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Breaking Down the Sixers’ Offseason

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Daryl Morey has officially tackled one of the most hectic offseasons in NBA history.

Detroit Pistons v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

When news broke about the Sixers landing Daryl Morey, a lot of fans didn’t exactly know what to expect. The man who created the smallest lineup in NBA history was given a team that took the complete opposite approach in building a team that ultimately failed. The Sixers were extremely limited in flexibility after shelling out major deals to the likes of Tobias Harris and Al Horford.

A lot of people speculated. Was Morey going to wait it out and see more of what the Sixers already had or was he going to make major moves off the jump? Well, we know the answer now: He didn’t waste much time at all. The Sixers now find themselves with a relatively new roster in the wake of a few departures.

So, what do these moves bring to the team? Where do they go from here? What can you expect with the Sixers in the short/long term? Let’s get right into it as there’s a lot to cover. We will first break down the trades performed over the past few weeks.

The Sixers trade away their best clapper

The first trade of the Daryl Morey era was one greatly welcomed by Sixer fans: shipping out Al Horford. The Sixers traded Horford and his mistake of a contract along with a slew of sweeteners to the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder. The details of the trade are listed below:

Sixers receive: Danny Green, Terrance Ferguson

Thunder receive: Al Horford, 2025 first-round pick (top-6 protected), 2020 second-round draft pick (#34/Theo Maledon), Draft rights to Vasilije Micic

The Al Horford era is finally over for the Sixers. It was fully expected that the Sixers’ breakup with Horford would be far from a pretty sight, but Daryl Morey managed to get off of the ballooned contract for a reasonable price.

It’s well known that Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti has an affinity with draft picks and this transaction was no exception. The rebuilding Thunder managed to pick up an early second-round pick in this year’s draft alongside the wildcard of a draft pick in 2025.

Giving up a 2025 lightly protected first-round pick is definitely risky given that we will have no idea what the Sixers will look like at that point. The only current player on the roster that will be under contract in the season prior to that draft is Ben Simmons. The Sixers did manage to retain the majority of their draft picks in the foreseeable future outside of 2025, which will be major for the team going forward.

It has been discussed that the Sixers will make a run at former MVP James Harden. The fear with trading Horford was that it would drain the team of all assets, including draft picks and young players. Morey deserves a ton of praise in doing a deal that helps the team’s flexibility in the short term without paying an arm and a leg in doing so.

My personal least favorite part of the trade was their trading away the draft rights to Vasilije Micic, who as a Sam Hinkie draft pick, was one of the last of a dying breed on the Sixers. Micic has a ton of talent and could be a successful player in the NBA. However, it seemed unlikely that the Sixers were interested in bringing him over which made him an expandable asset.

On the plus side of things, the Sixers did manage to get a very productive player in Danny Green. While most people will look at his two previous playoff runs negatively, he’s a great fit with the roster as an above average shooter and defender. There’s low risk if Green doesn’t pan out in Philadelphia, as he’s an expiring contract. Green also has value as a great glue guy in the locker room and a possible mentor for Matisse Thybulle, as they are very similar players in terms of skillset.

The other player in this deal — Terrance Ferguson — is a lot more of an unknown. Ferguson is coming off of a season where he regressed as a player, and struggled shooting the basketball, shooting a not-so-great 29 percent from 3. Ferguson also dealt with a legal case in which he was he charged with rape allegations. While the district attorney dismissed the case, it’s noteworthy to know. As a worst case scenario, he can be used as a salary matcher in a future trade, as he’s set to earn just under $4 million in the upcoming season on an expiring deal.

The Sixers also managed to generate a future trade exception in this deal which could become very useful worth $8,190,133.

Overall, Daryl Morey did as good of a job as he could in trading off of Horford’s contract. He managed to land a useful player in Green, and a young prospect in Ferguson that could turn things around in a new situation. I’m sure we will all miss the singular Horford clap going forward.

The Sixers lose some swag in the departure of J-Rich

This is a trade that stung me on a personal level, as I was a much bigger J-Rich fan than most. I knew going into the night that it made a lot of sense to trade off of Richardson as he was less than an ideal offensive fit in Philadelphia and an expiring deal that likely wasn’t going to re-sign with the Sixers.

The Sixers did strike a deal with the Dallas Mavericks in the beginning of the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft. Here’s the breakdown:

Sixers receive: Seth Curry

Mavericks receive: Josh Richardson, 36th pick (Tyler Bey)

On paper, this trade did confuse some fans as Richardson is the best player in terms of talent in this trade. The Sixers did give up a lot of value to land Seth Curry, having to also attach a high second-round pick to get the deal done. It’s important to note that there is some risk for the Mavericks in this trade, as Richardson is an expiring deal that will command a decent payday in the next offseason. He could leave for nothing, hence why the Sixers needed to sweeten the deal.

