After yet another second-round playoff exit, the Philadelphia 76ers had a long offseason ahead of them.
At the time, there were seemingly few paths to noticeably upgrade the roster around star Joel Embiid.
Especially if James Harden opted into his $47 million player option as expected.
But thanks to Harden’s close relationship with General Manager Daryl Morey, new pathways opened.
Morey has seemingly convinced Harden to take a $15 million pay cut this season to give the team flexibility to better the roster.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Harden will sign a two-year deal with a PO in year two.
Sources: James Harden is taking a $15 million paycut for next season that allowed Philadelphia to elevate roster — with sole focus on a championship run in 2023. Harden opted out of his $47M player option and now plans to sign a new two-year deal with a player option in Year 2.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 8, 2022
Morey also brought in De’Anthony Melton via trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Daryl and the Sixers have done a terrific job finding players to cover up weaknesses from last year’s team.
But the ultimate cover-up to any team’s weakness is a star.
Stars can overcome roster weaknesses thanks to their stellar play and sheer talent.
Philadelphia already has one bona fide star in Embiid but may be lacking a second if Harden continues to decline.
It may be time for Morey and the Sixers to go star hunting.
Would The Juice Be Worth The Squeeze?
First off, it must be established what the Sixers would need to send out at minimum in a trade for a true star.
Trade talks probably would not even begin to happen unless Philly put rising young star Tyrese Maxey on the table.
Maxey had a meteoric rise in his second season, becoming a full-time starter while averaging 17.5 points per game on 48.5% shooting at 42.7% from deep.
At just 21 years of age, he has all the potential in the world to become one of the league’s brightest stars.
— Evan Sidery (@esidery) June 23, 2022
From there, the 76ers would have to include Tobias Harris for salary matching purposes.
On top of those two players, draft picks and other role players would need to be added depending on the level of the star.
For a team that lacked depth last season, trading away three potentially solid rotation pieces is a big cost.
Whatever star that would be coming back would need to be a transcendent talent who makes the Sixers instant contenders.
And even then, it would need to be discussed if the trade would be worth it.
Maxey could represent the future of 76ers basketball, the bridge from the Embiid-Harden era to the next.
Embiid himself is only 27 years old, and his health has improved over the past two seasons.
His prime may turn out to be longer than initially expected.
Any star trade involving Maxey would signal the 76ers are going all-in on the next two years.
If a title is not won, it would be a big waste.
Transcendent Talent To Target
With the latest news that Kevin Durant requested a trade from Brooklyn, his name must be mentioned at least once.
The 33-year-old All-World forward just averaged 29.9 points per game on 63% true shooting.
He is still one of the league’s most talented players on the offensive end and can be a plus on defense when locked in.
However, with the Sixers running low on available first-round draft picks, Durant probably is not a realistic target.
Discuss the back end of his recent contract extension all you will, but Beal is still in his prime.
While he had an off-year this past season, he was a 30+ point-per-game scorer for two consecutive seasons before.
Bradley Beal was having the best season of his career🔥🔥
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 3, 2020
Both seasons were done so on true shooting percentages that hovered close to 60%.
These monster years were also done while being the focal point of the Wizards’ offense.
Defenses would key in on stopping Beal, and he still managed a way to hang 30 on teams night after night.
Now imagine Beal playing next to a player of Embiid’s caliber.
With Harden running the show on offense.
Beal is unique in that he does not have to have the ball in his hands to be a threat.
While he possesses the talent to attack off the dribble, he is just as deadly spotting up from three.
A “Big 3” of Harden, Beal, and Embiid would potentially produce a historically great offense.
And maybe just so great it brings a title to Broad Street.