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Grading the Sixers’ five moves on NBA Draft night

Give Maxey the super max contract already.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2020 NBA Draft night was great for a myriad of reasons, so much so that we need to step back and assess just how masterful some of Daryl Morey’s moves were over the phone during those fateful five hours.

Here are some draft and trade grades from the Sixers’ busy evening.

Drafting Tyrese Maxey with the 21st overall pick: A+

If you couldn’t tell by me jumping out of my seat and pumping my fist like an idiot during the Liberty Ballers NBA Draft Livestream, this was the absolute best thing that could’ve happened for the Sixers. He was 8th on my Final Big Board (not published, but compiled in my notes for purposes of the livestream), and even higher on the boards of more accomplished draft experts such as Ben Pfiefer, Max Carlin and our own Jackson Frank.

Some may look at Maxey’s 29 percent shooting from three at Kentucky and deem him a poor shooter, but that is far from the truth. The context he was placed in at UK was not optimal, with limited spacing and a play style focused on limiting guards’ freedom in favor of outdated post-ups. Maxey was a fine shooter at lower level, especially when taking into account his massive volume and the difficulty of said attempts, as he shoots a number of them off the dribble.

Maxey is also a bulldog defender, no matter what his lower steal and block numbers of 1.5 and 0.7 per 100 possessions might indicate. He’s built at 6-foot-3 and just over 200 pounds, with the quickness to stay in front of water bug guards like Kemba Walker who have historically been a pain in the behind for the Sixers over the past few years.

Maxey might not be an immediate help, as he still has aspects of his game he needs to refine, such as shot selection and becoming a more manipulative, creative passer. However, when a guy who has the upside of a primary or secondary scoring option on a contending team falls all the way to 21, you take him. No questions asked. Just a perfect pick in every single way.

Trading Al Horford, the 34th overall pick and a top six-protected pick in 2025 for Danny Green: A-

The views on Danny Green change year-to-year. Ask anyone about him following his year in Toronto or the supernova of the 2013 Finals with the Spurs, and they’d tell you the “Green Ranger” is a perfect 3-and-D wing whose presence would be gladly welcomed on any contending team. Ask those same people about Green right now, after he shot 33.9 percent from deep throughout the playoffs and 1-for-12 over games two and three of the Finals, and he’s more meme than a man.

But that’s who Green is — a streaky, streaky shooter who plays great defense, and also can’t functionally dribble a basketball in an NBA setting. One year he leads the league in three point shooting at nearly 46 percent (as he did in 2019), but just three years prior he was 33.2 percent over the course of 79 games for the Spurs. All this makes it hard to say Green will truly bring the value that is needed.

However, he’s in every way a better fit than Horford. Long gone will be the days of Embiid-Simmons-Horford lineups posting anemic 99.2 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. Instead, the Sixers get a guy who won’t be the third post-up option in a possession and will at least receive respect from opposing defense when he spots up. The only real cost being the 34th overall pick (which isn’t meaningless, but almost all second-rounders are low probability swings for the fences), and a top-six protected pick in 2025, which is far enough in the future to feel like the contending window they now have.

Add on top of that some increased financial flexibility by exchanging Horford’s three years for Green’s expiring, and this is all-in-all a savvy move by Morey.

Trading Josh Richardson and the 36th overall pick for Seth Curry: B-

Seth Curry is an awesome, awesome player. In the four seasons in which he’s received real time as an NBA player, his absolute lowest three-point shooting mark was still a blistering 42.5 percent on 8.3 attempts per 100 possessions for the 2017 Mavericks per Basketball Reference. He’s also a bit underrated as a secondary pick-and-roll handler and a team defender, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe pointed out way back in ‘17.

At the time, Lowe wrote, “Curry is the rare defender who manipulates the bullies. He’ll lunge toward one player as if he’s selling out in that direction, but it’s just a trick — a mind game. When the offensive team whips the ball the other way, Curry will already be there to snatch it.” Lowe then included this beautiful clip, exemplifying Curry’s cunning defensive tricks.

However, Curry is still a slightly worse player then Josh Richardson, as J-Rich provides roughly 75th percentile wing defense and can attack closeouts violently when placed in the right context. The Sixers obviously were not the right fit with the creation burden they placed on him, and Curry truly will make the team better with the way he changes the geometry of their half-court offense.

But receiving the less talented player in the trade while also giving up a good second-round pick that turned into Colorado’s Tyler Bey (not my favorite prospect, but athletic and useful nonetheless) means this can’t be a perfect trade, even if it does ultimately make the team better. Still, a net positive trade by Morey and the Sixers, even it’s by the slightest of margins.

Drafting Isaiah Joe with the 49th overall pick: A

If “Chicken” Joe goes at 21, it’s a bad pick in my view. While Joe has many rabid supporters across the Twitter realms, using your best pick on a non ball-handling wing and a guy who was projected to fall to the second round simply because you made a bad promise is horrible asset management.

Had the Sixers stayed at 34 and 36 to take him, it would have been far more defensible. But to still have him available to you at 49 and you take him there? Just awesome. While Joe’s 34 percent three-point shooting last season in college doesn’t scream elite, his historic volume is what matters most. He finished 8th in the country in frequency with 16.4 threes attempted per 100 possessions according to BartTorvik, and got them up in a myriad of ways. Off the dribble, catch and shoot, running off screens, even the occasional step back — you name it, he shot it.

Given his skinny frame, ability to generate deflections on defense and desire to fire away whenever possible, Joe has drawn comparisons to Sixers’ legend Robert Covington. If you draft a guy who could give you even 70% of what RoCo does with the 49th pick in the entire selection process, it’s a fantastic pick. Really the only thing keeping this from being an A+ is that I had Grant Riller of Charleston slightly higher on my board and figured that he might solve more of the Sixers’ immediate issues, but that’s more of a nitpick than anything.

Drafting Paul Reed with the 58th overall pick: C+

Really the only pick that didn’t live up to my wildest expectations. Reed is fine, a 6’9” defensive oriented big who moves with a weird off-beat style every second he’s on the court. His 9.4 percent block rate was the ninth best mark in the country according to BartTorvik, and according to The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, DePaul went from a plus-6 points per 100 team with Reed on the court to a staggeringly awful minus-22 per 100 when he rode the bench.

However, Reed’s shot is suspect at best and incredibly upsetting to the aesthetic basketball eye, and there are questions about whether he is better at the four or at the five. Personally, if the Sixers wanted a backup center option with the 58th pick, I would have gone with Gonzaga’s Killian Tillie, who had been deemed a lottery talent by several draft analysts, only to be pegged in the 30s and 40s of most boards due to his legitimately frightening injury history. However, when you have a chance to use a late draft pick on a big with passing skill, a consistent 40 percent stroke from three and underrated shot blocking instincts mixed with perimeter mobility, the injury risk shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Alas, Tillie was scooped up as a UDFA by the Memphis Grizzlies, i.e. the NBA Draft Twitter Overlords. But Reed is still a justifiable pick, and honestly a better center prospect in my eye than Isaiah Stewart who was drafted at 16th overall.

Five moves, five grades above the satisfactory “C”. What a time to be alive.

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