The success of the 76ers offseason will be determined largely by their ability to sign free agents Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris.
The Sixers gave up considerable assets to acquire both potential unrestricted free agents who are both eligible to receive a maximum contract of five years and $188 million.
The most other teams can offer is four years and $141 million.
Both should have plenty of suitors.
A day after the Sixers were eliminated in a classic 92-90 Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference semifinal at Toronto, Butler and Harris spoke with the media at the team practice facility in Camden.
Neither was going to give their offseason negotiating strategy fewer than 24 hours thought after that crushing defeat.
The confidence and swag that Butler displays on the basketball court came clearly though, when talking about his potential future earnings.
“Technically I think, knock on wood, I will get a max contract anywhere I choose to go,” Butler said. “So if you are talking a four-year, five-year, that is more than enough money anyway. I think I still have more than enough money now from my first deal.”
According to Hoopshype.com, Butler made $19.84 million this year and is scheduled to do so next season, but he has a player option that he is expected to decline, giving him free agent status on July 1.
To his credit, Butler didn’t play to the crowd and say he definitely wanted to come back. He said he has many people working for him with whom to discuss the decision.
He did say that he has enjoyed his time immensely with the Sixers. The feeling appears mutual; during the postseason Butler became a fan favorite with the way he produced in the clutch and with his blue-collar mentality.
In 12 playoff games he averaged 19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists. During the Toronto series he was the Sixers’ leading scorer, averaging 22 points per game.
“As long as you play hard, the city loves you; and give your all, that is all they ask of you,” Butler said. “It has definitely been fun to meet and interact with the fans and the people in the organization and absolutely everybody is amazing.”
The Sixers traded two starters to Minnesota for Butler, Robert Covington and Dario Saric. They also dealt Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick and received Justin Patton, who has since been waived.
The haul for Harris was also considerable.
Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott were acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 7. All three will be unrestricted free agents on July 1. The Sixers gave up Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, and Mike Muscala and four draft picks — including a protected 2020 first-rounder and the unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first-rounder.
Harris averaged 15.5 points and 9.2 rebounds in the playoffs.
He made $14.8 million in the final year of his contact.
So while he said it’s too early to look where he might go, he did outline some of the things he is looking at in a team besides the money.
“For me honestly [having a] star player is a huge thing, culture, a chance to be able to win,” Harris said. “Just being in the playoffs here and getting that feeling and seeing how bad that loss felt.”