Like most summers in the NBA, the 2019 edition was chock full of trades, free agent news and player movement. From the defending-champion Toronto Raptors to just about every other team in the league, change was the most applicable word when it came to describing team rosters for the 2019-20 season.
With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- in order of regular-season finish from 2018-19 -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days.
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Today's team: Philadelphia 76ers
Key additions: Al Horford (free agent), Josh Richardson (trade), Trey Burke (free agent), Matisse Thybulle, (draft)
Key departures: Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, TJ McConnell, Boban Marjanović
The lowdown: The Sixers were poised to make an honest run for an NBA title based on the relatively good health of Joel Embiid, steady improvement from Ben Simmons and the in-season arrivals of Butler and Tobias Harris.
The club had star-power and emerged as a must-see on national TV and played the eventual-NBA champion Toronto Raptors to a Game 7, which they lost at the buzzer. The scene of Embiid, in a teary daze, stumbling toward the locker room following that defeat showed just how close the Sixers came, and also how devastating it was to come up short of the East finals, much less The Finals.
The stakes were high because new GM Elton Brand was all-in, based on his gamble of sending future No. 1 picks and rookie guard Landry Shamet to the Clippers for Harris, who became an unrestricted free agent this summer. In that sense, the gamble failed, but Brand’s intentions were correct; why not go for it in a conference where LeBron James was gone and there wasn’t a sure-fire No. 1 team?
Embiid was beastly during the season and established himself as perhaps the premier big man in basketball, averaging 27.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, all top-10 marks in the NBA. Simmons was once again a unique playmaker given his size advantage over virtually all point guards. He continued to be dogged by his inability to shoot beyond 10 feet and made just 60% of his free throws.
On the flip side, Redick was solid at 39.7 percent from deep, efficient for a volume shooter at that distance. The overall success of the rotation hid the disaster that was Markelle Fultz. The No. 1 overall pick two years ago played only 19 games, was a non-factor and sought a new beginning elsewhere when Philly gave him away to Orlando at the deadline.
In any event, the check Harris wrote this summer for three players amounts to more than what he paid for the Sixers just eight years ago.
The Sixers gave Simmons a max extension (five years, $170 million), shelled out $109 million to ink Horford for four years, and re-signed Tobias Harris for a whopping $180 million over five years. The chance to win a title or at least contend for one comes at a steep price, and the Sixers rather willingly met it.
Simmons was a no-brainer decision even though he can’t shoot. He is solid in virtually all other facets of the game and maybe, in time, he’ll develop a trusty bread-and-butter outside shot that he can make in a pinch.
Horford, 33, was an interesting case. When the Sixers were told Butler wanted to leave for the Miami Heat, they reacted swiftly and focused on Horford, who left the Celtics for Boston’s biggest rival. The price tag was rich, but Horford was again a useful big man with stretchy shooting range and excellent pick-and-roll skills. He’ll shift to power forward and could prove a powerful tandem with Embiid.
But how many more decent years does Horford have left? If he shows significant signs of wear next season, that contract could hinder the club for three more seasons. In that sense, the sooner the Sixers cash in with Horford, the better.
Once Butler made his preference known, the Sixers executed a sign-and-trade with Miami that brought back Richardson. The 25-year-old Richardson is skillful and might fit just as well as Butler did. He was the Heat's top scorer (16.6 ppg) and should be a capable rotation player in Philly.
Finally, they opened the wallet wide for Tobias Harris, who made perhaps the smartest bet-on-myself decisions in NBA history. Roughly a year earlier, he rejected an $80 million extension from the Clippers and chose to play out his final year under contract. The Sixers swung a deal for him at the deadline, which gave Harris even more leverage heading into the summer. By giving up an attractive package for Harris, the fringe All-Star held the hammer in negotiations. Had they failed to re-sign him, they’d have nothing to show for surrendering Shamet and multiple Draft picks. So they were forced to give him what he wanted.
All of that money spent meant the Sixers couldn’t keep everyone, and the odd man out was Redick, who signed with the New Orleans Pelicans. Philly will be hard-pressed to replace Redick's 3-point shooting and will turn to Harris, Richardson and Horford to a degree to do so.
To compete in the NBA means to keep up with the Jonses, or in this case, the Milwaukees, Torontos and Bostons. Philly did just that, and all it cost was money.
Coming next: Houston Rockets
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