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Jimmy Butler (Player Option)/Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers

Cutting down the number of ball-handlers jockeying for offensive control certainly helps the Sixers pitch Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris on long-term fits. They have obliterated defenses in the regular season and playoffs when the duo runs with the starting lineup, but both disappear for long stretches behind the usage of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and sometimes even JJ Redick.

Restocking the roster with standstill shooters would go a long way toward establishing a more consistent balance. So would adding a more off-ball-friendly floor general and big.

Good luck figuring out how the Sixers acquire those players. They cashed in their best assets for Butler and Harris. They’re not striking a meaningful trade without going nuclear. 

Renounce Harris and Redick, and the Sixers carve out the wiggle room necessary to flip Simmons for a star such as Bradley Beal or Anthony Davis. Turning him into high-end complements—Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, for instance—works, too.

Or Philly could hold onto all its own free agents and explore Embiid deals. His salary fits within star-for-star swaps, or he can be divested into a combination of smaller pieces—Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and other stuff, for example.

Butler and Harris aren’t worth this trouble. Embiid is a borderline top-10 player, and Simmons will follow a similar trajectory even without the development of a consistent jumper.


Kevin Durant (Player Option), Golden State Warriors

Would Golden State consider moving Draymond Green if doing so keeps Kevin Durant in town? Absolutely. Green will be extension-eligible this summer, and parlaying him into a couple of impact players holds some appeal for a Warriors franchise with a top-heavy payroll.

But Golden State’s roster makeup won’t determine Durant’s future. The outcome of his free agency is a matter of inevitability—or, at the very least, sales pitch-proof.

“Most people in the NBA don’t expect Durant to re-sign with the Warriors no matter what happens in the playoffs,” The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami reported. “It’s the tacit bargain that I believe the Warriors’ headliners all made—hang together to give their shot for a three-peat and then if Durant leaves, he leaves with no apologies necessary. But there’s inherent tension in that, too, of course.”

Wooing Durant all over again is fine. He’s a top-five player. Maybe the euphoria of a probable three-peat and the ensuing chance to win a fourth consecutive title resonates with him. Conversely, he might want to free himself from Green’s brand of leadership and passion.

We’re fooling ourselves, though, if we think a trade will impact Durant’s thought process. The Warriors are not landing Davis by using Green as the centerpiece, and dealing the defensive ace for a package of, say, Robert Covington and Dario Saric doesn’t have the influence necessary to invert what appears to be a preplanned exit.

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