Yesterday, former Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan officially left the running for the Philadelphia 76ers’ head coaching job after agreeing to a deal with the Chicago Bulls. Now, the possibility of Mike D’Antoni becoming the Sixers’ new head coach seems to be heating up, and more changes could (and should) be on the way.
Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports has reported that there’s growing buzz that the Sixers are letting teams know they will be open to trade talks if they do end up hiring D’Antoni.
Starting to hear a lot of buzz that the Philadelphia 76ers are are letting teams know they are open to trade talks if they hire Mike D'Antoni to be their next head coach. Philadelphia realizes that current roster, with all the bigs, isn't built to be a successful D'Antoni team.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) September 23, 2020
There’s no guarantee that D’Antoni will be joining the Sixers — it’s still between him and Tyronn Lue, who I’d argue would be the better hire. We shouldn’t be getting carried away with any blockbuster trade ideas yet either, but the team expressing that they would be open to discuss deals is still noteworthy. There’s no doubt that their current roster isn’t suited for D’Antoni’s typical schemes, so perhaps Philly will be even more aggressive in making changes if they hire D’Antoni than they would have been without him. That said, they shouldn’t make any major moves simply to please a new head coach.
The Sixers should have always been ready to pursue some trades in the offseason anyway, though, regardless of who they have as their coach. They’ve built a roster that doesn’t fit together and doesn’t complement their young stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Trading Tobias Harris will be particularly difficult given the length of his contract and monstrous annual salary (four years, $148.96 million remaining, including $40,965,517 in the final season in 2023-24), while an Al Horford trade seems more likely.
The Sixers should have all the motivation they need to try moving on from this failed experiment. Horford can’t play alongside Simmons and Embiid together and the Sixers desperately need more perimeter creation in his place. Horford should also be somewhat easier to move than Harris, with only three years left on his cheaper (albeit still horribly expensive) contract, with $81 million remaining.
One popular Sixers trade idea is targeting Chris Paul, who is absolutely someone they should pursue if possible. Paul thoroughly deserved his spot on the All-NBA Second Team this season, as a highly efficient scorer (17.6 points per game with a 61 True Shooting Percentage) and one of the top playmakers in the league. Maybe if the Sixers do hire D’Antoni they’ll be even more motivated to acquire a guard like Paul (someone D’Antoni coached for two years in Houston) to help improve the offense. The Sixers would be much better equipped to implement the kind of systems D’Antoni has succeeded with in the past by adding someone like Paul, who would provide a welcome dose of three-point shooting, perimeter shot creation, elite passing alongside Simmons, and terrific pick-and-roll play.
For now, though, we just need to wait and see how the rest of the coaching interviews play out, what trade rumors develop, and whether the Sixers’ approach changes based on their coaching hire (check out our Tyler Monahan’s recent ranking of the Sixers’ main trade chips).
Oh, and there’s the issue of how badly they need to make changes to their front office as well.