Elton Brand

Sixers Notes: Horford, Brogdon, Butler

It’s not a given that the Sixers bring back their five starters this offseason.

Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will each have rival teams looking to offer them a max deal. J.J. Redick will likely see heavy interest on the market as well, with Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer hearing that shooting guard will yield offers in the range of $12MM annually.

“They have tough decisions to make and so do we,” GM Elton Brand said.

Bringing back those three players will put the Sixers over the salary cap and out of contention for a number of free agents. Should the team decide to make major changes, there’s a wide range of talent on the market.

“We definitely need hard-nose players, shooting,” Brand said. “We want to add shooting. If you watch the playoffs, these are playoff-tested players … I don’t want to say names … but [the Sixers want] veteran-tested players, playoff-tested players that can take us over the edge with our talent.”

Al Horford, Malcolm Brogdon, and Danny Green are players the team could have interest in Pompey adds.

Here’s more on Philadelphia and the team’s pending free agents:

  • Don’t be surprised if the Clippers make a play to sign Harris, Pompey notes. The combo forward, who came to the Sixers via a midseason trade with the club, will be taking meetings on June 30 and July 1.
  • The Sixers may have to offer a five-year deal in order to keep Jimmy Butler, Pompey writes. Butler and his camp are meeting this week to go over free agent objectives.
  • Marcus Morris, Ed Davis, Ish Smith, Cory Joseph, and Patrick Beverley are among the free agents whom the Sixers could pursue, Pompey adds in the same piece. The team has confidence in its ability to lure one or two impactful free agents should it lose one of its max free agents.
  • Derek Bodner of the Athletic details how the Sixers are devaluing second-round picks. The team will have three more second-rounders next year after wheeling and dealing picks last week, as I recently detailed.
  • Furkan Korkmaz may join Turkish team Fenerbahce next season, according to Sportando. The former No. 26 overall pick is all but certain not to be back in Philadelphia next year.

Examining The Sixers’ 2019 Draft

The Sixers traded up four spots for Matisse Thybulle but outside of the prospect, the team didn’t add much immediate help in this year’s draft.

To move up to No. 20, Philadelphia had to surrender No. 24 and No. 33, the latter of which became Carsen Edwards—a three-point maestro. Edwards will play for the Celtics next season and could have a role right away depending on what happens with Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier.

The team sent the No. 42 pick to the Wizards in the Jonathon Simmons deal and dished the No. 34 pick to the Hawks for the No. 57 (later traded to the Pistons) and two future second-rounders. In total, the Sixers turned a late first-rounder and four second-rounders into Thybulle, Marial Shayok (No. 54 overall pick from Iowa State), a pair of future second-rounders and cash considerations.

Make no mistake, the draft wasn’t a trainwreck for Elton Brand, despite what Sixers’ Twitter may lead you to believe. Thybulle is a talented prospect. He’s a tremendous defender and he has the potential to be a premier wing in the league. While his ceiling is likely an ideal third-or-fourth best option, he’s the type of player that can elevate a team with established stars in place.

“When we saw him on the board, [and] a few other players in our box that we liked were gone, and he was our target,” Brand said (via Derek Bodner of The Athletic). “We had to move up to get him. Whatever it took. Dealing with whatever team. I had to get it done.”

Thybulle had long been rumored as a target for the Sixers. The wing didn’t work out for any teams leading up to the draft, signaling that he may have received a draft promise from a team.

“Philly showed interest early and we just trusted them, and decided that we were going to put our faith in them and kind of shut things down,” Thybulle said when asked about not having many workouts.

Many draft experts were able to connect the dots between the Washington prospect and the Sixers. The Celtics did the same thing, as Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com notes.

Just as former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie caught on to the Magic’s interest in Elfrid Payton back in 2014—Philly netted a first-round pick by simply implying they were also interested in the point guard and forcing Orlando to move up—the Celtics used wide-spread information against a rival team. Boston said they had interest in Thybulle and was able to bring in a second-rounder as a result.

Admittedly, Philadelphia’s use of second-round picks in this draft is puzzling. The No. 33 pick aside, there were seemingly players available who could have helped the team. Bruno Fernando (drafted at No. 34) stood out as someone whom the team could groom, with the franchise alternating minutes between the Maryland prospect and Jonah Bolden at the five on games where Joel Embiid sat out.

Philadelphia will have multiple second-round picks again next year with Atlanta’s 2020 selection coming in addition to a pick from either Brooklyn or New York (originally acquired from trading the 2015 No. 35 overall pick to the Knicks before the team made additional trades to complicate the projections) and one coming from Dallas (Nerlens Noel trade).

