When a Twitter burner account scandal precipitated Bryan Colangelo’s resignation mere weeks before the NBA draft and the start of free agency, it was fair for Sixers fans to feel apprehensive entering a pivotal offseason for the franchise. Philadelphia did not have (and still does not have) a permanent general manager in place. Uncertainty existed around who would have the final say in pulling the trigger on key decisions. Head coach Brett Brown was thrust into an unfamiliar executive position, bringing along all the attendant incongruities that exist within a coach/GM paradigm. The potential for disaster was self-evident.
Instead, Brown, along with Marc Eversley, Ned Cohen, and the rest of the executive team, has done an exemplary job, particularly in being well-prepared and poised to act when any number of different scenarios present themselves. The first bit of evidence was the draft. After selecting Mikal Bridges at 10th overall, the safe, reasonable selection for the Sixers, Brown re-engaged in conversations with Phoenix when Zhaire “1B” Smith was still available with the 16th pick, and bagged a highly coveted future first-round pick. The move immediately squashed any notion that Coach Brown would prioritize short-term success at the expense of GM Brown taking the longest view in the room.
In free agency, many Philadelphians are viewing the Sixers as losers because their “star hunt” hasn’t yielded the huge 16-point buck. But all evidence points to the big names not being as available as we were led to believe. Paul George was at a midnight concert to celebrate re-signing with Oklahoma City, not even granting a meeting to his hometown Lakers. The swiftness of LeBron James coming to terms with the Lakers, as well as the length of the deal, indicates he had long since made up his mind that Los Angeles was the right move for his family.
As for the team’s pursuit of Kawhi Leonard, Brown has once again proven to value the team’s long-term viability as a contender, rather than simply maximizing Philadelphia’s chances in the immediate future. The Sixers front office has drawn a line in the sand regarding Markelle Fultz, reasoning that his potential upside is too great to pass up for what could very well be a one-year rental in Leonard (in Hanlen we trust).
Again though, Brown and the team demonstrated they entered the free agency period well-prepared and with a clear secondary path to travel down once the star hunt yielded no quarry. Once LeBron was off the table, the Sixers and J.J. Redick quickly came to terms on a reasonable, one-year deal that will keep last season’s most effective starting lineup intact, while once again maintaining max cap space for next summer.
The trade for Wilson Chandler was yet another example of the front office thinking about the future (collecting a second-round pick and a pick swap), while also acquiring a valuable two-way player to bolster the team’s wing depth. Remember the Sixers struggling in the playoffs against Boston because they lacked secondary ball handlers and had too many exploitable pieces defensively? Chandler helps alleviate both those concerns.
In less than a month on the job, Brown and the executive team have acted both boldly and decisively, balanced both the short and long term goals of the organization, and maintained the team’s standing as a strong player in the 2019 free agency market. Don’t let the absence of a LeBron or a Kawhi lead you to believe that this hasn’t been a successful offseason for the Sixers. If Brett Brown ever wanted to give up his life’s work as a coach, he would have a bright future upstairs.