3 Sixers who should return next season

Philadelphia 76ers’ Kelly Oubre Jr. hangs from the rim after dunking against the New York Knicks during the second half of Game 6 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After a heartbreaking series against the New York Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers officially moved on from the 2023-2024 season into what is possibly the most important offseason of the Joel Embiid era. After a year that began with James Harden being sent to Los Angeles, the Sixers prioritized expiring contracts and financial flexibility for the offseason.

In fact, only a handful of the Sixers on this year’s roster have guaranteed contracts for next season, meaning Philadelphia may see more roster turnover than ever before.

As far as who we know will be on the team next season, Joel Embiid is still under contract for the foreseeable future and will continue to be the franchise cornerstone he has proved himself to be. Tyrese Maxey, despite being a restricted free agent, will also be back. After those two, Paul Reed, Ricky Council IV, and Jeff Dowtin all have non-guaranteed contracts for this upcoming season.

However, just because the Sixers are looking to spend big to bring in new talent, it doesn’t mean any of their current players shouldn’t be brought back.

Nico Batum

Philadelphia 76ers’ Nicolas Batum (40) defends against a shot by New York Knicks’ Bojan Bogdanovic (44) during the second half of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Nico Batum arrived early in the season. After appearing in only three games for the Clippers this season, Batum came to the Sixers as part of the James Harden deal. With the Sixers, Batum averaged a quiet 5.5 points per game on a respectable 39.9% from beyond the arc.

In 57 games for the Sixers, averaging just under 26 minutes a night, Batum became an extremely underrated and valuable piece in the rotation. He quickly took over what was Georges Niang’s role last season and flourished. Despite his low per-game scoring output, Batum will forever be remembered for his outstanding game against the Miami Heat in the NBA Play-In Tournament when he dropped 20 points to turn the tide for a struggling 76ers offense.

Batum, who was drafted in 2008, is 35 years old. He has made nearly 200 million dollars over his 15 years in the league, and at this point, there’s a chance that Batum could announce his retirement, feeling he’s accomplished more than most have. If he doesn’t, the Sixers would be unwise not to attempt to resecure his services for the upcoming season.

Batum is a perfect short-minute compliment to Embiid down low in the post. While he’s not going to be a big rebounder or finisher, his shooting, paired with Embiid’s post-work and improved passing, makes the 15-year veteran a perfect fit on the court.

When Batum shares the court with Embiid, he shoots 43.3% from beyond the arc and 45.9% from the corners, according to PBP Stats. If Nico Batum ends up willing to take a small/discounted contract because of his age, the Sixers would be lucky to have him suit up for them once again next season.

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Kelly Oubre Jr. dunks during the second half of Game 6 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Kelly Oubre Jr. joined the Philadelphia 76ers on a minimum contract this year after spending the last two years with the Charlotte Hornets. In an attempt to prove that he could contribute to winning basketball, Oubre came in hungry to prove himself. He did just that, scoring 27 points on 9/11 shooting in his first game with Philly.

In his first year with the Sixers, Oubre averaged 15.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 30.2 minutes per game across 68 games. The offensive-minded wing showed out early for the Sixers and immediately proved his worth as a valuable piece who could be here long-term.

By the time the playoffs rolled around, Oubre had endeared himself to the fanbase. He bought in on defense more than ever before, and the only knock on him from the regular season was his below-average three-point shooting. Once he got to the playoffs, he was shooting 31.1% from beyond the arc. In the 6 games against the Knicks, that number jumped to a whopping 39.1% from deep.

At only 28 years old, Oubre bet on himself, taking less money to join the Sixers, knowing that they would be competitive and have a chance to reward him financially in the offseason. Oubre came to Philadelphia and became a fan favorite quickly, thanks to his infectious attitude and professional bucket-getting.

Despite having a minor accident early in the year where he was hit by a car, Oubre Jr. bounced back for Philadelphia and was their 3rd best player this year. The Sixers have a ton of money to spend, and whether it be for a star or multiple role players, Philadelphia should want Kelly Oubre in Sixers blue for the foreseeable future.

Buddy Hield

Sixers hield
Philadelphia 76ers’ Buddy Hield warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Buddy Hield has a more complicated free agency with the Sixers. Acquired at the trade deadline, Buddy Hield finally became a Sixers after years of speculation that he would one day join forces with Joel Embiid. His shooting alone has made his career into what it is.

Since joining the league in the 2016-2017 season, Hield has made 1,924 three-pointers. Only the greatest shooter of all time, Stephen Curry, has made more threes in that timespan. Hield, on those 1,924 threes has also made them at a scarily high rate of 40.0%. He’s not just a volume shooter, but he’s an efficient volume shooter. However, there’s a reason that this is a slightly more complicated free agency.

Hield had never made the NBA playoffs until this season. Things didn’t exactly go as planned for the former Oklahoma Sooner against the ultra-physical New York Knicks. Hield struggled to find his shot for the first five games of the series.

Hield appeared in games one through three against the Knicks, making one shot and missing each of his four 3-point attempts. He ended up only playing a total of 30 minutes in those first three games.

After not playing in games four and five, Hield was finally able to find his shot in the Sixers season-ending game six loss. Hield finished the game with 20 points on six threes made, but it wasn’t enough. However, without his heroic second quarter, the Sixers would never have found their way back into that game.

Some fans were ready to throw the towel in on the Buddy Hield trade. While he had been solid since arriving from Indiana, averaging 12.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game on 38.9% shooting from beyond the arc, he hadn’t been that explosive three-point threat with Joel Embiid that fans wanted him to be. Yet, in game six, with the Sixers season on the line, Hield stepped up.

Despite his struggles early in the playoffs, Hield is still capable of being quite simply the best shooter that Joel Embiid has ever played with, no disrespect to JJ Redick or Seth Curry.