The 2024 offseason is as pivotal as it gets for the Philadelphia 76ers. Armed with a ton of cap space and a few draft assets, if the 76ers were to make a move for a third star, it's now or never, especially as Tyrese Maxey should soon sign a maximum contract that will basically vaporize their cap space moving forward. For a time, it seemed as though the 76ers were fixating on Paul George as the third star they'll be adding via free agency, but Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that their interest in him has “waned”.

With the 76ers bowing out of their pursuit of George in free agency, it will be interesting how they maneuver this offseason as they look to finally break through in the Eastern Conference. They could either trade for a star player on the wing, or perhaps sign a few high-quality role players to give the team some playoff-viable weapons at every position. There are a lot of possible routes for the 76ers to go to, but with the intention of dethroning the Boston Celtics in mind, here are some courses of action they must take that don't involve acquiring George's services.

Option 1: Pelicans engineer Brandon Ingram's exit

Brandon Ingram may be counting down the days until he's no longer a member of the New Orleans Pelicans franchise, as their reluctance to sign him to a huge contract extension is one of the league's worst-kept secrets. Do the 76ers see Ingram as the missing piece that could form a deadly trio with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey?

Ingram averaged 20-5-6 last season while playing in 64 games, so he proved himself as one of the most dependable do-it-all players on the wing even though he didn't do too much of the commandeering of his team's offense what with Zion Williamson playing in 70 games. With the 76ers, he might be able to fulfill the calling of his skillset — a third ballhandler with some size on the wing who can bail his team out with his ability to create a shot on every possession.

Think of it as Brandon Ingram being the 76ers' version of Khris Middleton from the Milwaukee Bucks; Middleton has done enough as a secondary play initiator, but he thrives whenever the team just asks him to get buckets. In fact, when the going gets rough, the Bucks have called upon Middleton to initiate the offense — which is something Ingram can do for the 76ers when defenses zone in on Embiid and Maxey.

There might be some who would think that Ingram could just end up being a slight improvement over Tobias Harris. For starters, Ingram is a much-better ballhandler than Harris. He is also a better playmaker. That alone should make him a huge improvement, as Ingram can fully take advantage of the space Embiid and Maxey draw. He is also a much-better shooter, and at much-larger volume as well, from the midrange than Harris.

With Ingram being in the final year of his deal, the 76ers could very well snag him from the Pelicans for an absolute bargain. It all depends on the price; dealing away multiple first-round picks for someone in the final year of his deal will be a tough pill to swallow.

Of course, the 76ers won't be trading for Ingram without the intention of signing him to an extension. Ingram's contract situation is the main roadblock for any prospective trade. But Ingram is only entering his age-27 season, so he should be very good, for a very long time. And in case he doesn't prove to be the player who puts the 76ers over the top, they could always pivot and trade him away for an even bigger star, as Ingram shouldn't lose too much value in the coming years.

Option 2: 76ers go all-in, pry OG Anunoby from the Knicks and trade for Lauri Markkanen

The 76ers will have around $60 million in cap space to work with, which means that they could get creative in terms of the team they build around Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

While signing a star player to a max deal is the most obvious route to go, there isn't a single free agent this year who would make the 76ers the favorite to win it all come the 2024-25 season. LeBron James could be a game changer, but all indications point to him staying with the Los Angeles Lakers.

This year's free-agent class isn't like 2016, which had Kevin Durant, or 2010, which had James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. This year's free-agent class has a few players who will undoubtedly improve a team, but they profile as more of number twos or threes on a title-winning team.

Now, it's not like the 76ers need to get a number one option via free agency. They have Joel Embiid to fill that role. But do they want to pay number one option money to someone who doesn't guarantee that they get over the hump? It's not hard to put two and two together to see that their interest in Paul George waned because, despite commanding max money, George can be inconsistent when the lights are at their brightest.

So why not take their cap space and use it to acquire two high-level players to give them the best possible shot at fielding a playoff-viable team? The Celtics showed that having players who can defend and shoot at every position is the key to winning a championship, so why not add one of the best defenders and one of the best shooters that can be had in OG Anunoby and Lauri Markkanen, respectively?

This possibility was floated around 76ers Twitter in the aftermath of the report that it's becoming more and more unlikely that Philadelphia pursues Paul George. If the 76ers pull this off, it would be one of the most successful offseasons in recent memory. Anunoby is one of the best point of attack defenders in the league, and he doesn't need the ball too much, while Markkanen is one of the best off-ball scorers in the association who will thrive in a frontcourt with Embiid.

Markkanen will only be making $18 million for next season, which frees up around $42+ million for Anunoby. While it's unlikely that the Knicks let Anunoby walk, the 76ers should do whatever it takes to make them sweat, as a core four of Embiid, Maxey, Anunoby, and Markkanen is as good of foundation to have.

Option 3: Depth is key

The 76ers are reportedly interested in signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a huge deal in free agency with an average annual value of around $20 million. If all else fails, the 76ers could perhaps try to sign players who'll be making around that value to try and surround their star duo with as much help as possible at every position.

Could Miles Bridges be an option for the 76ers? He could excel as a lob threat and secondary scorer alongside Embiid. Derrick Jones Jr. has become a lockdown perimeter defender and an athletic presence for the team on the wing. Bridges and Jones would make the 76ers an even more must-see team.

Will a Maxey, Caldwell-Pope, Jones, Bridges, Embiid starting five be enough to contend? Will they still be able to sign quality depth pieces after using their cap space on those three high-quality role players in this hypothetical scenario?

This is the most uninspiring route for the 76ers to take. But having shooters and athletic players at every position is becoming the blueprint for winning in today's NBA. The Mavericks certainly showed that a team of two superstars flanked with role players that fit the team like hand and glove can overcome a playoff gauntlet. Can the 76ers find the right pieces for their team in that same vein?