3 Sixers free agents who may not be back next season

Sixers james harden
Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden (1) reacts after scoring past Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown (7) during overtime of Game 4 in an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers have once again lost in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Jayson Tatum dropped 51 points in Game 7 against the Sixers to send them home with questions about how this team is going to look next year. For some players, this could very well be the final game in their 76ers career. Here are 3 Sixers who may have just played their last game in a Philadelphia 76ers jersey:

Shake Milton

November 18, 2022, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA: NBA – Sixers v Bucks Coach Doc Rivers and Shake Milton (18 Sixers) talking during the National Basketball Association game between Philadelphia Sixers and Milwaukee Bucks at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Sport Press Photo/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS—NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

Shake Milton has been an up-and-down player for Philadelphia throughout his career thus far. The former 54th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft was initially a two-way player his first year for Philly, only playing in 20 games as a rookie and averaging 4.4 points per game. Since then, the former SMU guard has been solid for long stretches, from hitting a game-winner in the Orlando Bubble to becoming a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in the 2020-2021 season, averaging 13.0 points a game.

Since Shake’s peak of 2020-2021, he has yet to recapture that form. His scoring has fallen from 13.0 points per game to 8.4 points per game. While some of this has to do with the improved teammates around Milton, Milton also being converted into a backup point guard rather than a shooting guard has been to blame on some level. Whichever reason it is, Milton appears as though the Sixers may have moved on. After playing in a career-high 76 games this past season, averaging 20.6 minutes a game, Milton appeared in only 6 of the Sixers’ 11 playoff games, averaging 3.5 minutes a game.

Georges Niang

Philadelphia 76ers’ Georges Niang (20) reacts after making a shot against Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart during the second half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference semifinal, Thursday, May 11, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

King Georges Niang came to the 76ers in the 2021-2022 season on a two-year contract. Since then, Niang has been one of the most consistent Sixers for the past two years. The Minivan, as he is lovingly referred to, is one of the most vocal players on all of the 76ers, and is one of the mainstays of Doc Rivers’ playoff rotation, playing 16.5 minutes per game in 2021-2022 and 14.3 minutes per game in 2022-2023. Combined with his vocal leadership and willingness to know his role, Niang has been important to the success of the Doc Rivers-coached Sixers teams.

Since coming to Philadelphia, Niang has averaged 8.7 points per game, 2.5 rebounds per game, and 5.0 three-pointers attempted per game on 43.9% from the field and 40.2% from beyond the arc. He set career highs in games played, minutes per game, points per game, and threes attempted per game over the past 2 seasons. Niang will become an unrestricted free agent once again this summer, just two years after prying the sharpshooting big man from Iowa State away from the Utah Jazz. The 76ers would be wise to resign Georges Niang this offseason, as his shooting and mentality have been extremely effective here in Philadelphia.

James Harden

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) calls to teammates during the first half of Game 5 against the Boston Celtics in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Finally, of course, there is the elephant in the room: James Harden has a player option this season and could easily leave in free agency. On top of that, there has been rumor after rumor of James Harden’s eventual return to the Houston Rockets. Had James Harden had a slightly better playoff run, there wouldn’t be any real conversation about this. If both Houston and Philadelphia offered similar amounts of money, Harden would almost assuredly resign with Philadelphia. Now, it has less to do with who James would rather play with, and more to do with the Sixers and how much they decide to offer their 33-year-old point guard.

There are two major truths about James Harden. The first is that James Harden is nowhere near the scorer that he was in Houston. The second is that Harden may very well be the best playmaker in the entire league. Wrapping up on a season where he averaged 21.0 points and a league-leading 10.7 assists per game isn’t a bad season at all. In fact, there are legitimate arguments to be made that Harden was snubbed from both the All-Star Game and the All NBA Teams.

If Harden ends up leaving, it would mean that the 76ers would once again be in the market for a star to complement Joel Embiid and rising star Tyrese Maxey. It would be the fourth time a former All-Star left Joel and Philadelphia, and it would certainly make the 76ers a worse team next year, yet it still has a legitimate chance of being the best thing that can happen.

Goodbye to some potential former Sixers

Only time will tell if Harden or either of the other players has played their last game for the Sixers. While there have been high and low points for Niang, Milton, and Harden, we here at PSN wish each of them the best in their currently unclear futures. They are all clearly some of the best basketball players in the world, and each of them will surely play somewhere in the NBA next season.