Philadelphia 76ers 2022 Offseason Checklist
The Philadelphia 76ers failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs once again. Even with James Harden’s successful trade, the team still hasn’t achieved the championship aspirations it continually seeks. Over the past five seasons, as the fruits of the process began to reap, the Sixers have won a total of just four playoff wins. Failing to make the conference semifinals is a huge disappointment, especially given the many attempts to complete a roster around Joel Embiid.
Without knowing how long the window will be open for the 28-year-old, the 76ers have an incredibly important offseason ahead. This will be the first offseason for Daryl Morey to work his magic, and the Sixers definitely need it. His first year at the helm was the abbreviated offseason after the Orlando bubble. He still managed to offload Al Horford and Josh Richardson for better-fitting plays during that time.
Last offseason, Morey was held hostage by the Ben Simmons situation, which carried over into the regular season. He finally solved that problem by overthrowing the former number one pick for James Harden. The Beard once again became the centerpiece of a deal with Daryl Morey, and he was able to land his white whale, this time in Philadelphia. As good as the initial feeling was and the early games seemed, Harden is now the centerpiece of the biggest question mark of the offseason.
James Harden’s contract situation is far from the only issue to be resolved this offseason. As Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers begin to attack the offseason, there are a few key points they need to aim for.
Carefully sign James Harden
It seemed like the Philadelphia 76ers had found their missing piece of the puzzle once they landed James Harden this season. The early games were near perfect and his style of play matches alongside Joel Embiid. Especially given the trade and Harden’s previous relationship with Morey, it’s not as straightforward a problem as one might expect.
The 32-year-old veteran is up for a max contract and also has a one-year, $47.4 million option he can opt into. James Harden is still a very valuable player who can contribute to the 76ers, but he’s not the MVP-caliber player he once was. Morey and Harden expressed their hopes for a long-term future with each other. It doesn’t seem that hard to know if Harden will be back or not, but rather what the price will be which is the bigger concern.
While James Harden would be willing to take less money, it’s unclear how much money that would be. It’s also one thing to say that and another when the contract is placed in front of him. Signing to pay a 37-year-old James Harden north of $60 million would completely handcuff the Sixers, and the franchise would be better off letting him walk than paying that maximum price. Morey should absolutely do his best to bring Harden back, but this negotiation needs to be handled carefully.
Exchange Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris is in bad shape. He was the ultimate professional throughout his tenure in Philadelphia and his entire career. The inflated contract clouded views of his game for a while, and he certainly had some bad playing spells. Even so, Harris deserves a ton of credit for the changes he’s made to his game since adding by James Harden. After being the number two option for the start of the season, the 76ers’ style of play changed dramatically with Harden leading the offense.
The 29-year-old clearly went the extra mile as a catch-and-shooter and made quicker decisions. Harris attempted 3.6 three-point attempts before Harden’s arrival and 4.8 three-point attempts per game in the second half of the season. He adapted to his new role and attempted 3.9 fewer shot attempts per game with Harden in the lineup. Harris also stepped up his defense in a major way during the playoffs in a way he had never done before.
With all that said, Tobias Harris definitely needs to be traded this offseason. The $37.6 million owed to him next season clogs up too much of the Sixers’ cap space that could be put to better use elsewhere. As much as he tried, he’ll never fit right into the style of play the 76ers need. Flipping it for better suited complementary players or the cap space needed to get those players is a must this offseason.
Matisse Thybulle Business
The ever-smiling Matisse Thybulle has been a fan favorite since joining the Philadelphia 76ers. No matter how high his ceiling is, it’s time to give up trying to reach it. Thybulle showed little to no offensive improvement in his three seasons with the franchise. The 25-year-old will never develop enough offensively to play major minutes for a contending NBA team.
His shortcomings were on full display in the playoffs as the Raptors and Heat showed him no attention in half court. Similar to the complaints with Ben Simmons last season, this lack of respect from opposing defenses creates major spacing issues for the rest of the team. However, Thybulle is even worse than Simmons in that he lacks the passing or dribbling ability to make him somewhat positive.
The Washington product is known for his defense, but there’s cause for concern here as well. It can create stunning reflections with its nearly seven-foot wingspan. However, his tendency to let his opponent get in front of him and try to gain possession from behind creates problems for the rest of the defence. His spasmodic style of play is untraditional and does not allow him to stay in touch with the rest of the defence. When you look at the remaining teams in the playoffs, it’s clear that every player is on the same page when rotating or playing. Thybulle impresses as an individual defender, but that doesn’t translate into team success.
Even with his poor playoff showing, there are still plenty of teams who will talk about his potential. There’s also a fairly likely chance he’ll be better utilized in a different style of attack than Philly. The Philadelphia 76ers would be wise to capitalize on that and add a more well-rounded two-way player to get closer to the contender they hope to be.
Upgrade the Bench
The problems with the bench go beyond Matisse Thybulle. When comparing the 76ers to other playoff teams, it’s clear that Philadelphia’s roster lacks depth. Guys like Furkan Korkmaz, Georges Niang and Shake Milton would be unable to gain minutes on any of the remaining teams on the list – and that’s concerning.
Falling off when starters leave the field has been a problem for the Philadelphia 76ers for several years. If the backup center often bears the brunt of this criticism, it applies to the entire second unit. Championships are won on the margins, and the 76ers need to do a better job of capitalizing on that.
While Morey seems to be aiming for a wider target, if the bench is overlooked, the Philadelphia 76ers will continually run into that problem. Adding guys with some toughness and competitive fire to the second unit would have a major impact on this Sixers team.