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Liberty Ballers roundtable part 1: Assessing the Sixers’ offseason moves

The staff gives its thoughts on Philadelphia’s active summer.

New York Knicks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

With the James Harden’s re-signing officially official, the Philadelphia 76ers have presumably closed the door on any other massive moves this summer, barring an unforeseen trade. Since late June, they’ve traded Danny Green and their 2022 first-round pick for De’Anthony Melton, as well as signed Harden, P.J. Tucker, Danuel House, andTrevelin Queen in free agency. By most accounts, they’ve upgraded the roster in some capacity.

To analyze Philadelphia’s fairly busy offseason, I solicited the insights of my Liberty Ballers colleagues, who provided their thoughts on the summer and where the Sixers should go from here.

What was your favorite move of the offseason and why?

Paul Hudrick: It’s easy to say signing Tucker, but I’m actually going to go with the trade for Melton. Danny Green played a vital role with the Sixers, but he’s now 35 years old and coming off a serious knee injury. Melton is sort of the answer to “What if Matisse Thybulle could shoot and do other good stuff offensively?” He’s a deflection machine and a versatile defender, but also an audacious shooter with some game off the dribble. Plus, Melton just turned 24 – over a full year younger than Thybulle. He’ll make an immediate impact, but also has a chance to improve his game. Shrewd move by Morey.

Bryan Toporek: Getting James Harden to opt out and re-sign for less. Had he not done that, the Sixers likely wouldn’t have been able to carve out enough room under the apron to gain access to the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which means no P.J. Tucker. They still could have signed Danuel House Jr. using part of the taxpayer MLE instead, but Tucker brings physicality and toughness that Joel Embiid specifically called out the Sixers for lacking after the playoffs.

Honorable mention goes to the De’Anthony Melton trade. I thought the best-case scenario for trading Danny Green and No. 23 was someone like Terrence Ross. Daryl Morey resoundingly proved me wrong.

Steve Lipman: My favorite move of the offseason was trading No. 23 and Danny Green for De’Anthony Melton. I figure this will likely be a popular choice in this roundtable but this was just a really solid move by Daryl Morey. He traded Danny Green, who was likely to either not play at all or play very little for the Sixers this season due to injury, and the incoming late first rounder, who was also very likely to not play for the Sixers this season due to Doc Rivers being the head coach. In Melton, the Sixers add a guard who can play both on and off ball, shoot at a high level and guard multiple positions. He seems destined to play a huge role on this team off the bench and in the playoffs.

Adio Royster: Trevelin Queen. This guy is going to be something off the Sixers bench – and by “something,” I mean “incredible help.” Last year, for the Rio Grande Vipers, Queen averaged 26 points and seven rebounds per 36 minutes with a 62.4 true shooting percentage (34.2 percent from three). He had a massive jump in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game – which was a product of going from 20 to 35 minutes per game. Nineteen games is a small sample size, but even in Summer League, you saw what kind of potential this kid has. He might be the next “Morey Find”.

Josh Grieb: This may be a cop-out answer, as my favorite move of the offseason was a non-move, but my favorite move so far has been not acquiring a veteran backup center. Paul Reed’s playoff stint was arguably the best backup minutes the Sixers have gotten in the Joel Embiid Era. They outscored teams by 2.1 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. Reed has certainly earned a chance at an extended run at being Embiid’s primary backup, and I am excited that the team appears to trust him. Of course, this will all look really foolish if they acquire Hassan Whiteside in the next couple of days.

Joe DiProsperos: There really isn’t a wrong answer. Every move the Sixers have made to this point has been a positive. If I had to pick one, I would lean Tucker. Age and money aside, he addresses virtually every need the Sixers had going into the offseason: toughness, outside shooting, and versatility on the defensive end. Beyond that, acquiring a guy who, aside from being one of James Harden’s closest friends, has as much experience as anybody in the league playing alongside him and someone your franchise cornerstone in Joel Embiid openly lobbied for is a pretty good way for the front office to curry favor among the players.

What was your least favorite move of the offseason and why?

PH: Not sure I have a least favorite move. Feel like the Sixers addressed some serious needs and did it all at market value. I would’ve liked to see them add another ball handler. Harden and Maxey will do a lot of the heavy lifting, and maybe Shake Milton can help in that department. But another player that can handle would give Rivers more lineup options: Milton maybe playing off the ball, Harden taking more games and minutes off, etc.

BT: So far, it’s giving P.J. Tucker a three-year deal. He has an $11.5 million player option for his age-39 season in 2024-25, which easily could come back to bite the Sixers. Then again, since other teams were also willing to pony up a fully guaranteed three-year deal, the Sixers didn’t have much of a choice here. And since they project to be well into luxury-tax territory for the next few seasons anyway, the only thing that really affects is Josh Harris and David Blitzer’s tax bill, which I do not care about one iota. I reserve the right to change this if they wind up waiving Isaiah Joe to sign a washed veteran big man, though. (Thank the heavens that DeAndre Jordan is already off the market.)