Pelicans Select Zion Williamson With Top Pick

Zion Williamson‘s ascension as the top prospect in the draft became official when the Pelicans selected him with the No. 1 pick on Thursday night.

Williamson has been regarded as the best player in the draft since early in his lone college season at Duke. He’s the most highly touted prospect to enter the league in several years and with good reason. Williamson often looking like a man against boys with the Blue Devils, averaging 22.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 2.1 SPG and 1.8 BPG in 30.0 MPG over 33 games.

He had a minor setback late in the season when his shoe infamously came apart against arch-rival North Carolina on February 20. He suffered a knee injury but returned to action in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

With the impending trade of franchise player Anthony Davis to the Lakers, Williamson will immediately become the face of the New Orleans franchise. He’ll join a mostly young core that includes Jrue Holiday and three players in the agreed-upon deal with the Lakers, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram.

Under the rookie scale wage, Williamson can earn a max of $9,744,840 in his first year, according to RealGM. The base salary for the top pick is $8.12MM but players can receive up to 120% of the scale salary.

Williamson is the first Blue Devil selected with the top pick since Kyrie Irving in 2011. Prior to that, a Duke player hadn’t been taken with the No. 1 pick since Elton Brand in 1999.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brett Brown Will Remain Sixers’ Head Coach

Brett Brown will return as the Sixers’ head coach next season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Philadelphia’s managing partner Josh Harris informed Wojnarowski of the decision.

Harris, Brown and GM Elton Brand met on Monday to discuss offseason priorities, including the draft and free agency, Wojnarowski adds.

Brown, 58, has been the head coach in Philadelphia since the 2013/14 season. He guided the Sixers to 52 and 51 regular-season wins during the past two seasons, but the team has been eliminated in the conference semifinals both years. Philadephia took Toronto to the limit but fell in Game 7 Sunday on Kawhi Leonard‘s last-second field goal.

Prior to the series finale, a report indicated that Brown would likely lose his job unless the Sixers reached the NBA Finals.

If the Sixers had parted ways with Brown they would have paid him not to coach. He was handed a three-year extension last May by former president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo.

Several Philadelphia’s players, including J.J. RedickJimmy Butler and Joel Embiid, expressed support for Brown after the heart-wrenching loss on Sunday and that may have helped his cause.

However, the Sixers’ roster could look much different next season with three starters — Butler, Redick and Tobias Harris — becoming free agents.

Atlantic Notes: Leonard, Smart, Embiid

Kawhi Leonard played in only 60 games this season due to a team maintaince plan designed to preserve his health. He’s happy with how the Raptors have managed him in what could be his only season in Toronto.

“We did a great job just attacking the [injury] problem in the beginning during training camp,” Leonard said, as Ryan Wolstat of Toronto Sun tweets.“Laying out the schedule. I feel good. I wasn’t as healthy as I wanted to be this year, but, I couldn’t say I would have this type of season in the beginning of the year the way things started, the way I felt.

“I’m happy. We’re second place. We’ve got an opportunity to get where we want to get to.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Marcus Smart has suffered a torn left oblique and could miss the first two rounds of the playoffs, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports. The Celtics host the Pacers in the Eastern Conference’s 4-5 matchup.
  • Sixers GM Elton Brand said he’s “optimistic” that Joel Embiid will be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs, as NBC Sports’ Serena Winters relays (Twitter link). Including Philadelphia’s finale vs. the Bulls, Embiid has missed five of the team’s last seven games as a result of knee soreness and the staff’s management plan and it’s possible that the big man could sit in the
  • Jonathan Gibson‘s deal with the Celtics is only for the remainder of the season, per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Gibson signed with Boston on Tuesday and didn’t see action in the team’s final game of the year.

Atlantic Notes: Kawhi, Harris, Dolan, Stevens

Many of the players on the current Raptors roster weren’t a part of the team during its repeated playoff failures in recent years and won’t have that weight on their shoulders this spring. Plus, the fact that LeBron James is no longer in the Eastern Conference bodes well for a deeper postseason run for Toronto in 2019.

Still, as Sporting News’ Sean Deveney outlines, the Raptors will face a different sort of pressure this year, since their success in the playoffs figures to go a long way toward determining whether Kawhi Leonard sticks with the franchise beyond this season.

