We’re back with another quarantined roundtable! The last edition brought you some answers on what we thought about where the Sixers stand at this moment, while today, we’re going to talk about the future of the team.
What type of moves do the Sixers need to make this offseason?
Tom West: This is obvious, but trading Al Horford has to be the priority. It won’t be easy to get a decent return given his decline this season, age, and massive contract, so the Sixers will pretty much need to take the best they can get. A trade package could involve some mixture of Horford, various draft picks, Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, or, if it has to come to it to swing a good deal, Matisse Thybulle.
If need be, the Sixers could negotiate a Horford-for-Harrison-Barnes-based trade instead. Barnes is hardly an exciting option, be he offers more switchability on the wing, lets Tobias Harris move back to the 4, and he’d provide better spacing with his respectable jump shot (37.9 percent from 3 over the last six seasons). And even though Barnes is still heavily overpaid for the three years left on his contract, he’s six years younger than Horford and his contract declines by about $2 million per year — he’ll make $18.35 million in 2022-23, whereas Horford will still be earning a whopping $26.5 million. Another possibility could be offering Horford, Richardson and any sweetener needed for Hield and Cory Joseph.
Alternatively, if the Jazz are considering some changes and a Rudy Gobert trade, the Sixers may be able to get involved and go after Mike Conley. Conley is far from the player he once was, but whatever ball handling, playmaking and shooting he can provide will help more than Horford. Plus, Conley only has one more year left on his contract after this season. Simply returning to more financial flexibility in a year, rather than waiting out the remaining three years on Horford’s contract, would be so valuable.
These kinds of options aren’t pretty, but this is where the Sixers have left themselves.
As for the draft, adding perimeter creation and 3-point shooting needs to be the priority. This should be the goal with the first-round pick (for example, guards like Desmond Bane and Tyrell Terry), while finding a backup center (such as a Xavier Tillman, a highly intelligent defender and quality finisher and passer — I’ll have a breakdown on him publishing soon) would be a nice pickup in the second round, if moving Horford is part of the plan.
Steve Lipman: They have to get off of Horford however possible. It won’t be painless — they’re going to have to either take back an equally unsightly contract or attach a sweetener like the OKC pick, multiple picks or (gulp) Shake or Matisse. But it just has to be done. Your two best players are a 7-foot-2 center and a 6-foot-10 point guard who won’t shoot. You can’t have this much cap invested in another center who doesn’t fit with the other two at once. I’d say to start by putting Al and the OKC pick on the market and seeing what comes back. Josh Richardson is also a possibility to get moved, of course, as he hasn’t proven to be what the team needs offensively, and they’ll be unwilling to go deep over the cap to pay him after next season. Personally, I hope Josh stays and the team rebalances itself with another guard, so we can really appreciate Josh for what he does well.
Should the season not resume, do you think the Sixers will make a coaching change?
Daniel Olinger: This might sound weird, but I actually do think the front office will move on from Brett should the season not resume. Why? Well, the only potential saving grace that the Sixers were holding onto this season is that they might flip the switch in the playoffs, overwhelm teams with their sheer talent, and possibly make a run to conference finals or maybe even THE finals. But in this scenario, with no way to possibly earn that redemption, I feel like Josh Harris might finally pull the trigger, as he’s already made himself somewhat unpopular with the fanbase, and holding onto a coach that most fans are tired of probably wouldn’t help him on that front.
Tyler Monahan: Because of the crazy circumstances surrounding the remainder of this season I think the Sixers front office gives Brett Brown one last shot. I love Brown, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m starting to wonder if he’s just the coach that helped mold the team, but can’t get them over the hump. He deserves better, but I’m starting to get strong Andy Reid vibes from this whole situation.
Sean Kennedy: For the hordes of ‘Fire Brett Brown’ acolytes, I have some bad news: I don’t think the Sixers make a coaching change if the 2019-20 season is officially cancelled. The front office built the roster with the playoffs in mind, and how the team fared in the postseason was going to be the final ultimatum on Brown’s future. Brown is coming off a season where the team got bounced at the buzzer in Game 7 against the eventual champs. If you’re looking at a lost season here, I don’t think management lets him go without giving him one last chance to erase the memory of the quadruple doink.
Do you think this core of players has the potential to win an NBA Championship at some point in the future?
Daniel Olinger: It depends on how many players you include in that core. I think Embiid and Simmons can win a championship together due to their sheer physical dominance, so if those two alone are the “core”, then yes, the Sixers can win a chip with what they have. Of course, that core has to be supplemented in the right way, and that’s where the franchise needs to make some changes. The Horford experiment was a failure. Tobias Harris is a great guy and fun to root for, but the Sixers would be better off if they could find a way off his albatross contract to acquire someone with more explosiveness and ability to create offense for himself. Richardson has problems too, but he’s such a fantastic pick-and-roll defender that it’s worth keeping him in the fold. The bench mob of Thybulle, Milton and Korkmaz is a good start, so if they could get more help there, then they might have something really dangerous.
Tom West: As unfortunate as this is for the Sixers, given how much talent and flexibility (both in terms of cap space and trade assets) they had not too long ago, I’m going to say no. At least, not as currently constructed. If the Sixers manage to trade Horford and upgrade their perimeter creation and shooting to establish a solid offense and a team that better complements Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid (and that’s a big if, because orchestrating all of this won’t be easy), then the Sixers can emerge as championship contenders.
Steve Lipman: Yes. Embiid is 26, he’s a top-10 player. Simmons is 23, he’s a top-15 player. The Sixers need to (for once) optimize the roster around them. The next set of roster moves and the choice for the next head coach will be enormous decisions that could either be cause for the team’s once-and-for-all rise to true title contention, or the inflection point for when things fall apart.
Sean Kennedy: Absolutely. Both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are currently, or have the potential to be, top-10 players in this league. That’s a foundation at least two-thirds of the teams in the league would kill to have. It’s up to those two guys to continue making adjustments in their games to coexist more smoothly, and the front office to put the right pieces around them, but there’s no reason they can’t be the top two players on a title team.
With everyone in quarantine, how are you staying busy?
Daniel Olinger: I have my online classes to keep me busy, but those aren’t too hard, as most of my time is spent writing for LB and Inside NU (the Northwestern SB Nation Website), watching college basketball game film to continue scouting for the draft, and going on long runs to keep myself in shape.
Tom West: I’ve been spending a lot of time watching college games, studying up on prospects ahead of the draft and writing pieces here at LB. Apart from that, I’ve been catching up on TV shows like I’m sure all of us have, finishing PS4 games I hadn’t got around to (I’ve almost completed the “Uncharted” series at long last), and reading a lot — mostly a mixture of basketball stuff I had saved on my shelf and Stephen King books (“Tanking to the Top” by Yaron Weitzman is a brilliant read if you’re looking for a Sixers book).
Tyler Monahan: Because I live down the shore, I don’t have room for a basketball hoop or anything to keep me active. With all of the courts closed, I’ve been trying to get creative by dusting off my deck hockey stick and getting some shots off into empty trash cans. I guess it’s better than being stuck inside.
Steve Lipman: Watching lots of Reality TV. Heavy into Catfish. Every episode is good. They’re batting 1.000. It’s unreal. Been reading a bit. It’s Garry Shandling’s Book. Tanking to the Top, of course. Tom Waits on Tom Waits.