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June 30, 2023

The latest intel on Sixers' free agency plans, including Tyrese Maxey's extension

The Sixers are on the cusp of making several important decisions that will impact the future of the franchise.

James Harden's option decision has thrown the Sixers into the spotlight as the NBA free agency period gets set to begin, and while Harden's future is at the top of mind for many, it has been easy to forget that Philadelphia has other important decisions to make regarding the future of their team.

With hours to go before free agency starts, here's what I'm hearing regarding the Sixers and their plans.

The Sixers are not expected to sign Tyrese Maxey to an extension this offseason, according to sources familiar with the situation. This is not viewed as a condemnation of Maxey or a reflection of how the team values him, with the team continuing to view Maxey as a long-term core piece. The lack of an extension would come down to the flexibility Philadelphia can maintain by holding off on a deal, potentially clearing a pathway to another max slot next summer.

In the increasingly likely scenario where the Sixers move James Harden this summer in return for some supportive pieces around Joel Embiid and Maxey — or even if Harden sticks around for the final year of his deal —  Philadelphia believes they would head into free agency next offseason as major players on the market, sources say. Tobias Harris' $39 million expiring contract would be coming off of the books in the summer of 2024. Depending on the pieces that come back for Harden (which could include draft picks), the Sixers could be looking at a scenario where they have considerable cap room to significantly upgrade the team. Inking an extension this offseason for Maxey before that point could impact that flexibility.

The team continues to value Maxey highly independent of whether Harden is traded or ends up being convinced to stick around and play out the final year of his contract.

• Damian Lillard's name has been top of mind for many Sixers fans even prior to Harden's proposed departure, and the possibility of Harden leaving seems to have opened the door for another high-usage guard to step into his place. And while sources indicated a trade for Lillard was a low-odds proposition contingent on multiple factors, they would not rule out the possibility in the hours before free agency opens.

Trading for Lillard would be complicated for the Sixers on multiple fronts. Lillard's cap hit — upward of $45.6 million in 2023-24 — would require significant outgoing salary to offset for salary matching, independent of the value they'd have to offer in order to make a deal happen. The Sixers would likely have to put together a three or four-team deal in order to make everyone happy and CBA-compliant, and would probably end up being too significant of a challenge to pull off.

A Lillard trade scenario would first hinge on Lillard possessing real potential interest in playing for Philadelphia, in addition to relying on Lillard formally asking out of Portland. 

Philadelphia is expected to be fairly quiet in the opening period of free agency, according to a league source. Their most likely returning free agent continues to be restricted free agent Paul Reed, who the team tendered a qualifying offer to earlier this week. Reed may explore the marketplace somewhat in the days to come, though the expectation remains that the Sixers will retain him. It is not out of the question that Reed and the Sixers come to a deal early in the free agency period, according to a source.

It is a mixed bag for the rest of the roster, and it sounds like the Sixers could be losing all three from the triumvirate of Georges Niang, Jalen McDaniels, and Shake Milton. 

Georges Niang is thought to have the most robust market among their role players, sources say, with Eastern Conference teams like the Cavs and Pacers said to be interested in his services. A source told PhillyVoice he is likely to get an offer within the opening day of free agency for what was characterized as, "a nice chunk of money." 

McDaniels' situation is viewed as somewhat murky. It's likely he'll be part of a second or third wave of free agents after the immediate rush of signings, at which point the Sixers will have to determine if the dollar value makes sense to keep him. His future may take a bit of time to play out.

The longest-tenured player, Milton, was thought to have an interest in looking for a bigger role than has been available to him in Philadelphia. While a potential Harden trade changes the math somewhat, a league source said Friday that Milton is still unlikely to return to Philly. Milton has generated interest as a backup option for some Western Conference teams, sources say, including the Lakers and Warriors as Yahoo's Jake Fischer reported earlier today. It is unclear how serious their pursuit of the veteran guard has been, and L.A. was recently reported as wanting to retain guard Dennis Schroder.

The Sixers, led by Daryl Morey and Elton Brand, will continue to comb the free agent market for veterans who might see time in the 7-8-9 level of Nick Nurse's rotation.

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