No NBA team has been more aggressive in acquiring immediate help since the 2018/19 season began than the Sixers, who traded for Jimmy Butler in November and Tobias Harris in February. In the wake of those deals, expectations are rising in Philadelphia — the club wants to make a deeper playoff run, and then will have to figure out if Butler and Harris can be re-signed in free agency.
Sixers controlling owner Josh Harris, in attendance at this week’s Sloan Conference in Boston, spoke to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan about those issues, offering some interesting insight. The 76ers are currently projected to match up with the Celtics in the first round of the postseason, and Boston has given Philadelphia a ton of trouble in recent years, but Harris didn’t want to entertain the notion of a first-round exit, suggesting that would be a “very problematic” outcome.
Here’s more from Harris, via MacMullan, on that subject and a couple others:
On how Harris would view the season if the Sixers were to be knocked off in the first round of the playoffs:
“We’d be unhappy. I’d be unhappy. The city would be unhappy. We’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have enough talent on our roster that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can beat any team in the East.
“… We want to make sure at a minimum to advance deeper in the playoffs than we did last year. We’ve brought a lot of talent here. They haven’t been together that long, but we’re hopeful we can position them for deep run.”
On the prospect of re-signing both Butler and Harris in free agency:
“We gave up a lot to get Tobias and Jimmy on our team. We think they’re exceptional talents. We’re going to try to keep them. We know we are going to have to pay these guys in an appropriate way. We get it. It’s expensive.
“… The reality is, people like Tobias and Jimmy, there just aren’t that many of them. It’s never perfect, but when make a trade for someone who is expiring, there’s risk involved, we’re hoping we can convince them this is a great place for them.”
On discussing the direction of the franchise with star center Joel Embiid:
“Joel respects our job. He’s our most important player. He’s clearly our future — they’re all an important part of the future — but Joel is exceptional. We generally talk to him about how we are oriented, and what type of players we might be bringing in. We get his advice. In terms of specific conversations, we give him a heads-up.
“At times, it’s not always appropriate because of the other parties involved. You don’t want to compromise who we are talking to or put [Embiid] in an awkward position. “But we’re certainly thinking all the time about how to complement his skill set, which is three-and-D wings, people who spread the court. He’s a dominant presence defensively and he’s dominant in the paint. We need to take the pressure off him so people don’t collapse on him.”