After trading James Harden, the Sixers have finally put themselves in a position where they have flexibility. With all the acquired players in the last year of their contract and the new first round picks, they have the capital to trade for another star: but they shouldn't. Before we dig into the Sixers, let's take a look at the last 5 NBA champions.
Last 5 NBA Champions
- Denver Nuggets (22-23)
- Golden State Warriors (21-22)
- Milwaukee Bucks (20-21)
- Los Angeles Lakers (19-20 and in the bubble)
- Toronto Raptors (18-19)
After 4 straight seasons of coming up small in the playoffs, Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets finally broke through and won the finals. Whether because of injury or lack of talent, the Nuggets could not make their way to the finals being carried only by Jokic. Finally, after building chemistry and endurance, Jokic and Murray deemed themselves a dominant duo in the NBA as Jokic nearly averaged a 24 points triple double on the season, supported by Murray's 20 points per game. This was made possible because they built chemistry from playing together for years. Also, five other players averaged double digits which provided much needed depth once they made it to the playoffs.
Golden State Warriors
In 2022, Steph Curry won his 4th championship with the Warriors. Curry and his splash brother (Thompson) both averaged over 20 points while shooting above the league average 3-point percentage (36.1%). Other contributing players included Draymond Green, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins. These three players knew their role on the team. The warriors identity is to let Steph Curry do what he needs to do and let everything else fall into place. The players surrounding Steph Curry need to play defense, shoot the 3, and be aggressive. This takes the weight off of Curry's shoulder so he can delegate to the rest of the team.
Giannis won his first and only championship in 2021, showing how difficult it is to win even with a dominant player. This team shows exactly why depth is so important. Giannis and Kris Middletown both scored over 20 ppg in the regular season and 5(!) more players on the team scored in double figures. Giannis is obviously the guy for Milwaukee, but having depth throughout the season can alleviate the pressure from him so he still has gas left in the tank once playoffs come around. Once the playoffs arrived, Giannis was able to step up his game to over 30 ppg.
Los Angeles Lakers
While many people put an asterisk next to this championship, they still raised the Larry O'brien trophy in June with Lebron winning his fourth championship. Lebron and Anthony Davis were the obvious stars of the regular and postseason. Without either one of them, LA does not gain another championship. Lebron did what Lebron does and won a championship with little depth, but he still had another star player next to him who led the team in scoring.
What an impressive win by the Raptors in 2019. In Nick Nurse's and Kawhi Leonard's first year with the Raptors, they managed to win the NBA finals. The Raptors finished second in the East while allowing Leonard to play only 60 games that season. This was due to the depth that this team had from signing free agents and drafting well. They had a young Pascal Siakim that rose to the moment in the playoffs alongside a seasoned veteran in Kyle Lowry. These two were able to hold down the fort when Kawhi Leonard missed time. Kawhi Leonard was then able to enter the playoffs with a rested body which allowed him to score over 30 ppg in their miraculous run.
Our own Philadelphia 76ers
While we're only a few weeks into the season, the Sixers have battled a lot of Sixersesque adversity, whether it be James Harden holding out, a mystery hit and run with Kelly Oubre, or even just having a new head coach. Even through this ridiculousness, they have started out strong with an 8-3 record and are 3rd in the league in net rating. This is impressive no matter the circumstances. Losing James Harden has shown to be addition by subtraction along with addition by addition with a few new role players that have had positive contributions off the bench and in the starting lineup. These new players have opened up so many doors that the Sixers have not opened in years. They have depth, length, willing shooter, and most importantly: options. Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington have been surprisingly impactful players off the bench with their length on defense and their willingness to shoot the 3 ball. And also, Tobias Harris is having his best year with the Sixers.
Most importantly, though, removing James Harden has allowed Maxey to be a ball-dominant, all-NBA caliber point guard. Maxey continues to improve and impress in his young NBA career. As the 23 year old enters his 4th season in the NBA, he is averaging 27.6 points (10th in NBA), 6.7 assists, and 5.1 rebounds all on a fantastic 56.8 eFG%. He is not just a good player, he is a star.
Maxey's continued improvement has bailed out the upper management of the Sixers after many bad decisions. He has taken away the need for another all-star on this team. Bringing someone in with a high usage percentage would be an awful idea because it would take the ball out of Maxey and Embiid's hands. The Sixers are the only team in the NBA with 2 top 10 scorers (Embiid is 1st and Maxey is 10th). That is not a luxury that comes around very often and the Sixers need to do everything in their power to keep it that way.
With the addition of those new players and the emergence of Superstar Maxey, Embiid has been able to have games where he is not the main focus. This is not something Embiid has experienced much in his career. When Maxey had his 50-point game, Embiid did not have to worry about double teams sneaking up on him because the Pacers had to double-team Maxey instead. As Embiid and Maxey continue to play together, they will only strengthen their chemistry. Big things are in store for these two as long as they are the sole focus of this team.
What the Sixers can't do
With all this being said, the Sixers absolutely cannot and should not trade for another all-star player. As shown previously, it is not a winning method. "Big 3's" rarely work out anymore in the NBA. Just look at the Clippers this year... lol.
Lots of talk around town links the Sixers to Zach Lavine and I believe that would be a disaster. Zach LaVine has been in the NBA for 9 years and has one playoff win to show for it. As much as we knock Joel Embiid for his choking in the playoffs, Zach LaVine is worse. Now of course LaVine's talent is not in the same realm as Embiid, but the statistics show that Lavine puts up good numbers on teams that don't win. His efficiency has been on a steady decline since the 2021 season and athletic style guards do not usually improve on that with time. His numbers are intriguing, but he has never been a winning player. The Sixers do not need another loser.
What are the options?
If Zach Lavine is not who they want, then who should they get? That is still on the table. It's young NBA season with lots in store. Not many teams are in the market for trading away their solid players just yet. The sixers still don't even know what they have in this team yet. With Kelly Oubre Jr. missing extended time, they can't know for certain their needs as a team.
What they need to do is invest resources into league scouting to find a player that has good efficiency with a lower usage%. Now obviously that is easier said than done, but it is definitely time for Daryl Morey to earn his paycheck up there in the head office. His James Harden endeavor ended catastrophically, now it is his time to find solid role players to build around the two superstars that have fallen into his lap.