The 76ers have been consistent.
They’ve always said their goal is to retain their core players past this season. But what if Jimmy Butler decides to sign with another team in free agency after he’s expected to opt out of the final year of his contract?
What if Tobias Harris chooses being a first or second option over the extra year and additional $48 million the Sixers can offer over any other team in free agency?
Surely, the team has to have other options in case one or both of their soon-to-be maximum contract-seeking free agents bolts to another team after the free agency period begins June 30 at 6 p.m.
Malcolm Brogdon would be a great fit and someone the Sixers need to pursue if Butler or Harris opts to leave.
The Milwaukee Bucks point guard is set to become a restricted free agent and would be a perfect fit for the Sixers.
Brogdon, a second-round pick in the 2016 NBA draft, wouldn’t be a sexy acquisition for a team looking to contend for the 2020 NBA title.
Outside of Butler and Harris, the summer’s notable free agents will be Golden State forward Kevin Durant, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving, Golden State guard Klay Thompson, Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker, and Brogdon’s teammate forward Khris Middleton.
But the Sixers may be hard-pressed to lure one of those All-Stars to Philly due to the players either staying with their own team or in some instances going to New York or Los Angeles.
Assuming the Sixers lose JJ Redick, Butler and/or Harris, they could sign Brogdon and still have enough money to get another quality free agent. They possibly sign a proven and versatile post player to start alongside Joel Embiid at power forward and/or play center on nights the two-time All-Star will be sidelined.
In Brogdon, the Sixers would get someone who averaged 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 28.6 minutes a game this season. The 2016-17 Rookie of the Year started 64 regular-season games for the 60-22 Bucks before ending the season with minor plantar fascia tear in his right foot.
Before the injury, he played an integral part in Milwaukee having the best record in the league. The 6-foot-5, 229-pounder shot 50.5 percent from the field, including 42.6 percent (104-for-244) on three-pointers, and 92.8 percent (141-for-152) from the foul line. He returned in time to play in the Bucks’ final seven postseason games, averaging 13.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 28.3 minutes.
Brogdon would be a great addition for a Sixers team in search of another ball handler.
He would be the perfect fit to start alongside Ben Simmons in the backcourt if the team doesn’t re-sign Redick. Or he could step in and be the primary ball handler if the team decides that Simmons is better suited at power forward.
But let’s just assume that the Sixers want Simmons to go back to being the primary ball handler -- even though Butler had that role when Simmons was on the bench as well as late in games in the Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Toronto Raptors. Regardless of what they do, Brogdon would be an asset.
Brogdon, who can play both on and off the ball, can fulfill the role the Sixers expected out of Markelle Fultz when they traded up two spots to select him first overall in the 2017 draft.
The 26-year-old is the ideal piece for what the Sixers need. They know that. But one has to assume that Brogdon would want to come to Philly to be a starter.
In addition, he will demand at least $15 million annually in free agency. A team might have to give around $20 million to pry him away from the Bucks. As a restricted free agent, Milwaukee has the ability to match any team’s offer sheet.
However, Milwaukee may pass if he becomes too pricey due to having to sign their other soon-to-be free agents.
The salary cap for next season is $109 million and Milwaukee currently has $100.3 already tied up for next season.
The Bucks have to make decisions on Middleton, Brook Lopez, George Hill, Nikola Mirotic, and Brogdon. Mirotic and Lopez are set to become unrestricted free agents.
Middleton is expected to opt out of his $13 million player option for next season and the Bucks are expected to waive Hill this month. That would enable the team to get out of paying Hill $17 million of the $18 million he is expected to make next season.
Once they make those two moves, the Bucks will only have $70.3 million tied up. However, they’ll have pay a lot of money to keep the core intact.
Since they don’t have Lopez’s Bird rights, the Bucks can only sign him to a non-taxpayer mid-level exception of $9.07 million for next season. Milwaukee will have to give Middleton a max contract in order to retain him. As a result, he’ll make $32.7 million next season. And they definitely don’t want to upset league MVP front-runner and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo by not re-signing him.
They could try to bring Hill back next season for the veteran’s minimum of $2.6 million.
Milwaukee probably won’t re-sign Mirotic. One can assume that Brogdon could be the last player they’d sign due to his being a restricted free agent.
The Bucks will just have to decide if he’s worth more than $15 million per season. If they sign him to that amount, their payroll would be $131.3 million for 14 players and Hill takes the veteran minimum. The luxury-tax threshold is $132 million. So the Bucks must ask themselves how much tax are they willing to pay for going over the threshold to keep Brogdon.
That’s what makes him expendable.
All it takes is a team making a major offer early in the free-agency period.