When the final buzzer sounded on May 12th, 2022 76er fans were leaving the Wells Fargo Center in disappointment yet again. Another year, another second-round exit. After adding James Harden at the trade deadline didn’t push the team to the next level, Daryl Morey was left facing his biggest offseason yet as 76ers President of Basketball Operations. The team was left with little to no draft capital to trade and no max slots to add another all-star level player. Even so, Money was able to have possibly his best offseason at the helm of the Sixers. With training camp underway in South Carolina, let’s recap the 76ers’ offseason.
Draft Night Trade
There was much conversation leading up to the draft about what the Sixers were going to do with their 23rd overall pick. They decided to trade that pick along with Small Forward Danny Green for Memphis Guard De’Anthony Melton. Memphis chose David Roddy out of Colorado with that draft pick. In 2021 for Memphis Melton averaged 10.8 points per game in 22.7 minutes. One of the Sixers’ biggest issues over the past few seasons has been the lack of bench depth. Adding Melton gives them a good option to be first or second off the bench.
This was also an important trade for the team because they were able to move Danny Greens last year of his contract to the Grizzlies. Green is currently recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered in the 2021 playoffs and it is unsure if he will play this season. Melton has two years left on his contract for $8.25 million in 22-23 and $8.0 million in 23-24 so the Sixers get some controllability contract-wise back in this trade as well. Melton was originally selected by Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. This will become a trend.
P.J. Tucker Signing
On the first night of free agency, the 76ers signed Forward P.J. Tucker to a 3-year $33.2 million contract. In 2021 Tucker averaged 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds a game while also shooting 41.5% from 3-point range in 27.9 minutes. While those stats won’t blow you away, Tucker showed why he is so valuable in the Miami Heats playoff series against the Sixers. Whether it’s his defensive toughness, timely offensive rebounding, or his leadership on the court, Tucker brings qualities that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. In his press conference after the Game 6 loss, Joel Embiid was clamoring for guys like Tucker. He even stated “Since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said that we’ve had, you know, those types of guys. Nothing against what we have. It’s just the truth. We’ve never had P.J. Tucker. That’s really what I’m trying to say. So as the physicality especially, once you get to the playoffs or the later rounds, you need that. You need those guys that are tough.” This quote is courtesy of Forbes.com. Morey seemingly agreed with what Embiid had to say because he delivered.
Tucker also has ties to Morey and the Houston Rockets as he played there from 2017-2020. Tucker is expected to slide right into the starting lineup as the Power Forward and he can also potentially play some minutes in a stretch back-up center role, especially in the playoffs. He is known for being an extremely physical defender and that will translate extremely well once it’s playoff time. P.J. is currently 37 years old and his contract will take him until his age 40 seasons. While this is a concern going forward Tucker has shown that as his production as a scorer has gone down with age he is still an extremely impactful player.
Signing Daniel House
Another move Morey made on the first night of free agency was signing Daniel House Jr. to a two-year $8.5 million deal. House shot 41.5% from 3-point distance in 25 games with the Jazz last season. House is projected to come off the bench this season as last year he averaged 19.6 minutes per game with Utah. The Small Forward is known as a “3 and D” style of player and that will fit in perfectly with the Sixers bench. Just like the Melton acquisition the team has focused on making the bench as deep as they can. House being an over 40% three-point shooter and a good defender will help him earn a spot in the shortened playoff rotation when that time comes.
Like Tucker, House has ties to Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets. House was a member of the Rockets from 2018-2022. House is currently 29 years old and this contract will take him until he is 31. Expect him and James Harden to share the court a lot as they played together in Houston and should have great chemistry.
