Every NBA franchise has made their fair share of mistakes on the open market. But while the 76ers have hit big in the draft, their misses in free agency have been particularly egregious. Decisions made in the summer hampered the prime of Allen Iverson and have affected Joel Embiid’s most productive years.
With those moves in mind, we look back at the 10 worst signings in Sixers history.
10. Kwame Brown
While he didn’t sign a big deal, Kwame Brown’s limitations were well-documented by the time he arrived in Philly. Signed for two years and $6 million, Brown’s deal wasn’t particularly punitive as much as it was pointless. Taking a flyer on a former No. 1 pick makes sense most of the time, but that was not the case with Brown.
9. Dikembe Mutombo
Dikembe Mutombo is an NBA legend and was a major part of the Sixers’ NBA Finals run in 2001. Still, the deal he signed with the Sixers didn’t match his production, or outside expectations at that point in his career. Never a big scorer, he arrived in Philly on a four-year, $68 million deal. But at that time, his best days as a rim protector were behind him after long stints with the Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks. While he made an All-Star Game in Philly, Mutombo was near the end of his most useful years. He signed with Sixers in 2001 and never started more than 56 games in a season after leaving them in 2002.
8. Jerryd Bayless
Jerryd Bayless joined the Sixers on a three-year, $27 million deal after a middling performance with four teams in eight years. Due to a left wrist injury, he only played in three games in the first year of his deal, and struggled after returning to start the 2017–18 season. Bayless was out of Philly and out of the NBA after he played the final year of that contract in Milwaukee.
7. Samuel Dalembert
Samuel Dalembert wasn’t terrible with the Sixers — but his contract was. A solid role player who did the dirty work of defending and rebounding, Dalembert was re-signed to a six-year, $65 million contract in 2005. During that deal, his best year came when he averaged 10.5 points and 10.4 rebounds in 2007-08.
6. Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris’ contract has been a major topic of every offseason since he signed it. For the Sixers, who have often been forced to look for a third star to pair with Joel Embiid and/or Ben Simmons and James Harden, the deal has been a thorn in their side, mainly because Harris is being paid like said star. He signed a deal worth $180 million over five years back in 2019.
5. Matt Geiger
Matt Geiger was beloved but overpaid. A member of the Allen Iverson team that reached the 2001 NBA Finals, he received a six-year, $51 million deal, despite producing mediocre numbers. In fact, his deal was so favorable that he had a trade kicker and was able to nix a deal that would’ve sent Iverson to the Detroit Pistons.
4. Scott Williams
Scott Williams made his bones as a member of the Chicago Bulls title teams, winning three championships as part of their first three-peat. After that performance, Williams parlayed his way into a seven-year deal with the Sixers. That the Bulls never made an offer to the undrafted role player out of North Carolina should’ve been a bit of a sign to the Sixers, who were on the hook as Scott never averaged better than 6.4 points and 6.3 rebounds.
3. Al Horford
Most teams would have been happy to sign Al Horford in 2019, so the Sixers weren’t necessary in the wrong for coveting him. What they are on the hook for is offering a four-year, $109 million deal without assessing his fit in their franchise. Anchored by big man Joel Embiid and point-forward Ben Simmons at the time, they were light on shooting and spacing. The three players never meshed, and when president of basketball Daryl Morey was hired, his first order of business was offloading that contract.
2. Elton Brand
Elton Brand, who now serves as Sixers general manager, was a big-time scorer with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers before he came to Philly on a five-year, $82 million deal. In his defense, Brand suffered serious injuries, including a torn Achilles, before joining the Sixers. But that doesn’t change the brass tacks here. After averaging 20 and 10 for the first nine years of his career, he averaged 12.7 points and 7.2 rebounds in five years in Philly.
1. Kenny Thomas
The Sixers signed Thomas to a deal worth $50 million over seven years. That was not chump change in 2002. So while Thomas had serviceable numbers, 12.0 points and 8.7 rebounds, he had never proven he could be more than just that — serviceable — before the Sixers threw cash at him. The main problem with Thomas and the deal the Sixers gave him: he was a financial drag on a franchise trying to capitalize on Allen Iverson’s prime.