The Sixers have said that their primary plan this summer is to re-sign both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. But, it’s been reported that both players are open to looking at other options (the Clippers, Knicks, Lakers, and Nets come to mind).
If Butler or Harris end up signing elsewhere, Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon, Nets guard D’Angelo Russell, or Celtics guard Terry Rozier could be other options for Philadelphia. But, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic writes, pursuing a restricted free agent complicates matters.
In order to submit an offer sheet to Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier, the Sixers would first need to create the requisite cap space necessary to sign one of them. The cap holds of Butler and Harris combined with the 2019/20 salaries of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons eat up just under $88.5MM of a projected $109MM cap, leaving a little more than $20.5MM in cap space. Adding in the $1MM in guaranteed salary owed to Jonathan Simmons, the salaries for Zhaire Smith and Jonah Bolden, and six incomplete roster holds equates to about $99.6MM.
Therefore, even if the Sixers renounced all of their free agents besides Butler and Harris (which seems unlikely given they would ideally like to re-sign J.J. Redick as well), renounced all their exceptions, and traded the No. 24 overall pick, they’d still only have about $9.4MM in cap space, which is likely not enough to offer Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier a contract commensurate with their value.
As such, the Sixers would ultimately need to also renounce their rights to Harris or Butler in order to pursue one of the aforementioned guards. They won’t do this with Butler, so it would have to be Harris. But here’s the risk: even if the Sixers negotiate a deal with Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier right at 6:00pm on June 30, the Bucks, Nets, or Celtics (all Eastern Conference rivals to the Sixers) would have until 12:00pm on July 8 – two days after the July moratorium ends – to decide whether to match the Sixers’ offer for Brogdon.
In other words, the two-day deadline to match an offer sheet does not commence until the moratorium is over, and you can be sure Milwaukee, Boston, or Brooklyn would take all of their allotted time. During the time period between the Sixers’ agreement with Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier and the opposing team’s ultimate decision – 7 days and 18 hours – the Sixers’ cap space would be completely tied up. It’s entirely possible that both Harris and Redick sign elsewhere during this time, as deals often get done at a breakneck speed during the first week of free agency.
If the Bucks, Nets, or Celtics decline to match, no harm done. But what if they match the offer sheet? The Sixers are left with a relatively significant amount of cap space with no free agents left to sign. And even if Harris and Redick are still available, they may be frustrated/resentful by the Sixers’ decision to go after Brogdon, Russell, or Rozier at their expense.
Ultimately, a decision like this comes down to how much the Sixers like the player for whom they’re incurring the risk. If the Sixers think Brogdon, Russell, Rozier, or any other restricted free agent can put them over the top, the risk may be worthwhile. If the player being pursued is just another piece, however, the risk is probably too much to bear.