MVP Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers have made an early exit in the NBA playoffs — again.

The 76ers spent the bulk of the season as one of the favorites to win the title, but despite adding All-Star James Harden to their roster, they find themselves at home during the Eastern Conference finals.

What does the offseason look like for a team that has eight players — including Harden — becoming free agents this summer?

Philadelphia will have to make some important decisions regarding the future of Harden, Tobias Harris and even Tyrese Maxey.

Offseason guides for every eliminated team

State of the roster

Year 1 of Joel Embiid‘s supermax extension coincides with a roster facing decisions this offseason. The newly crowned MVP is under contract the next four seasons; however, his 76ers haven’t advanced beyond the second round despite having the NBA’s third-best record (behind Phoenix and Milwaukee) since 2020-21. The playoff futility now has the 76ers searching for their next head coach after Doc Rivers was fired Tuesday. Besides finding a replacement for Rivers, Harden’s free agency now becomes the focal point for how Philadelphia builds the roster, not only next season but in future years.

Harden is one of eight 76ers who can become free agents this July. Philadelphia has limited options on how to improve the roster; the 76ers do not have any draft picks in June nor are they allowed to trade a first until 2029 at the earliest. Forward Tobias Harris is entering the last year of his contract. Despite averaging 14.7 points in the regular season and shooting 52.9% from the field in the postseason, Harris could be a financial casualty in 2024-25. Harris is extension eligible but a new contract — combined with Embiid’s $50 million cap hit and new deals for Harden and Tyrese Maxey — could see the 76ers have over $150 million in salary committed to four players.

Offseason finances

The finances in Philadelphia are predicated on Harden’s $35.6 million player option. If Harden declines his option by June 29 but signs a max contract starting at $46.9 million, the 76ers would be $9 million over the tax and nearing the $179.5 million second apron. They would not have access to use the $5 million taxpayer midlevel exception and would be restricted with how much money they could take back in a trade.

If Harden leaves and signs with a team that has cap space, the 76ers would still be over the cap, but would be able to use the $12.2 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception. The only way the 76ers could get under the cap if Harden leaves is by trading Harris and his $39.7 million contract and not taking back any salary in return. Danuel House Jr. and Montrezl Harrell have until June 21 to opt in to their contracts for next season. De’Anthony Melton‘s $8 million contract becomes fully guaranteed on July 3.

Top front office priority

Harden is a priority, but at what cost? The guard is coming off a regular season in which he led the league in assists (he also averaged a career-best assist-turnover ratio), shot the second-highest 3-point percentage in his career and averaged at least 20 points for an 11th consecutive season. Philadelphia has gone 52-26 in the regular season with Harden in the lineup since acquiring him in February 2022.

Harden became only the second player over the past 25 years to record multiple games with at least 40 points and go-ahead field goals in the final 30 seconds in a single playoff series. Despite all of that, Harden will turn 34 in August, ranks seventh in total minutes played among active players and had moments during the playoffs when he struggled. In the first-round series against Brooklyn, Harden shot 7-for-30 in the paint (23.3%). That is the worst paint field-goal percentage in a single series by any player since play-by-play was first tracked in 1996-97 (minimum 25 paint FGA). In the second round, Harden shot 9-for-44 from the floor in the 76ers’ losses in Games 2, 3 and 6. As for his next contract, Philadelphia is on a level playing field with teams under the cap because of the Over-38 rule.

The 76ers can offer a four-year, $210 million contract. A team like the Houston Rockets, which has cap space available, can offer four years and $202 million. There are two questions the front office has to ask. The first: whether there is too much financial exposure to offer a contract that rich (especially considering the new CBA rules and Harden’s age), and if so, can the two sides come to a compromise? Remember, Harden sacrificed $14 million last offseason to help Philadelphia sign P.J. Tucker and House. The second question: Who are the 76ers bidding against, and is there a walkway number? Houston, where Harden played for more than eight seasons, projects to have $60 million in room.

Extension candidate to watch

Daryl Morey doesn’t frequently hand out rookie extensions. In his tenure in Houston and now Philadelphia, Morey has signed only one former first-round pick to a rookie extension: Harden in 2012 (after acquiring him in a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder). Maxey could become the second. In his 41 starts this season, Maxey averaged 22.3 points, shot 49.2% from the field and 45.5% from 3. In the minutes Maxey and Harden shared the court, the 76ers outscored opponents by 153 points. Maxey ranked in the top 10 in effective goal percentage in transition this season, according to Second Spectrum tracking.

Maxey is likely not a max player (although you can make the argument that neither is Darius Garland, who did get a max rookie extension) but could see a starting salary at $31 million. The first-year salary is 21% of the cap, comparable to the extensions Jordan Poole and Tyler Herro signed last October.

Other extension candidates to watch

Shake Milton (thru 6/30), Jalen McDaniels (thru 6/30), Paul Reed (thru 6/30), Harris, Melton and Furkan Korkmaz (as of 7/9)

Team needs: Bench depth. The 76ers likely will see half of their roster enter free agency, including Georges Niang and Paul Reed.

Future draft assets: Philadelphia owes Oklahoma City a top-6 protected first-round pick in 2025. If the first is not sent in 2025, the Thunder will receive either a 2026 or 2027 top-4 protected first. Two years after the first to the Thunder is conveyed, Philadelphia will send Brooklyn a top-8 protected first in either 2027 or 2028. The 76ers have three second-round picks available to trade.

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