Nicolas Batum

Sixers Notes: Batum, Oubre, Lowry, Draft, Free Agency, Embiid

Nicolas Batum, Kelly Oubre and Kyle Lowry are the free agents most likely to return to the Sixers next season, a source tells Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The three players have proven to be a good fit alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, and they’re likely to be affordable, which will be an important consideration when president of basketball operations Daryl Morey tries to round out the roster after hopefully landing at least one big name on the free agent market.

Batum is at the top of Philadelphia’s list of players to re-sign, according to Pompey. The versatile swingman appeared in 57 games and made 38 starts after being acquired as part of the James Harden trade last November. The Sixers hold Bird rights on the 35-year-old, who made $11.7MM last season and has a $17.5MM cap hold. He wound up loving Philadelphia after being traded there and is a candidate for a modest raise on a short-term deal, Pompey adds.

Decisions on Oubre and Lowry will be affected by what they’re willing to sign for. A league source tells Pompey that Oubre is likely to get an $8MM room exception offer from another team, while the Sixers will probably need him to sign in the $6-8MM range if they add another max player in free agency.

The team has a $3.3MM cap hold and Non-Bird rights on Lowry, who accepted $2.9MM for the rest of the season when he signed on February 13. Lowry said after the playoffs ended that he intends to keep playing, but he didn’t specify whether he plans to stay in his hometown of Philadelphia.

There’s more on the Sixers:

  • In a separate story, Pompey advocates trading this year’s first-round pick, which is slotted at No. 16. Pompey notes that Morey has a history of moving draft picks and hasn’t made a first-round selection since taking Jaden Springer at No. 28 in 2021. If the Sixers keep their pick, Pompey points to USC point guard Isaiah Collier, Providence guard Devin Carter and Indiana forward Kel’el Ware as potential selections if they’re still on the board, along with Trentyn Flowers, who played in Australia this season and has a June 20 workout scheduled in Philadelphia.
  • In an offseason assessment of the Sixers, Keith Smith of Spotrac questions whether Paul George and Jimmy Butler are the team’s best targets. While they would be the type of splashy acquisition that Morey is known for, Smith points out that both players are older and have extensive injury histories, which doesn’t make them an ideal fit with Embiid. Smith suggests building the team’s depth as a better option, particularly at backup center, and names Andre Drummond, Goga Bitadze, Moritz Wagner, Jalen Smith and Jonas Valanciunas as possibilities.
  • Embiid is feeling better after experiencing Bell’s palsy during the playoffs, Marc Stein tweets.

Olympic Notes: France, Australia, Germany, Brazil

Ahead of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, the host nation has announced its preliminary 19-man roster (Twitter link). As Eurohoops relays, the headliners on France’s squad are big men Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert, the top two finishers in this year’s Defensive Player of the Year vote.

However, there are several more notable NBA names on the list, including Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Bilal Coulibaly, and Ousmane Dieng. Other recent NBAers who didn’t finish the 2023/24 season on a roster include Killian Hayes, Frank Ntilikina, and Theo Maledon.

One player not on France’s roster is veteran guard Mike James. The 2023/24 EuroLeague MVP is an American, but according to a report from L’Equipe (hat tip to BasketNews.com), the French Basketball Federation explored the possibility of getting a French passport for James, who has played for AS Monaco in France’s LNB Pro A since 2021. That effort didn’t make any real headway, however.

“We do not have the culture of other nations which use naturalized players in a systematic way,” an unnamed executive told L’Equipe. “But we have a duty to explore all possibilities. In this case, we were asked, we looked at it and quickly established that it was not a question.”

The French national team will have to make seven cuts and set a 12-man roster for this July’s event.

Here are a few more updates related to the 2024 Olympics:

  • The Australian national team has trimmed its preliminary Olympic roster from 22 players to 17, the Boomers announced in a press release. None of the NBA players on the roster – including Josh Giddey, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, and Dyson Daniels, among others – were among the cuts, but potential 2024 first-round pick Johnny Furphy was. The plan is for those 17 Australian players to attend training camp this summer before setting the final 12-man roster.
  • The German national team announced this week that head coach Gordon Herbert won’t continue on in that role after the conclusion of the Paris Olympics (hat tip to Sportando). The two sides are going their separate ways after a fruitful partnership that included a gold medal at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
  • The Brazilian national team has announced its preliminary roster for this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Latvia. The notable names include veteran point guard Raul Neto, former first-round pick Bruno Caboclo, Warriors rookie Gui Santos, and former NBA guard Didi Louzada. The Brazilians will need to win the six-team qualifier to earn a spot in the Olympic men’s basketball tournament.

