On Tuesday, the Philadelphia 76ers announced that Joel Embiid had undergone surgery on both hands. It’s no secret that the torn ligament in his right thumb he suffered in Game 3 of the first round of the NBA playoffs against Toronto required repair. The other was described by the team as a “procedure to repair the injury to his left index finger,” somewhat surprising.
While neither program is expected to affect Embiid’s time at training camp, he needs to play basketball with both hands. For Embiid, who has made the most of the summer in recent years, the absence of offseason skill work is notable.
This is not the only news. As expected, the Brooklyn Nets also delayed a first-round pick that the Sixers owe them until next year, when it will be unprotected. Their deadline for making that decision is Wednesday. As a result, the 76ers now have the 23rd overall pick in the draft later this month. They could trade that pick, but only on draft night.
With those household items out of the way, let’s get to the second half of your question. The first part of the pouch can be found here.
Would the 76ers get better if Daryl Morey traded Simmons to the Kings or Pacers and we had a couple of young athletic players and a couple of other firsts? I know he’s in love with Harden, but he’s a shadow of himself. I believe there were alternative trades available earlier in the season. — Matthew S.
It depends on what’s available to the Sixers we may never know. I do think it would be fair if the Sixers traded for a player with a lower stature than Harden if they still had two first-round picks. Of course this is important.
Looking back on the Harden trade, I have two thoughts. The prevailing view is to look back at the deal and the buyer blames it, which is certainly understandable. When the 76ers traded Harden, the thinking was that he had to be good enough to help the 76ers compete for a championship right now. That didn’t happen in Year 1, and his handling of the second half of the Sixers’ knockout game was worrisome. The lows are pretty low, and in order to keep Harden, the 76ers must at least make a semi-recovery from someone who has played a lot of basketball in his career and turns 33 in August. That’s not an ideal location.
In retrospect, there are still elements of the deal that I find understandable. Ben Simmons’ situation puts the Sixers in a bind, and his trade value doesn’t come close to matching his on-court value. We know he’s never going to play for the Sixers again, and the entire basketball world is begging Morey to take any action and not waste Embiid’s prime. Of the available trade options, I still believe Harden gave them the most upside last season.
Harden sliced and dipped Toronto for a good portion of that series and won a game against Miami with incredible shooting, and he still has the ability to perform well. He just couldn’t sustain that level of performance and fell off a cliff when he didn’t. Can someone like Tyrese Haliburton (from one of the teams you mentioned) lead the Sixers past Miami? I don’t think so, maybe they lost in the first round. Ultimately, the “don’t waste an Embiid prime” statement might be a little too loud when, in reality, the Sixers are dealing with such limited options. But the Sixers could be better off with Haliburton instead of Harden.
At the end of the day, a lot depends on how Harden reacts over the next few years. In the NBA, things can change quickly. If Harden can find Chris Paul’s fountain of youth, or choose a way to adjust his game and play complementary basketball around Embiid and Maxey, the deal would still be well worth it. All it takes is a deep playoff game. But if the Sixers give Harden an Albatross contract and/or his game continues to deteriorate — and there’s reason to wonder if Harden will improve his game at this stage of his career — it would be disastrous result. Time will prove everything.
Will they be able to trade Danny Green’s contract as a “fake” contract with his non-guarantor? — Rick M.
It’s a good reminder that even though Green’s injury was overlooked in the Sixers’ disappointing Game 6, it’s an important move into the offseason. So much post-series analysis boils down to the Sixers needing more players who can survive a playoff series, and of the role players, Green is the best. With Green facing a long recovery, the Sixers fell back to 4.5 from last season’s playoff rotation (if the backup center is included, a bit of a role). This is not enough.
The date Green guarantees his 2022-23 salary is July 1, the first day of free agency.John Hollinger sports Inform me that the 76ers have to guarantee Green’s salary to get the money back in the trade. The possibility of a “fake contract” (a cap flexibility measure for any interested partners) appears to be closed, although Green could still theoretically be dealt with for wage matching.
Is there a realistic way to take advantage of the full mid-level exception? If yes, who would be potential targets? — Nick D.
