The futures of James Harden, Doc Rivers, and even reigning MVP Joel Embiid are at stake heading into the 2023 offseason for Philadelphia.
Jayson Tatum missed 13 of his first 14 shots in Game 6 of the Boston Celtics‘ second-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers. The door was wide open for Philly, who had won two games in Boston, to close out the Celtics and make its first conference finals in 22 years.
We all know what happened next.
Tatum got hot, the Sixers blew the game, and then were embarrassed in Game 7 by 24, which included a 33-5 Boston run after the game was tied at 55, to end another disappointing season that somehow stings even worse than in years past with a clear path to the NBA Finals. Regular season MVP Joel Embiid scored 15 points on 18 shots on Sunday, James Harden scored nine points on 11 shots, and head coach Doc Rivers continued his abysmal record in close-out playoff games.
There are many questions to be answered in Philadelphia, but this may be the biggest: Is anything off the table for the Sixers this offseason?
Doc Rivers, who lost five straight Game 7s as a coach, is certainly on the chopping block. But Philly’s issues this offseason are way deeper than who draws up plays and calls timeouts. Harden has a $35.6 million player option for this summer, taking a team-friendly pay cut after declining a $47.4 million player option last offseason. With whispers of a return to Houston as a possibility, it’s possible Embiid loses his co-star for nothing after yet again wilting in big postseason moments.
While Embed won MVP and Harden changed his game and led the league in assists during the regular season, Tyrese Maxey was the team’s ceiling raiser. The 22-year-old combo guard averaged more than 20 points per game during the regular season and shot 43.4% from three. He’ll be a restricted free agent after next season and deserves a max level extension that would hamper the Sixers’ offseason flexibility.
Georges “Bang Bang” Niang shot over 40% from three this season and will get a significant raise in unrestricted free agency this summer, as will Shake Milton and Paul Reed. Philadelphia will probably try to trade Tobias Harris again, who has one year and $39.2 million left on his contract. Player options for Danuel House and Montrezl Harrell will also test the team’s depth.
When I said anything could be on the table, what’s preventing Embiid from looking around, seeing that this isn’t working, and requesting a trade, especially if Harden leaves? Embiid has three years and $151.6 million remaining on his contract, but could you blame him if he felt frustrated?
After another disappointing season when things looked like they were all coming together, it’s yet to be seen whether the 76ers can keep the band together or come completely undone. It will certainly be fascinating to watch from afar.
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