The Sixers season came to a disappointing end on Sunday night. In Game 7 on the road against the Toronto Raptors, a Jimmy Butler layup tied the game at 90 with only seconds to go. However, the Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard would make an insane shot to win the game, the first Game 7 buzzer beater in NBA history.
The big trades made during the season almost proved to be enough, as the Sixers were a few lucky bounces away from having the game sent into overtime.
Now that their postseason run has ended, the Sixers organization has several decisions to make this summer, as the team has several players slated for free agency. What moves can Philly make this summer in order to improve?
Retaining Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler has a player option at the end of this season, in which he would make nearly $20 million next year. Even if he opted out, Philadelphia should offer him a max contract, which is what the market will likely bear for him this offseason. In addition to great defense, Butler averaged 19.4 points, six rebounds and five assists in the playoffs for the Sixers.
With Ben Simmons’ offensive ability still developing, and with Joel Embiid’s health in question, Butler is a reliable player and should be the team’s number two scoring option behind Embiid.
The trade with Minnesota paid off for Philly, and now it is important that they keep Butler long term. Losing him to the Lakers, Clippers or Knicks in free agency would move the Sixers back in the Eastern Conference power structure.
Keeping JJ Reddick and bench pieces like Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic are also important. The Sixers may try and keep Tobias Harris as well, but he could be offered a max deal elsewhere, and Simmons and Embiid will likely command similar in the future. Butler over Harris should be Philly’s priority.
With head coach Brett Brown returning for another season, this could be an unlikely way for the Sixers to get better. Brown was under pressure for how he utilized Embiid, as well as the offensive prowess of Simmons.
Embiid has a tendency to shoot from the perimeter, in spite of being a dominant big man. In Game 7 against Toronto, Embiid shot 1-6 from three-point. While he can hit them occasionally, Embiid needs to adopt a style of play that puts his back to the basket more often.
Simmons’ lack of jump shot also needs to be addressed. Taking only five shots in Game 7, his offensive game is what he lacks the most.
If Simmons and Embiid can change their styles of play, Philadelphia is set for the future. Until then, teams like Toronto and Milwaukee will be a step ahead. Whether it be changes in strategy or a personnel shake-up, player development needs to happen for the Sixers’ young stars. It is the only way they can win a championship.
In conclusion, Philadelphia nearly made the Conference Finals this season, so they’re already in a great spot. Keeping Butler, as well as Reddick, is crucial for the Sixers this summer. Finding other pieces, like a great backup center, is also key.
If Simmons and Embiid can come back better next year, Philly could definitely make it past the semifinals, especially if Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving leave their respective teams.
Featured image credited to Getty Images.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.