The Philadelphia 76ers spent this summer restocking the cupboard with several strong additions. PJ Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, and Danuel House, Jr. headline a newly constructed rotation, with the former likely slotting in as a starter.
Even with the additions, the Sixers have a solid crop of young(ish) players.
At least, for now, anyway.
By 2024? Not so much.
Back in February 2022, longtime NBA insider Bill Simmons reported that there are rumblings of league expansion.
“I have some intel,” reported Simmons on a February episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast. “I think the league is gonna expand to Vegas and to Seattle. I think the leading contender to get that Vegas team is that Fenway Sports Group… They’ve been circling different NBA teams for a while. I think they looked at Minnesota, and I think they’re the leading contender to Vegas.”
If the league does expand soon, it means an expansion draft in the near future. And an expansion draft means teams will have to make tough choices about which eight players to protect, and which to leave available for the new teams to pick up.
Which Eight Sixers Would Be Protected?
In a recent article for Basketball News, Evan Sidery examined which eight players from every team could be protected in the event of an expansion draft. And the eight Sixers players protected were as expected.
Here’s the final tally from Sidery:
Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, PJ Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris
As a reminder, any expansion team would likely be only allowed to pick one protected player from each roster. That was the case for the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004, which were the last expansion team added to the NBA.
And Sidery’s list isn’t terribly surprising. There’s no way the Sixers would let any of Embiid, Harden, or Maxey depart. Ditto for PJ Tucker, who will likely be a major part of Philadelphia’s plans defensively. Melton and Harris also predict to be in Philadelphia’s long-term plans.
That leaves Matisse Thybulle.
His name has been bandied about in trade speculation throughout summer as he heads into the final season of his rookie deal. If the league held an expansion draft right this very second, would the Sixers really protect him? Or would they balk at keeping (read: paying) him and his lackluster postseason play?
Crop of Young Players Could Be Left Unprotected
In a follow-up to Sidery’s article, Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire took a look at which players the Sixers could stand to lose if Sidery’s eight are indeed protected. Carlin honed in on Isaiah Joe, Georges Niang, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, Charles Bassey, Jaden Springer, and Paul Reed.
Otherwise known as the rest of Philadelphia’s expected Opening Night roster.
Carlin noted that of the seven, one, in particular, would leave a sore spot for Philadelphia.
“It would hurt to lose [Georges] Niang,” wrote Carlin. “What he brings to the table is important to Philadelphia’s success. He shot 40.3% from deep in his first Sixers season, and his willingness to shoot the ball on every catch is a huge help.”
Would the Sixers value Niang’s willingness (and ability) to shoot from deep over Thybulle’s impressive defense but failure to develop a reliable shot?
Thankfully, the Sixers likely won’t have to make any decisions until 2024, when the league’s current media deal expires. And by then, the Sixers’ roster will likely be looking a little different.