The Sixers did, however, manage to land a player that was always thought of to be the perfect fit in Philadelphia. Seth Curry has developed into one of the best shooters in the entire NBA and will be a welcome fit in the City of Brotherly Love. He’s also on one of the best contracts in the NBA, making around $8 million a year for the next three years. He also brings two skills that every Sixers player has lacked for what seems like forever: being able to both dribble and shoot a basketball.

Paying $8 million a year for a combo guard that shot 45 percent from behind on the arc on five attempts per game is an absolute steal. The recent signings of Joe Harris and Davis Bertans put the value of shooting in the NBA in perspective, as they received a combined $155 million in contracts.

It’s also worth noting that the Sixers gained yet another trade exception from this deal, worth around $2.6 million.

Landing Curry was huge as he’s the perfect guard next to Simmons and Embiid. While giving up J-Rich and a high second-rounder may be a tough pill to swallow, it will definitely be worth the price going forward.

Farewell, Zhaire Smith.

The Sixers then finally pulled the plug on the Zhaire Smith experiment. It was something we knew was coming, but still came as a surprise to most. The trade details are listed below:

Sixers receive: Tony Bradley

Pistons receive: Zhaire Smith (who was then waived-and-stretched)

On a personal level, you have to feel for Zhaire Smith. He went through a huge health crisis that almost cost him his life following his allergic reaction to sesame seeds. He had to gain back over 70 pounds of weight as he hid from the public eye for months. He did all of this while having to deal with the expectations of being a first-round NBA draft pick. While Smith worked to get back into his regular form, the Sixers rushed the team into contention, which threw patience for development out the window for the most part.

The departure of Brett Brown likely was the final nail in Zhaire Smith’s tenure in Philadelphia, as he was reported as being one of Zhaire’s biggest supporters within the Sixers organization.

The Pistons recently remodeled their front office and team as they enter their rebuilding phase. It was pretty shocking to see that even they didn’t want to retain Zhaire and take a flier on him. When it comes down to it, the Pistons did this deal to simply save $300,000 in waiving a player.

The Sixers did gain an intriguing player in Tony Bradley, who was the backup center on a competitive Utah Jazz team last season. While Bradley still has his flaws (mainly in fouling), he could end up being a useful player for the Sixers. He’s a talented shot blocker and has shown some limited flashes of shooting beyond the arc.

The new look Sixers could be a great home for Bradley, as he won’t be asked to do too much playing behind the likes of Joel Embiid and Dwight Howard. He’s also on an expiring deal, making the acquisition of him a low risk/high reward type of move.

Daryl Morey nails the draft

When Daryl Morey arrived, I truly didn’t know what to expect from him on the draft side of things. There were many years where Houston didn’t have a draft pick, the last being De’Anthony Melton in 2018 who was later traded. There hasn’t been many opportunities for Morey in the draft. He has, however, found success in the past with the likes of Montrezl Harrell in the second round of the 2015 Draft.

The great news is Morey did just about everything right in this draft. He began the night with drafting Tyrese Maxey at pick 21, which is incredible value and fit for the Sixers. Maxey is a talented shot maker with an improving jumper that is exactly what the Sixers have been starved for. Most mock drafts had Maxey going anywhere from the late lottery to the teens, which made his availability at 21st overall quite shocking.

The Sixers then followed up their well-known draft promise to Isaiah Joe. When rumors came out about their draft promise being public it was met with, well, annoyance. The fact that the Sixers can’t keep this knowledge from being public year in and year out is actually impressive. However, the Sixers managed to scoop Joe up at pick 49 which is, again, incredible value. There’s a legitimate argument that Isaiah Joe is the best pure shooter in the draft. The fact that the Sixers got him at that point in the draft is pretty remarkable, to say the least. It seems like he will be a full-time roster player as well, which means we should see his shooting capabilities throughout the upcoming season.

The Sixers ended the 2020 draft with Paul Reed at the 58th pick, a player who most mock drafts had going in the early to middle part of the second round. Reed is an athletic big man that has shown some flashes of being able to stretch the floor. He has the potential to become a very useful player and intriguing prospect if he can iron out his jump shot going forward. Thankfully, he will have an opportunity to do so, as all signs point to him being on a two-way contract. Great use of a two-way deal.

All of the drafted players mentioned above have the potential and ability to become not just good NBA players, but great fits on the Sixers. The Sixers took a big step in the right direction with this draft.

Free Agency

This section will be rather short as the Sixers only made two and a half (I’ll explain) free agent signings. The first of the two major ones being N̶e̶r̶l̶e̶n̶s̶ ̶N̶o̶e̶l̶ Dwight Howard. I never thought I would be writing about Dwight Howard as a Sixer, but here we are.