SL: I’m happy to say this is a difficult question to answer. The best way I can answer it is to say that my least favorite move of the offseason by the Sixers would be moves that didn’t happen. Like, I’d love for the Sixers to find a way to move on from Tobias Harris and his contract, but another team has to want to trade useful players for him in order for that to happen, and that didn’t occur. I’d like a combination trade of a few of the guys we’ve now seen get exposed for the Sixers in the playoffs (Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, etc.) in exchange for another useful wing, but I think that could still happen at some point.

AR: Not being able to find a trade partner for Tobias Harris hurt a little bit. (I know it’s not a move made but a move we all wished could be made.) I love Tobias. I stan for Tobias. Last season (especially in the playoffs), Harris reminded the fan base of how great a two-way player he is. All of that said, if he could have been moved for bench depth, plus a little bit better of a fit (since P.J. Tucker is now on the roster), it would have made a real impact.

JG: This is a pretty hard question, given that the only major move the Sixers made was bringing James Harden back on a discount. The Sixers have had a relatively calm offseason, what a world! It’s not the acquisition of Tucker, but three guaranteed years for a 37-year-old Tucker gives me some pause. Tucker will certainly do a lot to bolster the wing depth on this team, and will definitely be a big help defensively, but won’t replace the volume shooting of Danny Green. Tucker’s $11 million dollar annual salary isn’t massive by any means, so even my least favorite move of the offseason doesn’t seem like a huge concern.

JD: To be honest, you won’t hear any complaints on my end about how this offseason has panned out. Plenty of people will debate the amount of money delved out to Tucker and express frustration with Tobias Harris’ albatross salary remaining on the books. But given the constraints that Daryl Morey and Co. were working with this summer, they made no objectively “bad” moves. This is a much better team and should win a bunch of games as a result. And frankly, when you compare the past few months to the exhausting sideshow that was the 2021 offseason, it’s like night and day.

What areas do you think the team did best to improve?

PH: Even when they were playing their best basketball, the Sixers were a slow, plodding team. Acquiring three players in Tucker, House and Melton that all play 100 mph should help. Those players obviously address the physical and mental toughness aspect too. But two kind of under-the-radar areas they should improve in with those players is transition defense and rebounding — two enormous sore spots last season. You weren’t going to replace all the things Ben Simmons did with one player, but this new trio should fill in a couple of those gaps.

BT: As Jackson covered the other day, the additions of Tucker, House and Melton give the Sixers far more defensive versatility than they’ve had in years past. All three can switch between guarding multiple positions and are plus three-point shooters, which should help the offensive spacing around Embiid and Harden. The Sixers’ top four of Embiid, Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris was solid last year, but there was a stark drop-off after that. With Tucker, House and Melton on board, they now have far more playoff-tested depth in their rotation.

SL: Reliable perimeter defense. Among PJ Tucker, Danuel House and DeAnthony Melton, the Sixers added three high-quality perimeter defenders who can switch on a regular basis and also knock down shots on the other end (my pal Jackson Frank just wrote a great piece about this). The Sixers were way too reliant on Thybulle last year, and in addition to him being able to do exactly nothing on offense, I’m of the belief that his defense is not nearly reliable enough to trust him big moments all the time. These additions — plus, the hopeful, continued improvement of Harris on that end — should have the Sixers in way better shape to match up against the East’s elite.

AR: I guess “toughness” — even though I think that’s a made up construct in relation to a basketball team. Tucker definitely adds an edge to this group that hasn’t been here for a while. Is he the missing piece to get this team over and into the NBA Finals? Ehh… maybe (giant shrug). I reserve judgement.

JG: While I just complained about the Tucker signing, I think the answer to this question is their depth. Something would have to go horribly wrong for the combo of Tucker, Danuel House and De’Anthony Melton to be less effective than Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, and the oft-injured Danny Green were for Philly last season. Provided there isn’t a big drop-off in production from the big three of Embiid, Harden, and Maxey, the new additions should compliment this core very well.

JD: Defensive versatility is one key area this team is now very much improved in. Jared Dubin of FiveThirtyEight noted that in Tucker, Melton and House, the Sixers have three guys who ranked in the top 100 (Tucker in the top 15) in Bball-Index’s Matchup Difficulty metric among the 375 players who played at least 500 minutes last season. All three can competently guard a wide range of positions, which is something this past year’s team’s wing rotation sorely lacked. They now have the ability to experiment with lineups in ways they previously weren’t able to.

The team is also much deeper as a whole. Recouping the depth that they lost after the Harden trade was going to be a top priority this summer. Not only did they achieve that goal, but they got three guys who can get legitimate playing time right out of the gate. Now, the likes of Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, and Furkan Korkmaz will be fighting for minutes as opposed to being handed them, which is not a bad problem to have by any means.

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