Without mentioning specific names, Sixers coach Brett Brown made it clear on Friday that he thinks the team needs to add a "high-level" free agent to compete for a title.
"At some point, when the time is right, I think we need help to win a championship," the coach told reporters at his season-ending news conference. "If that's the goal -- and for me and us it is -- then that's the answer I give."
Brown added that the Sixers "have the ability to attract" a top free agent. He cited the team's style of play, upward trajectory, culture and market.
The Sixers could have $25 million in projected cap space this summer if they renounce the rights to free agents JJ Redick, Ersan Ilyasova, Marco Belinelli and Amir Johnson. (Redick said earlier this week that there was a mutual desire for the veteran shooting guard to return). There are several ways for the Sixers to increase their cap space to $35.4 million, the amount needed to sign LeBron James in free agency.
Brown didn't bring up specific names when talking about free agents on Friday. He was asked if the coaching staff would be opposed to bringing in a ball-dominant free agent to play alongside Ben Simmons, who is at his most effective with the ball in his hands.
"If this player you're describing was great, we'd figure it out. Truly, we would figure stuff out," the coach said. "It's as honest and simple as I can answer that."
Brown also noted that any free agent the club pursues would be with Simmons and Joel Embiid in mind.
"For the first time since I've been here, there is tremendous clarity on what we have," the coach said. "... We don't have to turn this into calculus -- it's quite clear [what type of player the club should pursue]."
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More generally, Brown said that the Sixers' timeline to contend has changed since the club won 52 regular-season games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. In the previous four seasons, Philadelphia had won just 23 percent of its games in an attempt to build through the NBA draft.
"Our expectations have changed, and that's a good thing," the coach said. "... I love the direction that we're heading all over the place. We're on to something special here."
Other notes from the Sixers' end-of-season news conferences:
• Simmons said Thursday that he's going to change "minor things" on his shooting mechanics to get "comfortable taking certain shots" on the floor. In the postseason, 86 percent of Simmons' shot attempts were taken within 9 feet of the rim. His limited range allowed Boston to defend the 6-foot-10 guard effectively in the second round of the playoffs.
"It's one of the things where you just want to improve your game and get better," Simmons said. "Once you start hitting shots, they change up their defense so everything has a counter."
Brown agreed that the organization would not attempt to completely change Simmons' shooting mechanics. The coach is confident that Simmons, a rookie of the year contender, will work vigorously to improve his shot and other areas of his game this summer.
When asked how things could change if he starts to consistently make jump shots, Simmons said, "I think offensively it's going to be tough to stop me. And then obviously with the team, we have another guy who can knock down shots and score and then another guy who can make plays, so I think it's going to be scary."
• Embiid said he expects to put together an MVP-caliber season in 2018-19 in part because he'll be able to work out for an entire offseason. Embiid was rehabbing from surgery last summer and has dealt with several significant injuries in his brief NBA career. He is healthy heading into this offseason.
"I feel like next year is definitely going to be a type of MVP season for me, but it starts with my body," said Embiid, who averaged 22.9 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.8 blocks in the regular season.
Embiid said he might try to play on the perimeter more frequently next season to open up room for the other Sixers to create opportunities.
On the Sixers' second-round loss to the Celtics, Embiid added that he and his teammates thought Boston "was going to be a little too easy, I'm not going to lie."
• Markelle Fultz reiterated that he wants to play more often in the playoffs but was supportive of his teammates and the Sixers coaches' decision to keep him out of the lineup. Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 pick, did not appear in the five-game series and played in just three of the Sixers' 10 total playoff games.
"I feel any competitor, anybody else on our team that was on the bench, anytime you see a competitive moment in front of you, you really want to be out there," Fultz said. "But my spirits were there, I was cheering on whoever was on the court at the time, just making sure I was helping in any way I could."
Fultz was asked if he's looking forward to putting his stamp on the game after watching others in his rookie class have success this season.
"For sure," the 19-year-old said. "I can't wait to go through the summer and just improve on all aspects of my game and grow both on and off the court and come back next year and put my stamp on it."
Brown expressed confidence that Fultz would be able show the league why the Sixers chose him with the No. 1 overall pick next season. The coach played T.J. McConnell ahead of Fultz at backup point guard in the postseason. Sixers president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said McConnell, who excelled against Boston as a starter in the final two games of the series, will have the option on his contract picked up for next season.
• Colangelo said that he plans to discuss a contract extension with Brown, who is entering the final year of his contract.
"I don't think it's the healthiest of situations for coaches to go into a season with one year remaining on their contracts. It impacts so many aspects of what you're doing," Colangelo said.
"I think he's taken a big step forward, proving that as the talent increases, as the availability of his players is more consistent and as he can adapt and manipulate that talent. He's doing a very good job, which is once again why we're going to be talking about a contract extension at the appropriate time."
Brown said Friday that he didn't feel like he was owed anything but that he and his staff had earned the opportunity to continue to build the Sixers program.
"I think this will play out as it plays out, but I love being here," said Brown, who has coached the Sixers for the past five seasons. "We've grown something that I think all of us, when you take a deep breath, look around and, collectively as an organization, I'm just so proud of where we are. I think my situation will unfold as it should."