The Sixers managed to steal Dwight Howard from the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers for a minimum contract. It turns out that Daryl Morey and Joel Embiid recruited Dwight here, as there was more opportunity for playing time as the Sixers needed a backup center. Howard will get plenty of that in Philly, as Embiid will need his fair share of rest and load management to stay fresh for the playoffs.

While Howard as a person has had his fair share of criticisms and controversy, it’s without a doubt that he can still be a useful NBA player. While he isn’t the 20/14 guy he was in Orlando, he’s a quality backup rim-running big man in today’s NBA. He put up a career-high 68 percent shooting from the field last season in Los Angeles. As long as Dwight knows and is comfortable with his role — which seems to be the case — this is a great value signing. There were many years in which Howard was regarded as the best big man in the entire league. There’s a ton of things Embiid could look to learn from the former multi-time defensive player of the year.

Daryl Morey used another roster spot on a kind of familiar name in Ryan Broekhoff, who was technically a Sixer already but never made the trip to the NBA bubble. Liberty Ballers writer Tom West wrote a great piece about Broekhoff and what he can bring to the Sixers, so I strongly encourage you all to simply check that out here if you are unfamiliar with the sharpshooting Aussie.

While shooting is always welcome on the Sixers, the Broekhoff signing was a bit of a surprise. I’ll talk more about the potential holes in the current roster in the coming sections, but the Sixers have an arguably better version of Broekhoff in Furkan Korkmaz. It would’ve been nice to see them use a roster spot on a defensive wing player or another playmaker. That being said, they could’ve done a lot worse and it’s hard to nitpick one area after a largely good offseason.

Remember how I said two and a half? Well, the Sixers did sign a player to their two-way contract spot in Dakota Mathias. I think this is a decent use of a two-way spot as Mathias is exactly what the Sixers need: a shooter. They’ll always be in need of shooting and that’s what he can bring to the team going forward.

For those unfamiliar, Mathias played on the Dallas Mavericks’ G-League club, the Texas Legends. He put together a quality campaign with the Legends, starting in every game in which he played. Mathias shot just a tick under 40 percent while attempting almost nine 3s (!) per game. He’s an elite shooter, even with high volume. This is a great flier to use as Mathias can hopefully develop into a quality shooter at the next level.

Update: The Sixers also signed Derrick Walton Jr to a non-guaranteed contract.

Walton Jr has bounced around the league a bit, but he could bring something to the Sixers in regard to floor spacing as he’s shot above the 40% mark from behind the arc during his four college seasons. For more detail on Walton Jr’s contract and play style you can check out Sean Kennedy’s news piece on him here.

While he’s unlikely to make the final roster, it’s definitely encouraging to see Daryl Morey loading the roster with talented shooters

Where the Sixers go from here

When evaluating the Sixers’ offseason as a whole you can see what the common trend has been for Daryl Morey: finding players that fit well and maintaining flexibiilty to improve the roster further.

The great part about all of this is that the Sixers now find themselves with multiple contracts that can be used to match salary in the event of a trade. The Sixers were limited in who they could acquire at the trade deadline in the previous year as the combination of Mike Scott and Zhaire Smith lacked value in terms of money for use in a trade. All of their more expensive contracts were found in the starting lineup.

The beauty of it all is that the Sixers don’t have to make a move anymore. They can stay with this group of players and put together a season that will likely be better than the last. Daryl Morey has given the Sixers optionality back, which is something they’ve lacked for awhile.

That being said, it’s easy to see that the Sixers did give up the more talented players in these deals. While Horford and Richardson are likely better than the likes of Green or Curry, the fit was awful and the offense was putrid. Bottom line: the Sixers will be fun to watch again, and while they may be further from a title in the short-term perspective, that definitely counts for something. Simmons and Embiid will have the most spacing they’ve had since 2018, and will likely thrive with it.

Will the Sixers have any chance of winning a title with this roster? Anything is possible when you have two stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but my answer would be probably not. There are holes in the current roster that will eventually be addressed within upcoming free agencies or through trade. Some of that being a lack of playmakers, two-way talent, and size within the wing positions.

Still, this year can be looked upon as a productive building year with the Sixers finally trending in the right direction. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons taking the next steps in their individual games will be crucial.

For now, we can be much happier and optimistic about the future for the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are projected to have a full mid-level-exception to offer out in next year’s free agency that can land them (a) useful player(s), along with multiple trade exceptions. Daryl Morey is no stranger to trades and will be aggressive in getting talent.

Daryl Morey essentially embraced what the late great Sam Hinkie always preached: having the longest view possible. While the Sixers likely won’t be title bound in the next year, they’ve set themselves up to build a successful roster within the next year or two, a big improvement from where they were a few months ago. Morey proved that we can trust his process for the foreseeable future.