The Philadelphia 76ers needed to upgrade their roster after losing to the Miami Heat in six games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Things got started on the night of the 2022 NBA Draft.
During the draft, the Sixers sent the 23rd overall pick and 35-year-old swingman Danny Green to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for combo guard De’Anthony Melton. In doing so, Philly accomplished two things: offloaded Green’s contract and added much-needed backcourt assistance off the bench.
Melton is accustomed to a reserve role, starting just 24 of his 185 games over the past three seasons with the Grizzlies. He shot a respectable 37.4 percent from 3-point land last season and defends at an above-average level.
The Melton-for-Green swap is by no means a home run deal for the 76ers. However, it was a necessary move to clear up $2 million in salary, something the team would need to make moves in free agency.
Let’s review the Sixers’ biggest moves in 2022 NBA free agency and grade the signings, with potentially more moves to come as they fill out their roster.
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Sixers 2022 NBA Free Agency Grades
James Harden re-signs for two years
The terms of James Harden’s expected two-year deal are still being ironed out, so nothing is actually done yet. Still, reports suggest that Harden, who opted out of a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 campaign, will take a $15 million pay cut to stay with the team.
Harden told Sixers president Daryl Morey to enhance the roster and then give him the remaining salary the team had to dish out:
Just one goal for James Harden 🏆
(via Yahoo Sports) pic.twitter.com/q9PVWpf7RF
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 18, 2022
Harden knew he would be taking a pay cut. He was willing to do so to bolster his chances of winning an elusive NBA title. He will serve as the Sixers’ co-star behind Joel Embiid, the runner-up for the 2022 NBA MVP Award.
Bringing back Harden at a discounted contract is a major victory for the Sixers.
P.J. Tucker signs for three years, $33 million
Following a one-year stint with the Heat, P.J. Tucker inked a fully guaranteed three-year, $33 million deal. The 37-year-old defensive stalwart shot a career-best 41.5% from 3-point range.
By adding Tucker, the Sixers reunited a longstanding teammate of Harden. Tucker and Harden played together with the Rockets from 2017-21 and the two had plenty of success:
Harden win% with different teammates:
68.6 — P.J. Tucker
66.8 — Kevin Durant
66.7 — Joel Embiid
66.2 — Russell Westbrook pic.twitter.com/2wHfMz0z42
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 30, 2022
Tucker doesn’t add a ton in the box score — averaging 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season — but his contributions cannot be measured statistically. He can play both forward positions and serve as a small-ball center, something that can come in handy when Embiid is on the bench.
Tucker can spot up in the corner when Harden and talented guard Tyrese Maxey drive to the basket. He will be left with plenty of open shots, some coming when Embiid is double-teamed in the paint.
Given that Tucker is a strong shooter from the outside and an elite defender who can lock up the opposing team’s star player, it’s no wonder why the Sixers made it a priority to sign the veteran. He could start, or serve as the club’s sixth man. Furthermore, the Sixers weakened the Heat, a fellow Eastern Conference contender, by adding Tucker.
The lone downside to the Tucker signing is he will be 40 years by the end of the contract. His play could certainly dip by Year 2 of the three-year pact, and by Year 3 the forward could be playing well below his contract value.
However, the Sixers gave themselves a better chance to compete for a title next year and the year afterwards in poaching Tucker in free agency. The ends justified the means for Philly.
Danuel House Jr. joins Sixers on two-year, $8.4 million pact
The Sixers brought in another former teammate of Harden this offseason, signing swingman Danuel House Jr using the bi-annual exception. The 29-year-old is another prototypical 3-and-D wing. House primarily spent last season with the Utah Jazz, knocking down 41.5 % of his 3-pointers in 25 games (six starts). Across 19.6 minutes per contest with the Jazz in 2021-22, he produced per-game marks of 6.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, an assist, 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks.
House will come off the bench and provide strong defense on the perimeter. House played alongside Harden from 2018-21 and figures to find himself wide open on the perimeter for the same reasons that Tucker will be left by himself at times on offense.
Philly added House on an inexpensive deal. House slightly enhances the Sixers’ ceiling for the next two seasons at a cheap cost. For that reason, this signing deserves another good mark.