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The Philadelphia 76ers have been eliminated from the 2024 NBA postseason, and if their previous eliminations were any indication, I can give you a good idea of what the next few days are going to sound like. We'll hear fans bemoan how they possibly could have won "insert Game X," with Game 2 of the Knicks series serving as the obvious favorite. We'll hear talking heads question Joel Embiid's toughness and pontificate on how his body will never allow him to make it through a healthy, dominant postseason. It's too early in Nick Nurse's tenure to call for his head, but Philadelphia coaches never manage to escape the line of fire when their teams lose. It's a market that invites overreaction.

And that's what all of it is going to be in the coming days: a complete overreaction. Nobody wants to hear this during a former MVP's age-30 season, but this loss ultimately didn't matter. Nothing bad that happened this season mattered. It was a placeholder from the moment James Harden called Daryl Morey a liar. The moment the Harden situation moved past the point of no-return, Philadelphia's 2023-24 prospects were essentially over. The odds of successfully retrofitting a roster around such chaos on the fly were simply too low. So Morey took the longer view.

When Morey eventually flipped Harden to the Clippers in November, he did so without taking back a penny of 2024-25 salary. All he wanted was picks and expiring contracts. He got them at the expense of his second-best player from last season. He could have flipped those assets for things that would have helped fill the Harden-shaped void in their lineup at the trade deadline. Morey again elected patience. He could shuffle some deck chairs on his Titanic in November or at the deadline... or he could scoop the two meaningful survivors out of those icy waters and take them somewhere far better.

That was this season's true purpose. Morey just needed to endure eight potentially ugly months to give himself a blank canvas. All of those expiring deals are off of his books now. His war chest has been reloaded and holds five tradable first-round picks. The only fully guaranteed contract on his books belongs to Embiid. Tyrese Maxey, now firmly entrenched as superstar No. 2, will be back on a new max contract of his own, but because of Morey's high-risk, high-reward approach to extension negotiations, will carry only a meager $13 million cap figure into free agency. Philadelphia can create roughly $65 million in cap space this offseason if it so chooses. The 76ers are now free to build practically whatever roster they choose.

You're going to hear quite a bit about Philadelphia's pursuit of this offseason's two biggest free agents in the coming months. We've covered the LeBron James fit extensively. Paul George fits practically anywhere as a still-elite shotmaker and help-defender. The 76ers will pursue both. In a perfect world, you always prefer the star that costs no assets to the one that you have to trade for. Philadelphia can snugly fit either of their $50 million-ish max salaries onto their balance sheet without complication.

But that space gives them a major advantage from a trade perspective if they want to think bigger, especially at a point in league history in which teams have never been more cost-conscious thanks to the new second apron. We don't know which stars are going to be available yet, but there are going to be plenty. That's the natural result of a league in which somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of teams are all-in at any given time. Most of those teams wind up losing. Most of the losers employ stars that would prefer to be winning. Many of those stars look for that chance elsewhere.

Say you're trading one of those stars. Most teams are sending you commensurate salary in return. Sometimes that salary is good and sometimes it isn't. But Philadelphia? The 76ers can simply absorb your expensive player outright. Suddenly your balance sheet is $40-50 million lighter. If Morey goes to every employer of every disgruntled star and offers four first-round picks and no returning money, someone is going to take it. If nothing else, a cheap owner will ensure that. The 76ers are going to add a premium player of some sort this offseason if they decide to pursue one. It's just a matter of who.

And they're not going to stop there. Say you sign James or George for that $50 million figure. You're still looking at another $15 million or so in cap space along with the roughly $8 million cap room mid-level exception to add depth. The cheaper the added star, the more room there is to pursue that depth, but even with an incoming $50 million player, those remaining avenues are at least enough to add viable starters. They might come through free agency or they might come through trade, but they are coming.

That is the sort of outlook you punt a season for. Morey, one of the most creative general managers the league has ever seen, just spent a year positioning his 76ers to reshape their roster in whatever manner the market allows. On paper, it's one of the great accomplishments of his illustrious career. He held the 76ers long enough to reshape them in his own image.

The price that is going to extract is the extra pressure it will put on the 76ers next season. This is it. There are no more do-overs. The original Harden acquisition was a flop. So was the Embiid-Ben Simmons partnership. Embiid turns 31 next season. He doesn't have any more time to wait for Morey to get it right. If this lost season is going to be worth it, it is going to have to lead to the sort of superteam he's spent decades dreaming to build.

And if it doesn't? Well, we know how Philadelphia, and the wider NBA world, is going to react. In fact, it will probably be worse. If this gambit doesn't pay off with a real push toward the Finals, there's a good chance Embiid becomes one of those disgruntled stars forcing his way onto someone else's patiently built superteam.