Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Sixers must bring back Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris

Eliot Shorr-Parks
May 13, 2019 - 5:30 am

The feelings on the players faces as they walked off the court really said it all. 

They were shocked. They were devastated. They were crying. 

That is to be expected, especially with the way the Sixers were eliminated on Sunday night, a devastating 92-90 loss to the Toronto Raptors. 

Even in defeat, however, one thing was clear — a Sixers’ roster that for the majority of this season was a collection of strangers became a team in that defeat. They finally had a moment, albeit a bad one, that made them closer. A moment they can bound over and use next season to be better. 

They can only be better for it, however, if they come back together — something the Sixers should make sure happens this offseason. 

Keeping this group will not be cheap. It could have some potentially negative long-term ramifications. But the only shot the Sixers have of competing for a championship next season— and not making this season a complete waste of time — is if they bring back this group of players. 

The obvious first step in doing that is giving massive deals to both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, deals that could top $300 million combined. There are obvious risks in signing both players to max deals, but there are far more risks in letting either one or both of them walk. 

The Sixers found out the hard way last season how tough it is to land players of either Butler or Harris' caliber in free agency. They never had any kind of real shot at getting LeBron James or Paul George, and didn’t land Kawhi Leonard in a trade. The free agency class this season is once again expected to be loaded, but the harsh truth is that the Sixers have almost no shot of landing Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving or any of the actual elite players that are expected to hit the open market. Basing your offseason once again around the hope one of them comes is far risker than simply paying Butler or Harris. 

There is always the option of trying to land better players in a trade. The issue is the Sixers don’t have many tradable assets, unless they are open to trading Ben Simmons, something they haven’t shown any indication of being willing to do. They don’t have any valuable draft picks, barring an NBA lottery miracle on Tuesday night, the result of trading away so many assets this past season to land Butler and Harris.  

Add up the harsh realities of free agency with the difficulties of improving in a trade, and the Sixers would be foolish to let the players they do have right now walk out of the door. Spending money on their own players is the only way this team can come back next season as championship contenders. They must overpay for Butler and Harris to retain them. They must do the same to keep J.J. Redick. 

Those three, combined with Embiid and Simmons, were one of the best five-man units in the NBA this season despite getting limited playing time together. The unit deserves a full offseason and regular season together to see how far they can really go. Head coach Brett Brown deserves another chance to coach them. The team deserves a chance to comeback from stronger from that devastating bounce of the ball on Sunday night. 

Given the unique situation the Sixers are in, however, they absolutely have to run things back next season with this team once again — and hope the crushing loss on Sunday night launches them into more postseason success next year as a group. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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