Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): It's a huge summer for the Philadelphia 76ers as Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are unrestricted free agents, not to mention JJ Redick. How free agency unfolds will go a long way towards determining whether or not Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will be contending for a title next summer.
Given all of the moving pieces and possibilities, it's impossible to predict what will happen. So instead, let's talk about what they should try to do this summer.
You're 76ers GM Elton Brand ... what do you do?
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): The priority has to be to re-sign Butler, right? He was too valuable to them in the playoffs for them to let him walk.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I'd try to run it back. I think people forget how close the 76ers were to beating the eventual champion Raptors. Despite their apparent chemistry issues, they pushed the Raps harder and further than any other team did. Yes, Butler and Harris sort of cancel each other out and Ben Simmons floated for much of the series against Toronto, but I'm a firm believer in if you're close figure out a way to get it done.
You have to trust Brett Brown. If you're Elton Brand and believe he's the right coach, he needs to get them all on the same page when it matters most.
Rafferty: I'm not 100% sure they need to bring Harris back. It would hurt to see him go after they gave up three draft picks, plus Landry Shamet, to acquire him at the trade deadline, but he's overqualified to be the fourth option.
Adams: They should offer the full max in both years and money to Butler, and hope that he says yes. I agree that they should try to bring the whole crew back, but Butler is the key to it all. I'd argue that Redick might be more important than Harris, despite the king's ransom they gave up in order to get him.
The scary part of watching how the playoffs unfolded was the degree to which they relied on Butler. In my mind, that Butler is this vital speaks volumes about Ben Simmons and where he's at as a legitimate, dependable creator.
Rafferty: That's why I think they have to re-sign Butler, too, no matter what it takes. He basically became their point guard in the second round, with Simmons playing more off-ball.
Adams: And by off-ball you mean standing in the dunker spot and nothing else.
Rafferty: Yeah, basically.
Gay: I think we all agree on Butler, no argument here. Harris is where we differ. I think Harris allows the team to have off nights. It also allows the team to not depend on health as much, and we know that's been an issue in Philly outside of Simmons and Reddick.
With Harris there, Embiid and Butler can load manage and they don't lose anything offensively.
Rafferty: I guess the other thing with Harris is that if they do re-sign him, they could eventually trade him. They could get a good return on him down the road.
Adams: He dropped 29 and 16 in that game in the 1st Round that Embiid missed. There's no question he's overqualified as a fourth guy and is a big-time talent.
Gay: I don't think he's overqualified. I think he's perfect for the fourth role on a championship team. Can he be better than a fourth option? No doubt he's proven that, but we're talking about winning a ring here. Harris as your second-best guy isn't a recipe for success. I think in a perfect world, having Harris as a 6th man in Philly would be great, à la Manu Ginobili or James Harden.
Rafferty: Maybe, but you're not paying someone the max to be a 6th man, right? In which case, Harris is probably gone.
Gay: If OKC had done it...
Adams: So we all agree they should bring back Butler. But what if they don't. Let's play out the scenario in which he leaves. That leaves them in a pretty bad spot, right?
Gay: No Butler, no championship. No matter which way you slice it. The same way it would be in Toronto if Kawhi Leonard leaves. Joel Embiid is good enough to lead, Butler is the perfect 1B. I think this is more about whether or not Simmons can get to a Kobe/Pippen level, and I think this postseason showed he's too limited to do so.
Maybe I'm saying that Simmons is the fourth/fifth option if they brought everyone back...
Adams: If Butler leaves, the clock starts to tick on Simmons.
Gay: It's already started. If he had any semblance of an outside game, we're looking at the 76ers in the East Finals.
Adams: I can't believe I'm saying this about a soon-to-be 23-year-old, 6-foot-9 point guard that's already an All-Star ... but if they bring back Butler, should they consider moving Simmons?
If Butler and Embiid (and potentially Harris) are doing the serious heavy lifting, wouldn't you rather have the multiple pieces that Simmons could fetch instead of Simmons himself?
Rafferty: What do you think the 76ers could get for him?
It also seems crazy that we're doing this already with him, but I get it.
Gay: I'm not ready to say you need to trade him, but Elton does need to build the team in a way that hides his deficiency in the playoffs. Simmons will help you win 50-plus games, but the playoffs is their worry. I think the best way to do that is secure more shooting some way some how. In 2018, when Simmons was surrounded by guys like Ersan Illyasova and Marco Belinelli, he looked his best.
Also don't do that, saying they should trade Simmons. Come on.
Rafferty: Him and Embiid aren't the smoothest of fits together, though.
Adams: When Philly's season was on the line, Simmons was literally standing on the block watching everything unfold. He wasn't a threat off the ball, he wasn't out on the break running. To me it seems like the longer they wait to explore moving him, the more they risk seeing his stock drop.
It's not unreasonable to think they could get two high level starters and a future pick for him. They could get someone to defend point guards. They could get another wing. They could get something like that Miami unprotected 1st Round pick they gave up to get Harris.
Gay: I just don't think you should give up on him. Simmons has deficiencies offensively we get that, but I also think Brett Brown and the staff could've figured out a way to make him useful offensively.
Rafferty: So are Butler, Redick and Harris the answer? They need Redick's shooting and Butler's playmaking. Harris I'm iffy on.
Adams: Run it back. Figure the rest out later.
Those four bounces on the rim don't happen, there's a good chance we aren't even having this debate because they would have all already agreed to come back after winning the 2019 NBA title.
Gay: Run it right back. When you're this close you don't give up. Just ask the Houston Rockets.
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