Heading into last offseason, the Sixers had a decent sense of which players would be back.
There’s now greater uncertainty, in large part because the team has a substantial list of free agents (and potential free agents).
With free agency a little over a month away, here’s an initial look at those players:
James Harden (player option)
For good reason, Harden’s situation has attracted ample attention.
As Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported, he’s expected to decline his approximately .6 million player option. Rumors of Harden’s interest in returning to the Rockets have circulated for quite a while. While Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said last week the team would again like Harden back, describing that outcome as “Scenario A,” the 33-year-old’s uneven playoff performances clearly do not merit the Sixers automatically agreeing to whatever contract he desires.
Indeed, a source told NBC Sports Philadelphia that the Sixers intend to be cognizant of both the short- and long-term health of their roster this summer. That very well may not align with a big-money, four-year new contract for Harden. Given Morey and Harden’s extensive history, though, perhaps they’ll again find a deal that satisfies both sides.
Danuel House Jr. (player option)
House had a big playoff moment in Game 5 of the Sixers’ second-round series against the Celtics, stepping into the rotation and showcasing many of his best traits, including deep-rooted adaptability, solid on-ball defense, comfort attacking in transition, and savviness playing alongside stars like Harden.
The veteran wing didn’t have a good year from three-point range (33.6 percent) and fell out of the Sixers’ rotation by the middle of the regular season. He played well over the final five weeks, though, and that Game 5 outing illustrated how he can help in certain playoff situations.
House’s option is .3 million.
Montrezl Harrell (player option)
The minimum-salary deal Harrell signed gives him a .8 million option for the 2023-24 season.
Despite his pre-existing chemistry with Harden, Harrell did not retain a rotation spot this year. Paul Reed and P.J. Tucker were the Sixers’ two top backup center options in the playoffs.
Morey was optimistic about McDaniels’ future after the Sixers traded for the 25-year-old wing in February.
“I think he’s got starter potential,” Morey said. “We’d like him to obviously have a great run to help us win a championship this year and then re-sign him — we have his Bird rights — and hopefully continue it here. But given his size, athleticism, he has everything we need — someone we can build around going forward.”
Outside of 36 garbage-time seconds in Game 6, McDaniels did not appear in the final four games of the Sixers’ series loss to Boston.
Perhaps Morey’s belief in McDaniels’ jumper will contribute to the Sixers still seeing him as a useful two-way player for future postseasons. Combining the regular season and playoffs, McDaniels only took 39 three-pointers as a Sixer and made 15 (38.5 percent).
Niang often held up fine defensively in the playoffs when opponents tried to target him. He looked significantly better on that end of the floor than last postseason, when his bothersome left knee exacerbated athleticism deficiencies.
Niang made timely three-pointers, too, including three in the Sixers’ Game 4 overtime win over the Celtics. In the regular season, he notched a fifth consecutive year with a three-point percentage of at least 40.0.
Game 7 in Boston didn’t go well for Niang. He played a bit under four minutes, missed his only three-point attempt, and picked up a strange technical foul when he briefly held Jaylen Brown’s knee after the Celtics forward chased a loose ball near the Sixers’ bench.
The Sixers have Niang’s Early Bird rights.
“Obviously, I love it here in Philly,” Niang said following Game 7. “I haven’t really processed everything, but I really enjoy being here. The guys, the camaraderie, the organization, it’s been amazing. So I’m super thankful that they’ve always welcomed me, that the fan base has welcomed me. I don’t know what the summer holds. I’m not a future-teller, but it’s going to come and we’ll find out.”
Milton was excellent at times this season in shorthanded situations, finishing one rebound shy of a first career triple-double against the Magic in November and doing strong work overall next to De’Anthony Melton when Tyrese Maxey and/or Harden were injured. He played a career-high 76 games, flashed improvement as a passer, and generally had a solid regular season.
However, Milton wasn’t part of the Sixers’ playoff rotation. We’ll see whether the 2018 second-round pick signs elsewhere this summer.
If the Sixers extend Reed his qualifying offer of .3 million, he’ll become a restricted free agent.
Reed eventually gained Doc Rivers and Harden’s trust, appeared in every playoff game, and continued refining his skills as an elite offensive rebounder and switchable, chaos-creating defender.
Given that Joel Embiid has an extensive injury history and Tucker is 38 years old, backup center remains a very important position for the Sixers. Morey selected Reed 58th in the 2020 draft and has long been a fan of “BBall Paul.”
The Sixers entered the regular season with an open roster spot and ultimately used it to sign Dedmon in February.
The 33-year-old big man wasn’t needed for any impactful playoff minutes.
Mac McClung, Louis King
Each of the Sixers’ two-way contract players had nice days in the team’s regular-season finale, a blowout win over the Nets. McClung’s 20-point, nine-assist, nine-rebound afternoon was a satisfying conclusion to a season highlighted by his truly sensational dunk contest victory.
Morey usually views two-way slots as flexible. Signing a new two-way player (or two) would be a logical way to add intriguing undrafted prospects, especially since the Sixers currently have no picks in this year’s draft.