The NBA offseason is in full swing, and the Sixers have been mildly active over the first two days of free agency. Daryl Morey entered with little ammo to improve the roster outside of major trades, but thus far he’s done a strong job given the circumstances.
Here’s a recap of the Sixers moves since the free agency period began:
Re-signed Furkan Korkmaz (3 years $15 million)
As discussed in our free agency primer, re-signing Korkmaz was a question of another team outbidding the max allowable contract under his Bird Rights (~$10 mil. AAV). Fortunately that market never materialized, and Furkan is back at an affordable price tag ($15M over 3 seasons).
Korkmaz returns as a key shooter off the bench for this team, and really the only quick-trigger, high-volume threat on the roster. Beyond that, small developments in ball-handling and perimeter defense have made him a passable rotation piece—having just turned 24 years old, we can reasonably expect Furkan to continue improving throughout this contract.
Waive George Hill (saves $8.8 million)
Only $1.2 million of Hill’s $10 million contract was fully guaranteed, and the decision to waive that amount has more to do with ownership’s financial limitations than Hill’s necessity to the Sixers. Despite his struggles since joining the team mid-season, this move doesn’t afford the Sixers anything other than relief on a potential luxury tax bill (they can’t spend these savings elsewhere).
Letting a could-be useful skillset (catch-and-shoot/secondary ball-handling) walk in the name of tax relief is a strong signal that Josh Harris has a tight hold on the purse strings this offseason—business as usual.
Sign Andre Drummond (1 year $2.4 million)
This move wasn’t on my radar. Embiid’s list of “enemies” are a cast of characters, and Drummond is one of them. Now he’s Joel’s backup, and figures to be a damn good one.
The Sixers have seen the backup-five burn them at every turn, and Drummond’s mix of historically elite rebounding (you read that right) and above average paint protection should put that concern to bed. While he doesn’t defend on the perimeter or shoot the ball very well, he’s a clear upgrade from Dwight Howard at the very least.
Sign Georges Niang (2 year $6.7 million)
Niang was signed using a portion of the MLE, and assuming the team isn’t planning on hard capping themselves, that leaves Morey with roughly $2.6 million of the mini-MLE available ($6 million if they intend on hard capping themselves and using the full-MLE).
This is a clear upgrade from Mike Scott at the backup 4 (sometimes small-5) position. Niang is a deadly catch-and-shoot threat (44.4%) and a strong rebounder for his position. He’s mostly hidden in low-usage defensive responsibilities, but is as passable switching on the perimeter as he is rotating to and protecting the rim. Knockdown catch-and-shoot threats with size who can hang defensively aren’t always this affordable.
Sixers current cap situation:
Total Salaries: $131,978,966
2021/22 Salary Cap: $112,414,000
Cap room: –$19,564,966
Tax threshold: $136,606,000
Tax apron (hard cap): $143,096,000
Re-sign Danny Green
The most recent reporting suggests that the Sixers and Danny Green aren’t close on a contract, although the two sides are expected to keep working toward a deal. However, that hasn’t stopped other teams from inquiring about his services.
While his price tag may be a touch more expensive than we had initially hoped, bringing Green back is essential regardless of cost. As discussed in our free agency primer (and similar to Korkmaz) the Sixers have nothing to gain from letting their own free agents walk—the money saved by not re-signing Green can’t be used elsewhere. More importantly, after leading the team in threes last season (at a clip over 40%) he’s an irreplaceable cog on this roster.
Spend remaining mini-MLE
While the Sixers don’t need to commit to how they’re going to sign Georges Niang until they officially ink the contract on August 6th, it’s safely assumed that the front office is using a portion of the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (mini-MLE) here. The mini-MLE is valued at $5,890,000, with the first year of Niang’s deal eating $3,268,293 of that, leaving $2,621,707 for Morey to spend (assuming he doesn’t plan to use the full-MLE and trigger a hard-cap).
It’s very possible that Morey plans to save this amount for a rainy day—i.e.: the deadline buyout market. Contenders are wise to arm themselves with a little extra cash beyond the vet minimum to throw at buyout options, and that’s likely Morey’s plan with the rest of this exception.