The Philadelphia 76ers played the Miami Heat even for the first three minutes – and two seconds – of Game 6.
They went down 7-0 in the first two and a half minutes before Danny Green hit a Tyrese Maxey assisted 3 to put Philly on the board before his fellow starters, James Harden and Tobias Harris, evened things up at 7-7 with 9:31 left to play. From there, Jimmy Butler scored two more points at the line before Joel Embiid put up two points two feet from the basket to tie things up yet again at 9-9.
… but then, disaster struck. After picking off an errant pass by Bam Adebayo, Harden took the ball up the court and whiffed on a driving floater, which recoiled into a sea of Sixers and Heat players. While Philly was ultimately able to come away with the possession, the game came to a halt when Embiid landed on Green’s leg, and the soon-to-be 35-year-old guard grimaced in pain under his weight.
In a game that was always going to be a tough win, losing arguably the team’s best shooter was just too big of an ask for the Sixers to bear. Despite a strong showing by Matisse Thybulle in the first half and Shake Milton in the second, the Sixers just couldn’t overcome a brutal third quarter that saw the team score just 15 points, and they went down 99-90 in a sea of boos by the fans who opted to suffer through the final seconds at the Wells Fargo Center.
And yet somehow, that isn’t even the worst news. No, after having his season come to an end 45 minutes before the rest of his teammates, DG’s very career has been called into question, as he has been diagnosed with a torn ACL and LCL, according to ESPN, that may just put an end to his long and storied NBA career.
Unfortunately, we have to talk about the Philadelphia 76ers’ options moving forward, as they have a few different ways they can deal with this news.
The Philadelphia 76ers have a few options regarding Danny Green’s future.
Danny Green’s contract is not fully guaranteed for the 2022-23 season.
No, in a prophetic bit of contract negotiation, Daryl Morey worked out a deal with Green’s agent that was fully guaranteed for the 2021-22 season and then exactly zero million in guaranteed money, according to Spotrac. In a nutshell, that means the Sixers could release Green outright before July 1st, 2022 – the day his deal becomes guaranteed for the 2022-23 season – and they won’t owe him a cent for the season.
Assuming Green either plans to retire or the Sixers simply believe he won’t be able to play enough meaningful basketball in the forthcoming season to make his contract worth their while, they can simply release him as late as June 30th and have $10 million off of their books.
The problem with that? The Sixers can’t simply give that $10 million to another player, as they are over the cap and thus can’t take part in free agency save veteran minimum deals and the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception. Outside of keeping Green and hoping the NBA gives the team a Disabled Player Exception, which wouldn’t give the team an extra roster spot but could provide financial relief, the only way the Sixers could get $10 million of on-court talent back in place of Green would be to trade him away to another team for another contract.
Now why, you may ask, would a team want to trade for Green when he likely won’t be able to play much in 2022-23 and may never again be able to play at the NBA level? Well, because of the assets attached to his contract, of course. If the Sixers find a suitor like, say, the OKC Thunder who have no problem with housing a veteran player like Green, the team could essentially buy another player in exchange for Green’s contract and another asset, be it a pick or a player like Isaiah Joe in a one-for-one trade, or as part of a bigger deal with even more teams. Granted, for such a deal to legally work, the Sixers would have to guarantee Green’s deal before a deal is done, as the new CPA only counts guaranteed money in trade calculus, but hey, if there’s a suitor out there who would either like to have DG on their bench as a semi-coach or a team simply looking to get over the NBA cap floor – again, looking at you, OKC – I’m sure that could be arranged.
If the Sixers want to secure a legitimate upgrade in their frontcourt, be that a 3-and-D combo forward like Marcus Morris, a more Green-esque wing like Reggie Bullock, or a super-sized shooter like Doug McDermott, they’ll need that $10 million in matching salary, in addition to some of their other moveable players like Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, or Georges Niang.
In an ideal world, Danny Green would have closed out his 13th season with a clean bill of health. Daryl Morey, Elton Brand, and company would have been able to evaluate his performances based on their merits and gone forward one way or another. That didn’t happen. No, now, the Philadelphia 76ers have to look at either releasing Green to avoid paying a player who can’t play, trading his contract for a more immediate performer using assets as a sweetener, or keeping him on the roster and hoping that he can play in time for the playoffs. All in all, this is a bad situation for everyone involved, but for no one more than Green himself, as it may very well mark the end of his storied career.