a row. It doesn’t matter. He never smiles or frowns. In this day and age where it seems like superstars are either showboating after hitting a big shot or griping to the refs after a non-call, Danny Green’s equanimity sticks out like a red rose somehow growing out of a crack in your driveway.
The ugly knee injury Danny Green suffered during the 76ers’ game six loss to the Miami Heat will be more than a blip for Philly next season if he ends up missing significant time with a torn ACL or MCL. Sure, Danny Green is a career 39.9% three-point shooter who routinely locks up the opposing squad’s top wing scorer. But, his calm veteran leadership is a soothing balm for his teammates during the long and punishing season.
Georges Niang - $3.5 Million
Entering Final Season Of A 2-Year, $6.8 Million Contract
Georges Niang averaged 9.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, and 1.3 APG while hitting 40.3% of his triples through 22.8 nightly minutes during the regular season. Niang, at 6-7, 230-pounds, took on a bench enforcer role for the 76ers, throwing his weight around and scowling. Yet, for all his enforcer vibes, he didn’t actually lock down his assignments. Niang allowed his covers to shoot 2.0% over their typical field goal percentage and ended the season with a -1.1 Defensive Box Plus/Minus.
Still, you can’t argue with Georges Niang’s three-point ability and his cheap 2022-23 contract. Overall, he’s a plus for the 76ers and should find a similar 20 minutes per game role next season in Philadelphia.
Matisse Thybulle - $4.4 Million
Entering Final Season Of A 4-Year, $12.5 Million Rookie Contract
If you’re an NBA fan, you know Matisse Thybulle’s story. He’s a non-factor on offense (5.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, and 31.3 3P% in 2021-22) but a top-5 perimeter defender.
Here’s a quick breakdown of Thybulle’s 2021-22 defensive metrics:
He was 5th among all guards in Defensive Field Goal Percentage at 40.7% (minimum 8 DFGA per game).
He was 1st in the NBA in Steal Percentage at 3.4%.
He was 4th in the NBA in Deflections at 3.8 per game.
He was third in the NBA in Defensive Box Plus/Minus at 3.3.
Matisse Thybulle is a tornado on the less fun end, a defender who terrorizes his assignments in one-on-one coverage, jumps passing lanes with his Gumby arms, and plays top-10 help D. In a league where top-tier perimeter defenders are crucial, Thybulle’s skill set is at a premium. This summer, he’s entering the final season of his rookie contract, and the 7ers would be wise to lock him up on a substantial multi-year contract.
Shake Milton - $2.0 Million (Team Option)
After averaging a solid 13.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 35.0 3P% in 2020-21, Shake Milton backslid a bit this season with a myriad of minor injuries and a positive COVID-19 test. Milton averaged 8.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 32.3 3P% while playing in only 55 games for the 76ers in 2021-22.
Despite Milton’s poor three-point shooting during the regular season and his inability to create for his teammates, he holds value as a potential vacuum scorer off the bench for the 76ers next year and beyond. Philadelphia should secure Milton on something like a three-year, $10 million deal this summer.
Paul Reed - $1.8 Million
Entering Final Season Of A 3-Year, $3.9 Million Rookie Contract
Paul Reed averaged 3.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG, and 0.4 BPG while playing in only 38 games during the 2021-22 season. Reed will enter his third campaign next year and hasn’t been able to carve out a significant role on the 76ers as a backup center for Joel Embiid.
Paul Reed has one year left on his rookie contract and based on his first two seasons in the league, it’s difficult to see him making the leap in 2022-23. The 76ers will most likely let him play out the final year of his deal next year and let him walk, another second-round draft pick causality.
Furkan Korkmaz - $5.0 Million
Entering 2nd Season Of A 3-Year, $15.0 Million Contract (2022-23: $5.0 Million, 2023-24: $5.4 Million)
Furkan Korkmaz was a mainstay in the 76ers regular season rotation, averaging 7.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 28.9 3P% across 21.1 minutes per contest, and a non-member of the playoff rotation averaging only 6.8 minutes per game while seeing court time in only nine out of 12 contests.