“I think the Lakers are out, but the Clippers are the ones who think they have a shot at him if they decide to go that route,” one front office executive told Deveney when asked to handicap Kawhi’s future. “You hear a lot, he still wants to be on the West Coast. But give that group in Toronto all the credit in the world. They’re making it a tough decision for him. It might come down to just, ‘All right, how did the playoffs go, and how far are we from a championship?'”

In an effort to make Leonard more comfortable in Toronto this season, the Raptors have carefully managed his workload, holding him out of the lineup once every week or two to make sure he’ll be at 100% by the time the postseason rolls around. So far, it’s working — the Raptors hold the No. 2 seed in the East, Leonard is fully healthy after missing all but nine games a year ago, and the star forward sounds pleased with how the plan has played out.

“We’ve been doing a great job of making sure that nothing flares up or gets out of control,” Leonard said this week, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). “It’s just been great. I’m just happy that I’m able to play… It’s amazing. I feel good and we have something to look forward to.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Within his look at several contenders for the 2019 NBA championship, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes that a source close to Tobias Harris has “raved” about Sixers general manager Elton Brand. While that doesn’t guarantee that Harris will re-sign with Philadelphia in free agency, it’s certainly a positive sign, Amick notes.
  • During a Tuesday radio appearance, Knicks owner James Dolan strongly hinted that the club has heard from certain players and/or agents, and suggested that he believes the Knicks will have a “very successful offseason when it comes to free agents.” While those comments raised some eyebrows, a lawyer familiar with the NBA’s tampering policy tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that Dolan worded them carefully enough to avoid running afoul of the league’s policy. “If an agent walks up to [president] Steve Mills and says, ‘Clear cap space, player X wants to come,’ and Steve doesn’t engage, then it’s not tampering,” the lawyer said. “It appeared Dolan was pretty careful to make it seem like that was the deal.”
  • Count former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers among those who isn’t ready to place the blame on Brad Stevens for Boston’s struggles this season. In fact, Rivers still has full confidence in the C’s despite their up-and-down year. “They’re going to be fine,” the Clippers’ coach said, per Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. “They are as good as anybody in the East and as talented as anybody in the NBA. And when the playoffs start, I think everybody will see that.”

Lakers Notes: Simmons, Hart, Ball, Zubac

The Lakers released a statement stating that the Sixers had sought their permission for floor leader Ben Simmons to speak with team president Magic Johnson, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia emailed the Lakers in November, according to the statement, asking if Simmons could speak with Johnson about his Hall of Fame career. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka subsequently told Sixers GM Elton Brand that Johnson could only do that with Philadelphia’s written pre-approval. That was the end of the matter, the release adds. The league has launched an investigation to determine if any communication between the parties violated league rules.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Guard Josh Hart received a PRP injection to treat tendinitis in his right knee, according to a team press release. Hart will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break, the release adds. Hart didn’t play in blowout losses against Indiana and Philadelphia and only lasted eight scoreless minutes against Boston.
  • Lonzo Ball isn’t considered a defensive specialist but the Lakers have missed him at that end of the court, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times notes. The Lakers’ defensive rating is the third-worst in the league in the nine games since Ball was sidelined by a severe ankle sprain. “He allows us to switch a lot,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “If they want to run any pick and roll minus the center, the 1-5 pick and roll, we can just switch it. And we feel confident Lonzo can guard most of the other players there. We have Lonzo picking up full-court the other team’s points guard. He’s great at instincts, getting deflections.”
  • Trading young center Ivica Zubac to the Clippers to ‘rent’ power forward Mike Muscala doesn’t make much sense, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report argues. Zubac could have been an inexpensive, long-term contributor for the Lakers, Pincus continues. He would have been a restricted free agent with a modest cap hold of $1.9 million. Muscala’s cap hold is $9.5MM and he might not be any more productive than Zubac would have been the rest of this season.
  • LeBron James claims the reason he drafted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis for his All-Star team had nothing to do with recruiting, according to another Ganguli story. “That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport,” he said. “It’s all good and well and dandy, but for me I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available.”

Atlantic Notes: B. Simmons, Lakers, Gasol, Knicks

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson told reporters over the weekend that Ben Simmons had reached out to the team asking if he could get together with Johnson during the offseason to talk to him about playing in the NBA as a point guard with size. While Johnson suggested he’d be on board if the Sixers, the Lakers, and the NBA all signed off, it sounds like it won’t happen.