Atlantic Notes: Batum, Nets, Ex-Raptors, Celtics-Cavs

Sixers forward Nicolas Batum kept things fairly open when it came to talk of his potential NBA retirement, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The 35-year-old is now a free agent, having wrapped up his two-year, $22.6MM contract at the end of Philadelphia’s 2023/24 season. There were rumors prior to the season that it could be his last in the NBA.

Batum told gathered media that he is, for now, just thinking about playing for his native Team France in this year’s Paris Olympics. He then reflected on his initial impressions of the Sixers.

“One thing I’ve learned is Philly is not for everybody, though,” Batum said. “You’ve got to be ready to play for that city, and I loved it. … I could feel the passion of this city for sports, for the Sixers. And I [felt] it right away, my first game against the Wizards. I [came] in and could feel it… And those fans, even when they’re not happy, you get booed, but I understand why. … I tried to [say to myself], ‘OK, they’re right. Because we suck right now, so we’ve got to play better.’”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets are set to retain assistant coach Jay Hernandez under new head coach Jordi Fernandez, but will be parting ways with assistants Will Weaver and Ronnie Burrell, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).
  • A pair of beloved former Raptors championship-era teammates, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, are set to square off against one another for the first team in an impending matchup between the former’s Knicks and the latter’s Pacers, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. “Yeah, it’ll be weird,” Anunoby said this weekend. “I never played against him. He’s always been my teammate, so it’ll be weird, but it’ll be cool, I’m sure. He’s looking forward to it, too.”
  • The NBA has revealed its full schedule for the Celtics’ second-round series against the Cavaliers. Game 1 will tip off on Tuesday, in Boston, at 6 p.m. CT via TNT. They’ll meet again for Game 2 on Thursday, at the same time, on ESPN. The series will move to Cleveland for Game 3 on Saturday, and will start a bit later, at 7:30 p.m. CT, on ABC. A start time for Monday’s Game 4 has yet to be announced.

Sixers Rumors: Maxey, Reed, Offseason Targets, Harris, Hield, Oubre

While the Sixers are disappointed by how quickly their playoff run ended this spring, there are reasons for optimism going forward. For one, guard Tyrese Maxey showed this season that he’s an impact player capable of becoming a legitimate second star alongside center Joel Embiid, according to Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“He was amazing this year,” Embiid said of his teammate, per Mizell. “One of the 10 best players in the world this year. … He’s gotten so much better. I think there’s another step he can even take.”

Maxey will be a restricted free agent this summer, but that’s just a technicality — he will count against the Sixers’ cap for just $13MM until he signs his new contract. After using up their cap room, the 76ers will be able to go over the cap to lock him up to a maximum-salary deal that projects to be worth at least $35MM in 2024/25 — or up to $42.3MM if Maxey makes an All-NBA team.

Because the Sixers didn’t win a playoff series, Paul Reed‘s $7.7MM salary for ’24/25 will remain non-guaranteed, which means the club could potentially enter free agency with only Embiid’s salary ($51.4MM) and Maxey’s $13MM cap hold counting toward team salary. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), Philadelphia could have up to $64.9MM in cap room with just those two players on the books. That number would be closer to $55MM if the 76ers retain Reed and their first-round pick.

What might the Sixers do what that cap room? Sources tell Bontemps that Jrue Holiday was a top target until he signed an extension in Boston. OG Anunoby is also on their wish list, per Bontemps, though he’s considered likely to re-sign with the Knicks. Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up (Twitter video link), Brian Windhorst identified Paul George as Philadelphia’s No. 1 priority and said he thinks the team will make George a maximum-salary offer, assuming he hasn’t re-upped with the Clippers before free agency.

If no top-tier free agents are available, Daryl Morey and the Sixers figure to turn to their trade market, since they’ll have several first-round picks available to move and won’t have to send out matching salary. Windhorst mentions Heat swingman Jimmy Butler and Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram as a pair of possible trade targets for the Sixers.