I won’t get into the target right now, but the 76ers could get a non-taxpayer or taxpayer mid-level exception this offseason. With their first-round picks now available and being counted, the Sixers have roughly $145 million in funding for 13 roster spots. That number would include them dropping Green, though the biggest domino in that prediction is Harden picking his $47 million player option. If the 76ers can lower Harden’s salary cap to a more reasonable figure, like a $30 million long-term deal — which appears to be a compromise from outside of Philadelphia, it’s an extension of Paul’s last year An endorsement, though it’s still a matter of seeing what happens — that turns into $128 million for 13 players.
The main thing to remember about using the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception (expected to be around $10.3 million to run up to four seasons) is that using it will get your team on the tax tarmac for the entire season Hard cap. The apron is projected to be $155 million this season, so if the Sixers cut Green and cut Harden’s cap, they could achieve a full mid-level. That’s why the Harden negotiation is important. And that’s before taking into account any other moves the 76ers might make. It depends on the rest of the offseason and how Morey shapes the roster, but an additional bid for the mid-level exception could be a key tool for the Sixers to strengthen their rotation.
Is the 76ers’ biggest mistake in the past few years passing to Jayson Tatum and Mikal Bridges? — John S.
In the first part of the mailbag, I welcome some of the positivity added by Tyrese Maxey and the upgrades he needs to make. Now let’s go the other way.
It’s a question I’ve gotten regularly over the years because it’s something fans and anyone who follows this team often think about. There are many bugs to choose from. This list tends to change as the seasons build up. Selecting strictly from the personnel changes on the floor — I don’t expect Sam Hinkie to be replaced by Colangelos, though it’s arguably the most important decision — I have two top spots. The move to trade away Bridges was a huge mistake, but it ranks slightly below my first two decisions. There is a valid reason for star chasing that didn’t produce stars when taking this action. You could argue that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the next pick, would be a better choice.
Then there are the top two, who are ranked so high because they both hurt the Sixers and help their opponents. The Markelle Fultz trade is obvious, and it’s worth noting that Boston appears to be ahead of the curve throughout this assessment. If the Celtics knew they’d take Jayson Tatum, I don’t believe the Sixers would have gotten the pick because he’s considered a better prospect than Fultz. The 76ers were completely bankrupt, and their opponents acquired a top-10 player in the league along with an additional first-round pick. It was a serious chain of events and a big reason why Boston made it to the NBA Finals and the Sixers couldn’t get out of the second round.
Fultz’s transfer has been my personal No. 1 for a long time, but Jimmy Butler’s passing is now at the same level, if not leading. I’m part of a “Run It Back” supporter, but do have reservations about giving Butler a fifth-year contract. Three years on, Butler is still a top-10 playoff player with a rare ability to play better basketball when it matters most. He just rubbed the Sixers in the face this postseason.
Like the Fultz/Tatum fiasco, Butler’s decision hurt the Sixers in two parts. What if the Sixers kept Butler and traded Ben Simmons in 2019? While it wasn’t a move I advocated at the time, there were early signs that Simmons’ fatal playoff flaw would not be addressed in a Sixers jersey. I think it would be easier for the Sixers to trade Simmons at that stage of his career under Butler.
Should we start viewing Embiid as a flawed playoff player? I think he needs to take a step back on offense and trust his team more. His defense is great, but I don’t think it’s just bad luck that kept him out of the Western Conference finals. — Sam D.
I believe Embiid still needs to prove he can be the first choice for a team that can make the playoffs. But do we think his team has proven all this trustworthy over the past few years? Simmons missed a dunk in the biggest moments of last season. Harden and the Sixers lack depth this season.
To be fair, Embiid’s doom was far more than his share. Although the Sixers were disappointed late in the game against Miami, it was a 2-2 series when Embiid was on the floor. He missed two games because he was elbowed in the face when he was substituted in a burst. That, and his fingers got caught in the jersey, just bad luck.
I don’t want to sound too much like an apologist. Embiid will likely admit he has more to prove at the highest level. But it’s hard for me to blame him for what happened to the Sixers in the past playoffs. His return so soon is the only reason the Miami series has been played in six games.
(Photo by Tobias Harris, Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid: Rick Madonik / Toronto Star via Getty Images)