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June 17, 2024

5 Sixers thoughts: Joel Embiid hints at Paul George signing, Sixers lose an assistant coach and more

Paul George is an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Sixers will make a hard push for the nine-time All-Star.

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Embiid George 6.17.24 Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Rumors continue to swirl that Paul George could sign with the Sixers this summer and team with Joel Embiid. Now, Embiid has added to the firestorm.

One of the Sixers' most pivotal summers under President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey is nearing, and rumors are continuing to escalate in significance and quantity -- and on Friday night, Sixers superstar Joel Embiid threw an accelerant into those discussions. Here are five notes and thoughts on the state of the Sixers:

Joel Embiid recruits Paul George on NBA Finals pregame show

ESPN often invites active NBA players who have been eliminated from playoff contention late in the year as guest analysts on their pregame, postgame and halftime panels. For Games 3 and 4 of this year's NBA Finals, Los Angeles Clippers wing (and upcoming unrestricted free agent) Paul George has helped break down a series between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks that has more than a few Sixers ties

Embiid made a surprise appearance at Game 4 in Dallas on Friday night, and just minutes after being spotted, he was suddenly sitting at ESPN's desk -- right next to George -- and he wasted none of his air time before conveying that he would enjoy teaming with George.

Embiid was asked about the Boston Celtics being on the verge of winning a championship, and after expressing his well-known contempt for the team that has eliminated him from the NBA Playoffs on three separate occasions, the former NBA MVP went into recruiting mode.

"Hopefully, this offseason we can find a way to get better and," Embiid said, side-eyeing and smiling at George. "add some pieces."

The moment was perhaps more hilarious than it was telling, but it at least appeared to confirm what many have reported and expected: the Sixers view George as a game-changer.

Sixers lose an assistant coach to Doc Rivers

According to a report from Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, former Sixers head coach Doc Rivers -- now the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks -- has poached away an assistant coach he worked with during his time in Philadelphia.

Jason Love, who has been with the Sixers since the start of the 2019-20 season, is headed to Milwaukee. Love was a player development assistant from 2019 until 2023, and before the start of last season was promoted to a player development coach.

If you have ever attended a Sixers game and gotten to the arena early enough for pregame warmups, you have likely seen Love, 36 -- who was listed at 6-foot-9 during his four-year collegiate career at Xavier -- working out with players like Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Maxey has credited his extensive practice launching deep threes over Love's outstretched arms for his development as a long-range shooter.

Kelly Oubre Jr. hires new representation

Before last summer, Oubre Jr. was represented by Torrel Harris -- the father and agent of Tobias Harris -- who was, at the time, the only player represented by Torrel who was not one of his sons. Oubre elected to represent himself in free agency in 2023, and it did not go well.

Despite averaging more than 20 points per game -- albeit on poor efficiency -- Oubre's market was barren, and he ended up signing with the Sixers days before training camp on a veteran's minimum.

Ahead of a free agency period in which he is expected to finally receive the sort of offers he expected last summer, Oubre has hired new representation: CAA, one of the premier player agencies in American sports.

One would imagine this news will likely not have too significant of an impact on whether or not Oubre returns to Philadelphia, a situation that is going to largely be dependent on George's status. But, for what it's worth, there have been many times in the NBA -- and the sports world as a whole -- where powerful agencies arrange for multiple clients to head to the same destination. Like Oubre, George is represented by CAA.

Of course, the final call belongs to Oubre, not any agency. If George signs with the Sixers, and as a result the team cannot make a competitive offer to Oubre, then he will leave. But the power held in the NBA by agencies like CAA are severely underrated in the grand scheme of things. Just keep this in mind for the time being.

Kyle Lowry could be a hot commodity this summer

Lowry, despite turning 38 years old last March, gave the Sixers a significant boost after signing with the team via the buyout market. Lowry quickly worked his way into the starting lineup, and though he was perhaps overtasked at times, his combination of three-point shooting, passing and versatile defense made Sixers head coach Nick Nurse's life a whole lot easier.

The Sixers should make a concerted effort to bring the Philadelphia native and Villanova product back into the fold for 2024-25, though his role should be diminished a bit for the sake of sustainability.

On Sunday, I wrote about potential destinations other than Philadelphia for each Sixers free agent. I settled on the Phoenix Suns for Lowry, primarily because they could theoretically guarantee him their starting point guard job. But the exercise underscored that Lowry is the exact type of player who should be coveted by just about any team with championship aspirations and the desire to add another trusted ball-handler.

Just off the top of my head, the Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves are all teams who could pursue Lowry at various price points.

If I had to guess, I would say that Lowry does end up returning to the Sixers, but retaining his services could be a lot more challenging than one would expect when the player is nearing 40 years old.

Maxey's next contract looms

Technically, Maxey -- a first-time All-Star in 2023-24 as well as the NBA's Most Improved Player -- will not be under contract with the Sixers when free agency opens on June 30. Do not fear, he will be back: Maxey is a restricted free agent, meaning if any team signed him to an offer sheet, the Sixers would have the right to match the offer.

The Sixers are going to offer Maxey a five-year maximum contract, which is currently projected to be worth just under $205 million, and the fan favorite guard is going to accept the offer. 

Perhaps the only real question at this point is whether or not the fifth year of that deal will be guaranteed or have a player option. This may seem inconsequential right now, but trust me when I say the Sixers are sweating over it right now. With a player as brilliant, young and promising as Maxey, four guaranteed years of team control vs. a guaranteed half-decade of team control is a significant difference.

The Sixers caught a bit of a break when Maxey was not named to an All-NBA Team last month: if they did, his maximum contract offer would have skyrocketed from five years and $204 million to five years and $245 million.

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