On the other hand, it’s not necessarily a star-or-bust summer for Philadelphia, according to Bontemps, who says one other potential path for the club would be to pursue a series of role players who complement Embiid and Maxey, like the Nuggets have done around Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. In that scenario, the Sixers could explore re-signing a few of their own free agents, such as Kelly Oubre, De’Anthony Melton, Nicolas Batum, and/or Kyle Lowry. League sources expect Tobias Harris to be playing elsewhere next season though, per Bontemps.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • A reunion with Butler feels like a long shot, but David Aldridge of The Athletic argues that the former Sixer is exactly the kind of “alpha” the team needs to complement Embiid and Maxey. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link) suggests that he can’t imagine the Heat accepting a trade package heavy on draft assets for Butler unless they planned to flip those assets for another star.
  • Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) and Mark Deeks of HoopsHype shared their Sixers offseason previews, taking a closer look at the decisions facing the franchise.
  • Veteran sharpshooter Buddy Hield, who will be an unrestricted free agent, said that he would like to return to Philadelphia, tweets Mizell. Hield scored 20 points in 21 minutes in Game 6 on Thursday but had only scored two points and had a pair of DNP-CDs in the five playoff games before that.
  • Oubre also expressed interest in re-signing with the Sixers, suggesting that he feels like he has “unfinished business” after the first-round loss. “I just wanna be loved,” Oubre said of his priorities in free agency, according to Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “I don’t know about the business side of it. I mean, I do, but I can’t tell you what I know because I represent myself right now. At the end of the day, I wanna go somewhere where they respect and they love me. It’s been nothing but love here, of course.”
  • Taking a bigger-picture view, Danny Chau of The Ringer considers what another early playoff exit means for Embiid and his legacy.

Knicks’ Bojan Bogdanovic To Miss Game 5 Tuesday

The Knicks have ruled out wing Bojan Bogdanovic for Game 5 of their first-round series against the Sixers on Tuesday, Fred Katz and Shams Charania of The Athletic report (Twitter links). Bogdanovic is dealing with a left foot contusion.

Bogdanovic was injured when he collided with Sixers’ forward Nicolas Batum just after entering Game 4 on Sunday. Bogdanovic averaged eight points and four rebounds during the first three games of the series, including a couple of clutch baskets during New York’s Game 2 victory last Monday.

With Bogdanovic departing after one minute of action, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau went with a seven-man rotation for the remainder of the game.

Bogdanovic, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Detroit to bolster the Knicks’ perimeter offense, was already banged up entering the postseason. He has been dealing with a left wrist injury that may require offseason surgery.

Bogdanovic’s future with the team is uncertain. He has a $19MM contract for next season, but only $2MM is guaranteed.

The Knicks will look to close out the series without Bogdanovic on their home court.

Sixers Notes: Harris, Melton, Batum, Hield

The Sixers and veteran forward Tobias Harris are expected to part ways once the 2023/24 season concludes, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Harris, who averaged 17.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.1 APG and 1.0 SPG on .487/.353/.878 shooting in 70 regular season games, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

“Several” league executives believe the Pistons could pursue Harris, who had a previous stint with Detroit, but the 31-year-old is expected to draw interest from a variety of suitors, Pompey reports.

As Pompey writes, Harris wasn’t at his best in Philadelphia’s play-in victory over Miami on Wednesday, recording just nine points (on 40% shooting), though he did grab 10 rebounds and dish out four assists in nearly 32 minutes. Many of his teammates struggled on offense as well, Pompey notes.

