After signing free-agent swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. to a one-year deal Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers are up to 16 players on standard contracts, along with three two-way deals and two Exhibit 10 signings. They’re now at the full 21-man roster limit with training camp less than two weeks away.
They’re also one player over the 15-man regular-season roster limit, which means they’ll have to either trade or waive someone before the Oct. 24 season opener.
James Harden would be the obvious trade candidate. He picked up his $35.6 million player option in late June with the intent of working on a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, but he still remains on the Sixers two-and-a-half months later. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in mid-August that the Sixers had ended trade talks involving Harden, which prompted quite the outburst from Harden a few days later.
Wojnarowski added that the Sixers planned to bring Harden “back to training camp for the start of the season, setting up an uncomfortable situation with the unhappy star.” Unless something drastic changes in the next few weeks, it appears as though he’ll begin the season as a Sixer, which means they’ll have to reduce their headcount another way.
Of the remaining players, three stand out as the most in danger heading into training camp.
The Sixers just signed Green to a one-year, veteran-mininum contract on Sept. 13. It’s fully non-guaranteed until opening night and then becomes incrementally guaranteed from there as the season progresses. That means it would cost the Sixers nothing to waive him between now and late October.
Green spent the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons with the Sixers, during which time he was both a key role player and valuable locker room presence. He averaged 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.5 three-pointers, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals in only 28.0 minutes per game while starting all 69 appearances in the 2020-21 season, but he switched between starting and coming off the bench the following year.
Green ultimately regained his starting spot late in the 2021-22 campaign and maintained it throughout their 12-game playoff run. He averaged 8.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 made three-pointers in only 26.6 minutes per game during the postseason, although he suffered a torn ACL and LCL during Sixers’ season-ending Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Green played only 11 games last season between the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers, and he understandably seemed to have lost a step. The Cavaliers, who were desperate for an answer at small forward all of last season, decided to play all three of Caris LeVert, Cedi Osman and Isaac Okoro ahead of him in their playoff rotation.
If being a full year removed from the injury helps Green more closely resemble his 2020-21 form, he’ll fill a void that the Sixers failed to address upon his departure last offseason. But if the 36-year-old is still hampered by his injury in any way, the addition of Oubre could give the Sixers enough wing depth to part ways with Green.
The Sixers originally selected Petrusev with the 50th overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft. He spent the past two season overseas with Anadolu Efes (2021-22) and Crvena Zvezda (2022-23) before joining the Sixers on a two-year, partially guaranteed deal this summer.
In 34 Euroleague games last season, Petrusev averaged 10.7 points on 54.2 percent shooting, 5.2 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in only 22.7 minutes per game. Across 72 games in all leagues, he shot 43.0 percent from three-point range, albeit on relatively low volume (49-of-114).
Petrusev spent each of the past three summers with the Sixers at summer league, although this year was his best performance by far. Across five games between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, the 23-year-old big man averaged 10.4 points on 57.1 percent shooting, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in only 22.1 minutes per outing.
The Sixers signed him to a two-year, $3.0 million deal in mid-July, although only around $560,000 is currently guaranteed. The remaining roughly $560,000 of his salary this season doesn’t become guaranteed until Jan.10, and his $1.9 million salary in 2024-25 is fully non-guaranteed until Jan. 10, 2025.
Between Joel Embiid, Mo Bamba and Paul Reed, the Sixers should be set in the frontcourt, health permitting. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Petrusev spent most of the season shuffling between the end of the Sixers’ bench and the G League with the Delaware 87ers. But with Montrezl Harrell sidelined by a torn ACL and medial meniscus that he suffered during the offseason, Petrusev’s roster spot may be relatively safe as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency big man.
Harrell declined his $2.76 million player option in June, only to re-sign with the Sixers less than a month later.
At the time, the move behooved both Harrell and the Sixers. Since he re-signed on a one-year, veteran-minimum deal, he’ll earn $2.89 million—roughly $130,000 more than he would have if he picked up his player option. But the NBA will cover roughly $875,000 of that contract, leaving the Sixers with only a $2.0 million cap hit for Harrell.
Harrell spent most of last season as the primary backup to Embiid, although then-head coach Doc Rivers pivoted to Reed after last year’s trade deadline. Harrell appeared in only eight games over the final two months of the regular season, and he played seven total minutes across their 11-game playoff run.
With Embiid, Reed, Bamba and Petrusev in the fold this year, Harrell likely wasn’t looking at much playing time even if he were healthy. Now that he figures to miss the season recovering from his torn ACL and meniscus, he’ll serve zero on-court purpose for the Sixers this year.
Had Harrell’s contract been either non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed, he’d be the no-brainer option to waive. However, he’s on a fully guaranteed deal, which means waiving him would come with no financial benefit, unlike Green or Petrusev.
Depending on how the Harden saga plays out over the next few weeks, the Sixers may have a better read on whether they have legitimate championship aspirations these season. If they do fancy themselves a contender, they should be willing to eat Harrell’s contract—they could even stretch the cap hit evenly over the next three seasons, if so desired—rather than waiving a potential contributor like Green or Petrusev.