Appearing on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia (Twitter link), Sixers GM Elton Brand said today that Lakers GM Rob Pelinka contacted him to ask for authorization and Brand said no “over a month ago.” Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link) hears a different account, citing a source who says that the 76ers initiated the discussion about Simmons wanting to meet with Johnson, with Pelinka calling Brand back to say the Lakers weren’t comfortable with it.

While it’s not clear which team shot down the idea first, neither side appears to be on board, so presumably Simmons and Johnson won’t meet this summer. The fact that the young 76er is represented by Rich Paul is sure to generate some speculation, but Ganguli tweets that Simmons’ desire to talk to Johnson was simply due to their on-court similarities, and he intends to be a Sixer for a long time.

Ganguli’s report won’t necessarily satisfy the NBA though. According to league spokesperson Mike Bass, the NBA is looking into whether there was any communication between Simmons and the Lakers that violated league rules (Twitter link via Ganguli).

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Marc Gasol waived the 15% trade kicker on his contract to help finalize the trade sending him to Toronto last week, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks on The Lowe Post podcast. While the trade bonus would only have been worth about $1.29MM, Gasol’s decision could save the Raptors about $3.2MM in projected tax penalties, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic notes (via Twitter).
  • Speaking of Gasol, the Raptors are still experimenting with a fluid frontcourt rotation as they figure out how to best use Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam, head coach Nick Nurse said today (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a wide-ranging look at what the summer could bring for the Knicks and their two maximum-salary contract slots, from the “utopia” outcome to the “doomsday” scenario.

Atlantic Notes: Brand, Nets, Atkinson, Irving

After years and years of asset collection and patience being the primary focus of the Sixers‘ plans, Elton Brand has dramatically changed the team’s course of action in a few months. First it was trading for Jimmy Butler. Then this past week, Brand took it to another level by trading several future assets for Tobias Harris, effectively creating a “big four” in Philadelphia.

These moves were made because Brand’s mindset is that the Sixers are in a position to contend for a championship right now. As Brian Seltzer writes for the 76ers’ team website, Brand is acting with a sense of urgency and focus on building a true championship team this season.

Should the 76ers re-sign both Harris and Butler, the team would instantly become one of the more expensive in the league, but Brand should be satisfied with the group of talent he has assembled for the foreseeable future.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

Sixers Notes: Harris, Brand, Fultz

The Sixers added another star at the trade deadline in Tobias Harris and the 26-year-old is thrilled to be in Philadelphia.

“It was awesome,” Harris said of playing alongside new teammates (via ESPN’s Tim Bontempts).“In all seriousness, you couldn’t ask for anything more. Me personally, I’m just sitting here like, ‘Wow.’ … It was fun.”

The Sixers sacrificed depth over the past few months in order to put together a lineup of Harris, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, and Joel Embiid. The lineup showed its potential in Friday night’s win over the Nuggets where it went on a 14-7 over the last four minutes to close out the game.

“It was funny … after the game, somebody texted me and sent me a video of me smiling after a play,” Harris said. “They wrote, ‘This is literally the first time I’ve ever seen you actually smile in a game.’ And I was like, ‘You ain’t lying.”

“It was cool to see that and just have fun out there. I really had a lot of fun tonight.”

Here’s more from Philadelphia:

  • GM Elton Brand said he’s received “all assurances” from the Sixers’ ownership that the team can re-sign both Harris and Butler, Bontemps tweets.“We’re all on board to keep this core together long-term,” Brand said.
  • By trading for Butler and Harris, the Sixers were no longer in position to be patient with Markelle Fultz, Bontemps explains in a separate piece. The team is built to win now and that, coupled with Fultz’s salary, which will come in at nearly $9.75MM next season, made it time to move on.
  • Brand reiterated that the Sixers are focused on the present, Bontemps passes along in another piece. The GM said the team had been targeting Harris “if he became available” and the team had “coveted” him for a while. “We know he fits great into our system and he’ll do well,” Brand said of Harris. “[Simmons and Embiid] rapidly improved over the last season, so the window is now. The opportunity is now. So, once I saw that, we discussed taking a shot at it now, because who knows how long that window is going to be open?”
  • Prior to Friday’s night win, Harris said he’s hopeful his time with Sixers can be a “long-term partnership,” per an Associated Press report (via NBC Sports). Boban Marjanovic, who was also acquired in the Harris deal, explained how the 76ers’ gumption inspired him and Harris.“We understand the team invested a lot in us,” the center said. “It was a big move. It was a win-now move. That means a lot. This is already a winning culture and we look to bring our games to it and help as best we can.”