Harris was benched for the final four-plus minutes of the fourth quarter, which head coach Nick Nurse primarily chalked up to exhaustion (Twitter video link PHLY Sixers). Nurse said the 76ers will likely choose between “six or seven guys” — including Harris — for closing lineups in their first-round series vs. New York.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • De’Anthony Melton did not practice on Friday and will not play in Saturday’s Game 1, but Nurse said the 25-year-old has not been ruled out for the entire series, per Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports (Twitter link). Melton, who is another of Philadelphia’s many impending free agents, has been limited to just five games since January 12 due to a lumbar spine injury.
  • As Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic details, Philadelphia pushed for Nicolas Batum to be included in the James Harden trade with the Clippers back in November, and the veteran swingman showed how valuable he can be on both ends of the court in Wednesday’s victory. The 35-year-old scored 20 points, including 17 in the second half, and had a key block on Tyler Herro‘s three-point attempt with 26 seconds remaining. Batum is playing on an expiring $11.7MM contract and is set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason.
  • He is only credited for 84, since the NBA doesn’t officially include the in-season tournament final or play-in games, but sharpshooter Buddy Hield holds the unusual distinction of playing 86 games this season before making the playoffs for the first time in his career, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Hield, who was acquired from Indiana at the trade deadline, has been the league’s most durable player during his eight NBA seasons, Bontemps notes. The Bahamian guard will be an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

Sixers Notes: Harden, Maxey, Harris, Oubre

The James Harden trade saga is a distant memory for the Sixers as they prepare to face the Clippers on Sunday, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harden began the season with Philadelphia, but he demanded a trade after a falling out with president of basketball operations Daryl Morey over what Harden considers to be broken promises in contract negotiations. After publicly blasting Morey multiple times, disrupting training camp and threatening to hold out, Harden was shipped to L.A. in a November 1 deal.

“I don’t know if anybody’s even mad anymore,” coach Nick Nurse said. “Are they?”

In addition to a reunion with Harden, this weekend in Los Angeles is providing a homecoming for two of the players the Sixers received in the trade, Pompey adds. KJ Martin told reporters he still considers the city to be his home, and Nicolas Batum spoke to a group of French media members following Friday’s game with the Lakers. Robert Covington didn’t make the trip as he rehabs a bone bruise in his knee, and Marcus Morris was traded again in February and later signed with Cleveland.

One Sixers player who’s especially excited to face Harden is Tyrese Maxey, who said he learned a lot during the time they were teammates.

“I tell him all the time [that] he did a lot for me in his short time here,” Maxey said. “Not just for my basketball skills, but for my basketball mind and my basketball confidence. I’m already a confident person. But when James Harden — as somebody who’s an MVP, scoring champ, assist champ, all those things — believes in you [and] he wants you to go out there be ultra-aggressive, even when he’s on the court and Joel (Embiid)’s on the court, you can’t do anything but appreciate that.”

There’s more on the Sixers:

  • With Harden gone and Embiid sidelined due to meniscus surgery, Maxey is seeing much different looks from opposing defenses than he did at the start of the season, observes Mark Medina of Sportskeeda. Teams are focusing their coverage on Maxey, who said he studies other players to see how they deal with it. “I watch a little bit of Donovan Mitchell, a little bit of Jalen Brunson and a little bit of Kyrie Irving when he was in Boston,” Maxey said. “I’ve watched guys that were either primary or secondary scorers that have gotten trapped, blitzed and different things like that. … They’re able to manipulate the defense and get their teammates open.”
  • In a separate story, Tobias Harris talked to Medina about the ups and downs he has faced this season and the challenge of trying to remain competitive without Embiid. “The big thing is weathering the storm and figuring out ways that we can get better and continue to build off the positives on what we’ve been able to show,” Harris said. “We have to hold the fort down until we get the big fella back and all of our pieces are all together. Hopefully we get (De’Anthony) Melton back as well.”
  • Kelly Oubre has embraced Bruce Lee’s “be water” philosophy as he adapts to a constantly changing role, Pompey adds in another piece.

Sixers’ Melton Returns Friday After Lengthy Absence

Sixers guard De’Anthony Melton returned from an 18-game absence on Friday vs. Cleveland, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Melton, who last played on January 12, has been dealing with a lumbar injury in his back.

The 25-year-old had started all 33 games in which he appeared this season prior to Friday, when he came off the bench on a minutes restriction. Melton, one of the team’s best defenders, has averaged 11.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.6 SPG on .393/.363/.827 shooting in 29.1 MPG through 33 contests.

Veteran forward Nicolas Batum had also missed the past nine games leading into the All-Star break with a hamstring injury prior to Thursday, when he played 18 minutes in the loss to New York. While he was technically available for the back-to-back Friday, he hasn’t actually played through three quarters, likely just to be cautious because he’s 35 and soft-tissue injuries are tricky.