Korkmaz’s shoddy three-point stroke and his inability to play above-average defense make him a difficult player to rely on during the win-or-go-home nature of the NBA’s second season. Still, he’s good enough to soak up regular season minutes next season, especially if Danny Green misses significant time next season with a knee injury.
DeAndre Jordan - Unrestricted Free Agent
The 76ers acquired DeAndre Jordan towards the end of the season and learned the lesson the Mavs, Knicks, Nets, and Lakers were each taught at some point over the last four years: Jordan, 33, can’t move at basketball speed anymore. DeAndre Jordan saw only three games of postseason action for the 76ers, and it’s safe to say he won’t be back in Philly next season.
Paul Millsap - Unrestricted Free Agent
Paul Millsap came to the 76ers at the trade deadline with James Harden and played only 106 total regular season minutes and 5.6 total playoff minutes. Millsap is a class act and a former four-time All-Star, but at 36-years-old, his time in the NBA might be at an end.
Charles Bassey - $1.6 Million
Entering 2nd Season Of A 3-Year, $4.3 Million Rookie Contract (2022-23: $1.6 Million, 2023-24: $1.8 Million)
The 76ers selected Charles Bassey with the 53rd pick in the 2021 NBA draft and proceeded to shove him toward the end of the bench, giving him 168 mostly garbage time minutes during the season. Bassey is your typical athletic-as-hell and raw-as-hell late-round rookie who’ll have two more years to prove himself in Philly.
Isaiah Joe - $1.8 Million
Entering Final Season Of A 3-Year, $4.2 Million Rookie Contract
Isaiah Joe played a scant, albeit regular role for the 76ers last season, averaging 3.6 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.6 APG, and 33.3% from deep across 55 games. You could argue Joe was a more effective player than Shake Milton last season.
Isaiah Joe shot the ball better from deep, and his defensive metrics were similarly ugly. The 76ers should let Isaiah Joe play out the final season of his contract, and if Shake Milton struggles again next season, they should give him a more prominent role off the bench and see how he performs.
Jaden Springer - $2.1 Million
Entering 2nd Season Of A 4-Year, $10.4 Million Contract (2022-23: $2.1 Million, 2023-24: $2.2 Million Team Option, 2024-25: $4.0 Million Team Option)
Rookie Jaden Springer spent most of his time during the 2021-22 season playing for the 76ers G-League affiliate. However, he found himself on Philly’s playoff roster, and after averaging 14.9 PPG off a 46.4% clip from the field in the minors, he could find himself in the big leagues next season as a full-time player.
Joel Embiid And James Harden Are Both At Fault For The 76ers Playoff Collapse
The biggest question for the Philadelphia 76ers this summer will be whether they should offer a max contract to James Harden. He is clearly not the same player he was in Houston and Joel Embiid already seems tired of him. The 76ers could play chess with Harden during the offseason and push him into accepting his 2022-23 player option to see if he can regain some of the old juice in his legs throughout the first half of the season. And if Harden struggles again, Philly could dangle him to a contender at the trade deadline for a few role players who are a better fit with Joel Embiid.
Speaking of Joel Embiid. He recently told the world he is the real MVP. He asked what else he was supposed to do to be recognized as the number one player in the NBA. We have the answers. First, he needs to lead his talented Philadelphia 76ers squad to the best record in the league. Second, he needs to be more mature in his relationships with his teammates and stop throwing them under the bus every time he loses a playoff series. Third, and most importantly, he needs to at least reach the NBA Finals.
Joel Embiid needs to stop losing his patience with his teammates and look within himself. Hakeem Olajuwon led the Rockets to two championships during the 90s without another All-Star on his team. Embiid's biggest Eastern Conference rivals have also found more success than him. Giannis has a ring, Jimmy Butler is on his way to his second Eastern Conference Finals in the last three years, and even Jayson Tatum and the Celtics are rising. Joel Embiid is joined by an assortment of talented players on Philadelphia, yet he can’t make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Embiid needs to look within himself this summer and if he returns a wiser man next year he has a chance to lead the 76ers to the NBA Finals.