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June 05, 2024

Sixers mailbag: Which star are the Sixers most likely to acquire this summer?

If LeBron James, Paul George, Brandon Ingram, Zach LaVine and Jimmy Butler are on the table this summer, which player is mostly like to be a Sixer next season?

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Paul George 6.4.24 Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Could Los Angeles Clippers wing and upcoming unrestricted free agent Paul George be the apple of Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey's eye?

As one of the most crucial summers in Sixers history gets closer and closer to beginning, now is as good of a time as ever to answer your questions on the team's options at the various checkpoints of the NBA offseason. Let's get started:

From @Isiah_Ryan: Could you rank these stars in terms of chances of being a Sixer next season? Paul George, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James, Brandon Ingram, Zach LaVine.

I'm going to go in reverse order here: James feels the least likely at this juncture. It sounds as if the NBA's all-time leading scorer leaving the Los Angeles Lakers for Philadelphia to join the Sixers at age 40 is unrealistic as things currently stand. James' potential fit alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey is incredibly intriguing, for what it's worth, but the possibility remains unlikely. 

At number four, I will go with LaVine even when considering that he should be the easiest player to acquire by far. I simply do not believe the Chicago Bulls' scoring aficionado is in the same stratosphere as the other players listed in terms of quality of play and value, and I have trouble imagining the Sixers disagreeing. There is no doubt that LaVine, 29, can put the ball in the basket with the best of them. But his creation abilities -- albeit improved in recent years -- are suspect, as is his defense. He has at least two very expensive years left on his contract with a player option for another one after that.

Third out of the five is Butler. The amount of smoke coming out of Miami about both sides -- Butler and the Miami Heat -- not being happy with each other is alarming. Butler's friendship with Embiid is well-documented, as have been Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey's frequent attempts to acquire Butler in the past. It has even been reported that if the Sixers acquired the six-time All-Star, they would be willing to give him the maximum contract extension that Miami seems hesitant to offer. But it just remains difficult to envision a scenario in which Miami pulls the plug on this era of Heat basketball, and in the process trade their best player to an Eastern Conference rival.

Next is Ingram, who by all accounts is very much available as the New Orleans Pelicans look to shake things up following a first-round sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ingram will be in the final year of his contract next year, making a hair over $36 million. That means the Sixers need to either trade for him with extreme confidence that they can extend or re-sign him to a long-term deal, or trade much less than expected for the one-time All-Star so that it would not be a gutting loss if he left in free agency the following summer. Ingram is not the perfect stylistic fit alongside Embiid -- they both like to operate in many of the same areas on the floor -- but his incredible shot-making ability and the fact that he will only be entering his age-27 season make him appealing.

That means the most likely option is George, who it has been reported is the team's top choice should they acquire a star-level player via trade or free agency this summer. Their apparent interest in George is not hard to follow: his on-court fit with Embiid and Maxey figures to be rather pristine, he is likely the best player who could change teams via free agency this season and gives the Sixers the best chance of assembling a true trio of All-Stars. 

From @JoeC_08: Who would be your favorite trade targets for this offseason if they are able to able to max George?

From @Flanatico812: If Philly signs Paul George or trades for another star, which role players would you fill the roster with? 

This is where things can get a bit tricky for Morey and his front office. If the Sixers do go down the path of signing or trading for another max or near-max player to put with Embiid and Maxey, they would have very few medium-sized salaries that they could combine in a trade. If the roster has plenty of talent and the pieces fit together, that is absolutely a worthy sacrifice. But it does mean that when it comes to finding trade pieces, Morey would have to be very creative.

Chicago's Alex Caruso is a name that will always be floated around until the Bulls actually deal him somewhere. Caruso is truly an all-world defender, as good as manning guards as any player in the NBA. His offense is shaky at times but more than passable, especially if his 2023-24 career-best shooting numbers -- a 40.8 three-point percentage on 4.7 attempts per game (both career highs by far) -- are an indicator that he has made genuine strides from beyond the arc.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a roster crunch nearing, and that could lead to them making forward/big Kenrich Williams available for trade. Williams has up to three years left under contract at an easily affordable price (the third year is a team option) and could give the Sixers interior versatility. He would not be a major contributor, but he would be a reliable rotation piece.

If the San Antonio Spurs acquire a new franchise point guard this summer, incumbent starter Tre Jones could be made available as he enters the final year of his contract. Jones will not blow you away with any of his skills, but -- not unlike his older brother, Tyus -- he can be trusted to keep an offense organized, is a great passer and can score in a pinch.

From @A_Schapp: Would you make [re-signing] Kelly Oubre Jr. a priority at the right price? How do you see that playing out?

If I was at the helm, Oubre would be the main priority among all of the Sixers' upcoming free agents: his combination of on-court fit, role versatility, relative youth (Oubre turns 29 in December) and expected price make him more appealing than any of the team's other players whose contract are expiring.

Oubre endeared himself to the Sixers and Sixers fans with his play in 2023-24, outperforming his veteran's minimum contract by far. Oubre is set to cash in this summer after his disappointing market last year, but it is not as if the veteran swingman is going to command a max deal. 

If the Sixers do sign George or another max free agent, their best chance at signing Oubre would be offering him the room mid-level exception, which can be worth up to three years and $25.2 million. I anticipate Oubre's market being in the general vicinity of $10 million annually -- potentially increasing in annual value if the deal is shorter or decreasing in annual value if Oubre can secure a longer-term deal. 

If the Sixers' star-hunting mission is a success, bringing Oubre back will be difficult, but certainly not impossible. If they fail to nab a big fish, re-signing Oubre seems like a no-brainer, but things could get complicated: what if Oubre receives a lucrative offer with a near-immediate expiration date from another team on the first day of free agency and has to accept or decline it before the Sixers know whether or not they will be able to add a max free agent? Free agency is a fast-paced exercise in risk management, and Morey and co. will have many factors to weigh at once when it comes to managing Oubre's situation -- and that of every other player they are interested in re-signing.

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