To Max or Not to Max? Debating Bringing Harrison Barnes to Philadelphia

I learned something about Sixers fandom last week.

Just as I have for the last six or seven years, I watched the NBA Draft with Stan, my close friend and occasional contributor here at Palestra Back. This year, we were surrounded by a few other friends, a table full of pizza and wings, and a small dog that was very sleepy by the late lottery.

As the events of the night unfolded, particularly those that affected the Sixers, Stan and I reacted with a mix of appropriate emotion and wild excitement.

When they (correctly) took Ben Simmons first overall, Stan and I clinked two monstrous cans of Foster’s Australian Beer. When the Celtics failed to trade the third pick and reached for Jaylen Brown, we laughed and sweated as potential Nerlens Noel trade rumors bounced around the Twittersphere. When the Sixers took Timothe Luwawau-Cabbarot with the 24th pick, we screamed “LUWAWU” before Adam Silver could eek out the third syllable in his name. Finally, when the commissioner announced Furkan Korkmaz as the Sixers next pick, we laughed and welcomed a new Furkan into our lives (despite me ranking Korkmaz 32nd on my board, with 7 guards I liked better still available).

At this point, one of the other guys in the room laughed and said, “They celebrate no matter what happens!”.

Which is true. It’s really the essence of Process Era Sixers fans. Almost beating the Warriors this season figures as one of the highlights of the last several Sixers seasons. Likewise is true of chanting “M-V-P” at Carl Landry.

Process Era Sixers fans are the kings and queens of the Spin Zone. Three years of losing developed the a fanbase that believes everything is fun and good, in it’s own way.

So when Harrison Barnes at a max level contract was rumored to be in the Sixers plans this summer, even after his dreadful performance in the NBA Finals, we found the bright sides. Let’s run through them, making the most of the hottest Sixers rumor out there.

Harrison Barnes is only 24!

Under the current CBA, the Sixers are only able to offer Barnes a deal of four years or less. The chances that Barnes falls off a cliff between age 24 and age 28 are far less likely than the chances he improves his game in that time. Certainly leaving the two best shooters of all time won’t help Barnes offensively, but an increased role and continued development could lead to a more well rounded Barnes.

He fits with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid!

Every piece of the Sixers’ puzzle from here out will need to check those two boxes. If the Sixers are going to be contenders some day, it will likely have happened because Simmons and/or Embiid has made the leap to stardom. Barnes brings outside shooting, plays strong defense, and doesn’t operate with the ball in his hands. That role will belong to Simmons, who would look to players like Barnes for cuts and spot-ups.

The only question about the fit would be on the other end. Barnes has made a name for himself by being able to slide up a position and guard power forwards. Simmons projects to cover 4s most comfortably in the NBA and would limit Barnes “smallballability”. But Simmons won’t play 48 minutes, now or ever, so Barnes still retains some of that value.

Not to mention the dream one day of potentially trying Simmons at the 5 for stretches. It may sound crazy, but no crazier than Draymond Green covering centers.

The Sixers have so much cap space, the money barely matters!

The Sixers will begin the offseason well below the salary floor, let alone anywhere near the cap. The worry about passing big bucks to someone at this point in the re-build centers around when you’ll need to pay your other prospects. Thanks to 2 years on a broken foot, Joel Embiid won’t be up for free agency for another two years and, unless he lights the world on fire and shows no sign of injury, shouldn’t command monster money on his second deal. Nerlens Noel is a restricted free agent next summer, but would easily fit under the cap in addition to Barnes. Jahlil Okafor….we’ll see (ducks for coever from Okafor fans).

The only remaining question is Ben Simmons, whose four-year rookie deal would expire the same season as Barnes big money contract. There’d be some decisions to be made in the summer of 2020, but make those decisions then.

The alternatives are terrifying!

Is handing Barnes, a vital member of one of the NBA’s best teams, any scarier than the other options?

Like DeMar DeRozan, 26 years old and still can’t shoot from the outside? Or Allen Crabbe, career 7.0 points per game scorer? Or Dion Waiters, who is Dion Waiters?

Barnes may not be worth star money, but at the very worst, we’ve seen what he can contribute on both ends of the floor.

Though wait a few days for one of these guys to sign a deal with the Sixers, and I’ll happily give you three reasons it was the perfect move.

Welcome to the spin zone.


Header image via Slam Magazine

Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at He has also contributed to, Rush The Court,, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to


One thought on “To Max or Not to Max? Debating Bringing Harrison Barnes to Philadelphia

  1. What reach for Jaylen Brown? He immediately upgrades the Celtics in a key area. We’ve gone from Rondo-era Connect Four to the regal game of chess! Young Fischer! (In that he may or may not have more actual basketball skills than Bobby Fischer.)


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