The NBA Loser Lineup: Joel Embiid, 76ers fall short yet again — will his fantasy outlook change next season?

Welcome to “The Loser Lineup,” where we delve into what teams eliminated from playoff contention must do to elevate their fantasy basketball game. As the dust settles on this season’s disappointments, it’s time for these teams to strategize, rebuild and reinvigorate their rosters for a shot at redemption next season. Join us as we explore the pivotal moves and player evaluations that could change the fantasy landscape by next year.

This story will continuously be updated as each NBA team heads for Cancún and we add them to the Loser Lineup.

What will move the fantasy needle for 6ers? Finally, Tobias Harris will be out of there. After one of the worst max deals in recent memory, the Sixers will have considerable financial flexibility this offseason. Locking up Tyrese Maxey is of the utmost priority, and it’ll be interesting to see how Daryl Morey and Elton Brand elect to build around their two stars — knowing that the recent iterations have flamed out, especially with Joel Embiid off the floor.

It’s not all on the front office though. Embiid, a perennial MVP candidate, hasn’t been able to stay healthy and I expect his availability issues to move him down a few spots on draft boards next year.

Decreasing the demand on his top-three usage rate could help on the health front — and in turn, force Philly to be less dependent on their big man. Given Maxey’s trajectory, he’s overdue for more touches.

Back to the front office. Will they lure another star? Or, seek out multi-faceted role players to address the team’s lack of athleticism, playmaking and shot creation? If not, these issues will continue to fester for this underachieving squad.

Pour one out for the Bucks because that wasn’t close to Milwaukee’s Best. After getting out to a 30-13 start, things didn’t improve once HC Adrian Griffin was removed. The Bucks finished the regular season 17-19 with a first-round exit under Doc Rivers.

Injuries played a factor, but the lack of continuity impacted their play. Taking the summer off to get healthy is key, with Khris Middleton missing 27 games during the regular season and Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf) and Damian Lillard (Achilles) missing several games in an opening-round loss to the Pacers.

It helps that most of their core players are under contract going into next season, but they’ll need to accelerate the development of Andre Jackson Jr. and Marjon Beauchamp. Between the injuries, being cash-strapped and lacking draft picks, the Bucks will be penny-pinching for depth if they want to remain contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Heat Culture suffered a setback after last season’s Finals appearance. Tyler Herro missed 34 games this season, plus newly acquired Terry Rozier (neck) and Jimmy Butler (knee) weren’t available in the playoffs.

Since Rozier, Butler, Bam Adebayo and Herro take up most of the team’s cap space, it’ll be hard to make any needle-worthy moves that don’t include at least one of them. Trading away Herro and Duncan Robinson’s $19M per year contract makes sense financially, but it will also open up more opportunities for standout rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr.

Another late-round sleeper to watch for is Nikola Jović. Post all-star break, he started 24 games and amassed 14.7 points with 8.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.7 threes and 1.0 steals per 75 possessions. If he can inch closer to 30 minutes a night, that’s a decent fantasy profile worth investing in.

The obvious move for this team to get back in order next season is to bring LeBron James back. He’s still playing at an elite level, and his success raises the floor for others. Fantasy managers can feel comfortable selecting James in the third round next year.

And while Anthony Davis and D’Angelo Russell had their best fantasy campaigns in years, I’d explore including Russell or Austin Reaves in a trade package to bring in a true point guard who can reduce the demand on a soon-to-be 40-year-old LBJ.

The other glaring change that needs to be made is moving on from Darvin Ham as the head coach of this team. His inability to make in-game adjustments and frequent tweaks to the rotations wore thin, and it’s clear that this team needs another leader in the locker room.

The Pels have a ton of fantasy upside, as four players ranked inside the top 100 in nine-category leagues this season. Zion Williamson just missed the cut at 103. While the current roster won 49 games and nabbed the eighth seed in the West, a first-round sweep all but guarantees that change is coming. Given the ascension of Trey Murphy III and Herb Jones becoming one of the best defenders in the league, we could be looking at a scenario with Zion or Brandon Ingram getting traded.

Their salaries plus CJ McCollum’s take up a significant portion of New Orleans’ cap space, so moving one of them would give the Pelicans more flexibility in addressing some needs in the frontcourt and the second unit.

Of course, if Zion or BI are moved, it will make waves in fantasy, so let’s wait and see how this plays out.

A first-round sweep, let alone exit, is grounds for dismissal for one of the Big Three. Devin Booker is their franchise player, so that leaves one of Bradley Beal or Kevin Durant. And since Bradley Beal has a no-trade clause (yuck), the Suns should be on the horn exploring trade options for KD.

Phoenix re-signed Grayson Allen, but there are far more holes to fill, and moving KD could net more role players or draft capital for the future. If this happens, Booker could creep into late-first-round draft status by next season.

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