Harden Opting Out and Agreeing to an Extension
As the offseason started there was a ton of speculation about what James Harden was going to do with his $47.4 million option for the 2022-2023 season. Harden took it all the way down to the last day but he ended up declining that option and becoming a free agent. While he became a free agent he made it clear that he was planning on resigning with the 76ers. The speculation then grew about what his new contract with the team would be. Harden was eligible for a $223 million max extension. This worried fans as Harden had not looked like the former MVP he once was. While Harden is still an extremely helpful player to have on your team and has still shown the ability to explode offensively at any given time, it was clear last season he had lost a step. Harden has had trouble with his hamstring the last few years so that could have been a factor.
On July 20th James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers agreed to a two-year $68.6 million deal. The contract has Harden getting $33 million in year 1 with a $35.6 million player option for year 2. If he chooses he can decline that option and become a free agent all over again next year. This deal is just about the best-case scenario for the 76ers. With Harden taking a $14.4 million pay cut for this season the team was able to add incredible depth to this roster. Harden has an incredible resume including being voted a top 100 player of all time but the one thing he is missing is a championship. His taking this big of a pay cut shows that he is focused on just that. Winning a championship.
Harden has seemingly taken a new approach this offseason in making sure his body is in the best shape possible. After suffering hamstring injuries in the last two seasons he knows that if he wants his body to hold up and perform at a high level deep into the spring and into the summer he has to change how he approaches his training. He has looked slimmer and more in shape than in years past in what we have seen so far in photos and videos. He also seems to be taking the role of a veteran leader seriously as he hosted his mini-camp for the team at his home this summer. It is fair to be speculative that the 33-year-old Harden can return to his old self. But if he can, the 76ers can go deep into June.
On September 6th the 76ers agreed to a two-year $5.2 million deal with Former 6th Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell. The deal includes a player option for the 2023-2024 season. Last season with the Wizards and Hornets Harrell averaged 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds. The Sixers have famously struggled at the backup center position and Harrell has the potential to be Embiid’s best backup yet. In June Harrell was arrested on a felony drug charge after officers found three pounds of marijuana in his car during a traffic stop in Kentucky. On August 31st a Judge ruled to make his charge a misdemeanor. If he stays in good legal standing for 12 months the misdemeanor will be removed from his record. On the court, Harrell is a great pickup for the team. While he is challenged defensively, he can score in not a lot of minutes played. With Paul Reed and Charles Bassey still developing, Harrell will add great depth to a bench that has been added to all offseason.
Harrell has multiple connections to this current 76ers team, coaching staff, and the front office. From 2015-2017 Harrell was a member of the Houston Rockets as he was drafted in the second round by Daryl Morey and played with James Harden. In 2020 Harrell was named the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year while being a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. Doc Rivers was the coach of that Clippers team so hopefully, Doc will be able to do some of the same things he did with him in 2020 here with the Sixers.
What’s still to come?
With training camp starting the 76ers currently have 17 players on their roster. By the time they play Boston on opening night they have to get down to 15. With it being unlikely that they would release players to get down to that number, they may release players like Charles Bassey or Isiah Joe. But the way Morey operates it is more likely that they try and make a trade. Some intriguing names are rumored to be on the market including Jae Crowder, Jordan Clarkson, and Mike Conley. A few other names that have been linked to the Sixers through the offseason are Eric Gordon and Reggie Bullock.
It is unlikely that they would add a starter with the starting lineup being solidified without moving Tobias Harris. Harris has two years left on his $180 million contract. There have been rumors about the Sixers moving Harris as far back as last year but it would be hard to find someone willing to take on that kind of salary. Morey has shown that he knows how to get great value back in a trade so it will be interesting to see what move they make before final cut downs.
Looking ahead to the season
The Sixers haven’t been to the Eastern Conference Finals since 2001. I believe that ends this year. With the moves the team has made this offseason, this has the potential to be the deepest team Joel Embiid has ever had in his career. Embiid has been the runner-up for MVP each of the last two seasons and hopefully, this is the year he finally takes home that trophy. Morey has done a great job of building a team that has talent but also chemistry with each other. If Harden can return to form, and Tyreese Maxey can become the All-Star level player people believe he can be, this team can do great things.