As our tracker shows, Melton and Batum are two of a possible 14 free agents for the Sixers in 2024. That’s the highest FA total in the league — the Lakers are second with up to 11.

Melton, who is also eligible for a veteran extension, is making $8MM in 2023/24, while Batum makes $11.7MM.

The Sixers are currently 32-23, the No. 5 seed in the East.

Sixers Notes: Lowry, Batum, Melton, Embiid, Covington

Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry wasn’t hoping to play for the Sixers earlier in his career, but he feels ready now, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Lowry, who had his first practice with his new team on Wednesday and is expected to be ready for Thursday’s game, explained why he didn’t try to join the Sixers before now.

“You never want to play at home because there’s so much going on. It’s a hard place to play when you go back home,” Lowry said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a dream come true, because I’m actually being able to play in front of my friends and family and people I cheered [for] as a Sixers fan growing up. Now, I’m prepared to do it. When you’re younger, you’re not really prepared to do it. But at this in my time in my career, I’m prepared to do it.”

Coach Nick Nurse told Bontemps that Lowry looked sharp at practice and is already familiar with much of the system after their time together in Toronto. The 37-year-old point guard said he understands his duties, which are to get the most out of Tyrese Maxey and provide some veteran wisdom as the team prepares for the playoffs.

“My job is to do everything I can to make this team and this organization better,” Lowry stated. “No matter what the role is, what the minutes are, what the situation is. My job is to be a professional and help Tyrese get better, help this team get better, help coach get better and help everybody get better.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • The Sixers’ injury situation appears to be improving, Bontemps adds. Nicolas Batum, who has been sidelined since last month with a strained left hamstring, is listed as questionable for Thursday, and De’Anthony Melton, who’s dealing with a back issue, is expected to return soon. “There were two or three starters, sometimes four starters, not playing, so we certainly need some of those starting guys back,” Nurse said.
  • The team remains optimistic that Joel Embiid will be able to return from his meniscus injury before the end of the regular season, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said on NBA Today (Twitter link from Philly Sixers Galaxy). “They don’t want to put any time frame on it until he starts ramping up,” Shelburne said, “but I’m told he went to practice [yesterday], he got there early to see how everything was in the morning … his enthusiasm is there.”
  • Robert Covington hopes to be able to increase his on-court activities during the next two to three weeks, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. He’s suffering from a bone bruise in his left knee and will be reevaluated in 10-to-14 days, Pompey adds.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Maxey, Harris, Drummond, Deadline Approach

As Joel Embiid prepares for surgery, Sixers coach Nick Nurse said the reigning Most Valuable Player is experiencing a range of emotions, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

“I think he’s probably a little up and down to be honest with you,” Nurse said on Monday. “But I get some pretty positive vibes, which is why I say he’s up. Some encouraging things. And then there’s time when he’s probably about what you would be like.”

Embiid will soon undergo lateral meniscus surgery for a tear in his left knee. He’s expected to miss an extended amount of time but a firm timetable can’t be established until the surgical procedure is complete.

“There’s some tough moments to go though, thinking about what could be and what’s going to happen next, the road to recovery and all that kind of stuff,” Nurse said. “You know you got to take a positive spin on it. Anybody in life in an illness or sickness has got to say ‘I’m going to bounce back and I’m going be ready, right?’ I get some of that from him, too.”

We have more on the Sixers:

  • Embiid will miss at least a month, no matter how well the surgery goes and how limited the damage is to his knee, Shams Charania reported on the Run It Back FanDuel show (video link). “I’m told that the hope is that Embiid misses one to two months. I’m told that’s the best case, minimum scenario,” Charania said.
  • While Embiid is on the mend, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris will have to take on more responsibilities, Paul Reed and Mohamed Bamba will need to hold the fort in the middle, and wings such as Nicolas Batum will have to pitch in, Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
  • A reunion with Andre Drummond? Pompey believes the Sixers should target the Bulls’ backup center in trade talks. Drummond backed up Embiid during the 2021/22 season.
  • Along the same theme, Pompey discusses other potential trade targets, as well as detailing the expiring contracts and draft capital Philadelphia could use to make moves before Thursday’s trade deadline.