John Gonzalez, a former Inky columnist, covers the Sixers from the West Coast for the Ringer.com, an otherwise reputable site:
“It feels like the Sixers are forever having their most important offseason. Here we are again. We’re about to find out what kind of front office Elton Brand commands, and so far the returns aren’t exactly glowing.
“The Sixers traded up with Boston—dangerous words—to take Matisse Thybulle in the first round, then offloaded most of their picks and Jonathon Simmons to shave a few dollars off their payroll. Brand told reporters he needs “every dollar I can get” so the Sixers can “go into free agency and get the players we need.”
“Perhaps, but he’ll never convince Process Twitter that passing up second-round lotto tickets to squirrel away money is smart. Besides, there’s an argument to be made that young talent on cheap rookie deals is exactly what a potentially capped-out team would want.
“The only way Philly fans don’t break out the pitchforks now is if Brand pulls off the Run it Back high-wire act. At present, the Sixers have just six players under contract—Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Zhaire Smith, Jonah Bolden, Shake Milton, and Haywood Highsmith. Two of those players are on two-way deals. There is a high degree of difficulty here and Brand is leaving a lot to chance.
“The Sixers boasted they had the best starting five east of Oakland [actually, Gonzo, they never did — that w3as the lame-ass media’s opinion], but three-fifths of that lineup are unrestricted free agents. Jimmy Butler was an integral part of the Sixers postseason; they put the ball in his hands and ran more pick-and-roll with him as the ball handler. As a consequence, that marginalized Simmons, reducing him to what was essentially the last offensive option, mainly operating as a floor-spacer/decoy in the dunker spot. (Simmons’s points, rebounds, assists, and shots per game all dipped significantly from the regular season to the playoffs, and his usage rate fell from 22.1 to 16.6.) Not surprisingly, Simmons wasn’t happy with that assignment and told Zach Lowe back in May, “that’s not my role,” and insisted he’s more valuable than that. Maybe. But bringing back Butler isn’t just a matter of giving him the full five-year max. It also has ripple effects that will determine how the Sixers play next season and beyond, and how they deploy Simmons, who is in line for a rookie extension.”