Philadelphia 76ers: Letting Danny Green walk in free agency is a mistake

Do the Philadelphia 76ers outlast the Atlanta Hawks if Danny Green doesn’t get injured in Game 3?

I know Green’s absence sort of gets lost in the minutia of a wholly disappointing effort, lowlighted by record-setting blown leads, rotational woes, and a play that will forever be remembered as “the shot,” but for a team that relied so heavily on their starting five, losing even their fifth man was a blow that simply couldn’t be overcome.

No offense to Furkan Korkmaz, who averaged 7.5 points per game in his four-game stint in the starting five, but kicking him up a chair not only left Philly lacking in reliable bench scoring but down a starting two-way player who could have helped to neutralize Kevin Huerter in Game 7.

Could Green, in concert with Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, have been the difference in that final fourth quarter? Maybe, maybe not, but assuming the Sixers don’t opt to flip him as part of a sign-and-trade later this summer, we may get a second opportunity to find out next season, as it makes very little sense for the team to do anything but re-sign Green when his contract comes up this summer.

… or does it?

Well, if a recent nugget of information from The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey ultimately comes to fruition, that may not be the case.

The Philadelphia 76ers can’t let Danny Green walk in free agency… right?

At this point in his career, Danny Green is what he is.

He’s still a good shooter from range and a capable defender in a switching system, but his days of being an elite 3-and-D wing are basically over. In 2020-21, Green struggled to match up against speedier foes and would occasionally get bodied up on by bigger shooters on the outside.

With that being said, Green was also a perfect fit with what Doc Rivers was looking to do in his maiden season with the Philadelphia 76ers and provided some much-needed veteran experience to a team that struggled with immaturity in their final season under “Process” firestarter Brett Brown.

Green averaged 9.5 points and 1.3 steals per game while draining 40.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, good for the sixth, third, and second-best marks on the team in 2020-21 among qualifying players. Though Green averaged the fewest minutes of any of the team’s starters (28), he was still featured heavily in most sets with Joel Embiid and served as a viable closing lineup player for a Sixers squad lacking in players with that two-way clarification.

Not too shabby for a “throw-in piece” in the Al Horford contract dump.

And yet, if Keith Pompey is to be believed, that may not be have been enough to secure a space on the team moving forward, either as a starter or in a reserve role behind soon-to-be Olympian Matisse Thybulle.

… hmm.

Now, in practice, a team can handle any impending free agent in one of three ways: They can either re-sign them in one way or another, allow them to walk in free agency, or execute a sign-and-trade to get something back for a player leaving town. Allowing Green to walk in free agency for nothing would be the absolute worst-case scenario for Daryl Morey and company, as it would allow his money to walk out the door and limit the team’s ability to land an expensive star.

Psst… did you hear that the Sixers are looking to land a star point guard this offseason? Interesting.

Could Green force his way out of town without so much as affording Philly a second-round pick for their trouble? Yes. He could opt to sign a mid-level exception elsewhere or refuse to participate in a sign-and-trade, but frankly, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for his financial future.

Regardless of feelings, the Sixers can offer Green more than any other team who is currently over the cap and thus could provide him with what could be his final big money, long-term contract as a parting gift if traded away. While the exact inner workings of a sign-and-trade become rather complicated to define, as we don’t where Green would like to play and if said team has anything worth acquiring, the idea of letting him walk for free would be devastating to any sort of desire to pull off a massive sign-and-trade or just to have movable contracts on the books around the deadline.

Assuming Green signs a deal worth an average of, say, $17 million per year, his contract, when sandwiched with George Hill’s, would be enough to land a player making between $25-30 million annually; players like Terry Rozier, Dennis Schröder – according to him – and Kyle Lowry, who reportedly wants to sign a contract worth roughly $25 million per this offseason.

If the Philadelphia 76ers have even the littlest desire to try to make things work with Ben Simmons or simply want to see what the trade market has to offer before making any massive commitments, keeping Danny Green around as nothing else than a contractual placeholder is paramount to maintaining optionality, even if he ultimately doesn’t close out the years in a red, white, and blue jersey. Or hey, the team could also just re-sign DG14 and keep some semblance of consistency heading into 2021-22. For all of his flaws, Green is still a great player worthy of a rotational spot on a championship-caliber team, as his track record shows. Just an idea.