PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- As the NBA season nears its conclusion with the Finals kicking off next week, Sixers fans are left with a lot of questions heading into the summer. One of the most prominent being: What will this team look like next season?
Three of the Sixers’ five starters are slated to become free agents in a few weeks. Jimmy Butler is likely to decline his player option and J.J. Redick and Tobias Harris’ contracts are up. In order to bring back the same crew that pushed Toronto to the brink in Game 7 of the second round, the team would likely need to go deep into the luxury tax. The question is, will ownership be willing to do so?
“Josh Harris has said repeatedly that they are OK with paying the luxury tax,” said Bleacher Report NBA writer Yaron Weitzman. “But, Tillman Fertitta, the Rockets owner, said that also and the Rockets then had to make moves to get under the luxury tax. So we’ll see. Billionaires don’t become billionaires by not worrying about every dollar. That said, Sixers ownership is funky and they want to win and they’re invested. I would be very surprised if they say they don’t want to pay the luxury tax.”
Even if the team is willing to go into the tax, there’s no guarantee that Butler and Harris want to stay in Philly. But, Weitzman believes that the stars would be willing if the team is.
“I think if they don’t mess around and offer what are essentially max contracts to both Harris and Butler, I think they’ll come back,” said Weitzman.
If the stars do come back, they will have the same coach as the team announced earlier this month that Brett Brown would be staying on as head coach after speculation that he might be fired with a Game 7 loss to the Raptors. There has been plenty of debate about Brown and his abilities as a head coach and Weitzman counts himself among those who has been more critical of the Sixers leader over the years. But, the playoffs changed his mind a bit.
“I’m sometimes more critical of Brett Brown than others are. But, I say that to say I think he coached really well in the playoffs,” said Weitzman. “He made really good adjustments in the Nets series. In the Raptors series he put [Joel] Embiid on [Pascal] Siakam. Brett Brown has said for years that ‘pass is king.’ They don’t want to run pick and rolls, they want to move the ball around. In the playoffs he changed that and Jimmy Butler became their best offensive player.”
“I think he grew over the year. He struggled in the beginning, but who wouldn’t with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler — that is a lot of big personalities,” continued Weitzman. “To mesh those personalities is difficult. You saw it with Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler. Maybe we shouldn’t give Brett Brown credit for that but Embiid and Butler by the end of the year were getting along really well. I think that is huge for them going forward.”
The next key date for the Sixers will be the NBA Draft, which is set for Thursday, June 20. The team has one first-round pick and four second-rounders with which you could certainly see some dealing from general manager Elton Brand. After that, it’s up to Brand and the owners to convince Butler and Harris to say when free agency negotiations get underway on June 30 at 6 p.m.