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After years of organizational chaos, Sixers made right move hiring — and now extending — Morey

The Sixers have one of the best executives in basketball, and now, his next few seasons will align with Joel Embiid, Nick Nurse and hopefully, Tyrese Maxey.

2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers have extended Daryl Morey. The team made it official Friday afternoon.

In this writer’s humble opinion, it’s a fantastic move by Josh Harris, David Blitzer and the rest of the team’s ownership group. I find it difficult to come up with a better-suited exec to run the show over the next several years. Morey’s resume stacks up with the best of the best, and it’s far greater than perhaps dozens of executives possessing championship rings; even though he doesn’t have one...yet.

The fact of the matter is that Josh Harris’ best three moves as an owner were hiring Sam Hinkie (who blew up a mid-level-at-best team) which made it possible for him to draft Joel Embiid, reportedly negotiating the Jimmy Butler trade himself, and, seven years later, hiring Daryl Morey.

Hinkie left the team with multiple juicy lottery picks to work with, plus some valuable role players who have gone on to see plenty of NBA success themselves. Hinkie put them in a position to draft Embiid, Ben Simmons, Mikal Bridges and Markelle Fultz (technically he left them the pick that the Celtics used to select Jayson Tatum, so they could have simply selected Tatum themselves but who’s keeping track?). Hinkie also left them the package Harris would once use to trade for Jimmy Butler. (If you really want to go deep, he basically left them the capital the team would later use to acquire Seth Curry, and eventually draft Landry Shamet and Tyrese Maxey in a roundabout way).

But once Hinkie left, things took a massive turn and led to four years of tumult! Those “collaborative years” it’s been reported, were pretty much run by Josh Harris himself, and he’s taken plenty of heat from fans and savvy media members who understand how much potential was squandered in Philadelphia.

Ownership neglecting the team president spot and opting instead for some odd “investment committee” approach during those awful Burnergate-and-beyond seasons is precisely why Mikal Bridges wears black and Jimmy Butler dons raspberry.

Joel Embiid spoke at length on a recent episode of the “Maxey on the Mic’’ podcast about how all of the roster turnover during those shittily run years, (my words, not his, yes. I’m paraphrasing, but not at all off the mark. Just go listen to Joel, he calls it “insane”) frustrated him and how he wished they’d just #runitback with Butler, as so many of us fans clamored for at the time.

Fortunately, amends were eventually made when the team hired Morey back in 2020. But he was facing an uphill battle, to put things mildly.

Morey almost immediately saved the franchise’s title odds (for the window of Embiid’s prime) by drafting one Tyrese Maxey. Few of us knew it at the time, but that would become one of the greatest moves of his already illustrious NBA career dating back to his days with the Houston Rockets, when he traded for James Harden, yet to enter his own Hall of Fame prime.

Under Morey, like Harden with the Rockets, Embiid has become a perennial MVP candidate, winning his first NBA MVP trophy last spring.

And the extension further aligns Morey’s personal incentives with that of the franchise.

Morey once (while still GM of the Rockets in the bubble) appeared on “The Ricky” and talked about how the job of an exec is a nuanced, and tricky position.

Per Daryl:

“The job is very hard and unfortunately, you might have to do things in different phases. And I think that’s why I felt like Sam [Hinkie] was meant for greater things because he just wanted to build a great team. Maybe one of the all-time great teams. And unfortunately, this job is like bigger than that in a bunch of ways — and in some ways that it shouldn’t be where sometimes the best thing for the team is just [you] surviving into the future such that you can continue to make moves (laughs).”

That quote was said back in 2020.

But it’s intriguing because it offers a window into his thought process. Morey seems to be implying that Hinkie was too focused on just making the right basketball, title-winning, dynasty-building moves, and not focused enough on basically saving his ass.

So has Morey made decisions (or not made decisions) to “survive into the future so that he can continue” working?

More than a few top reporters like Jake Fischer, Marc Stein and others have questioned Morey’s long, publicly and privately stated devotion to Doc Rivers, for example.

Did the fact that Rivers was hired first and seemed to have a bit more roster control than your average coach, compel Morey to collaborate in ways he didn’t feel optimized his title odds?

For example, when we would hear Rivers (Morey or players) talk about how influential Doc was in recruiting backups like Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond, Montrezl Harrell or DeAndre Jordan, was that really and truly what Morey wanted as well?

Did he envision those players having such a prominent role on the team when he signed them after Doc’s charming recruitment? Or was he just doing what it takes to keep his job since ownership had dropped such a massive chunk of change on Doc? Ya never wanna piss off or embarrass your boss.

About that guaranteed five-year deal you just dropped on a coach I may not have hired....

Would Isaiah Joe or Matisse Thybulle still be around if either had received a bit more playing time, or a slightly different role than they held under the old coaching staff? Might either have been retained if Morey didn’t feel compelled to duck the luxury tax for ownership? I’m just asking questions, not giving Morey a pass.

As PHLY Sports’ Derek Bodner has noted on numerous occasions, it’s extremely difficult to trust an exec who claims publicly to love a player or coach. It’s part of their job to lie about stuff, and do so very well. Our Ben Simmons saga can go on for four years!

So it’s possible Morey didn’t want to risk embarrassing ownership by pushing to fire a coach who never had a reputation for incorporating advanced analytics into game strategy and roster building? Is it possible Morey didn’t even have the authority to fire Doc, or override his preferences?

I’m speculating a lot based on loads of credible reporting but...something along the lines of: maybe I should just give Doc three years as a thanks for helping me land this job and massive salary, besides, if I can him after year two and my next coach fails, I may not get that next extension....

How many big moves (that don’t land a ring) does a GM get? I’m probably a more cynical fan than many of you reading, but I sense that with Doc out, and Nick Nurse in, this extension will now allow Morey to do much more of the #MoreyBall stuff that once revolutionized basketball in Houston — and nearly helped them topple a Golden State dynasty despite having roughly half as much talent.

Morey has also talked on numerous occasions on Bill Simmons’ podcasts and follow-up Ricky’s about how a GM’s incentives are not always perfectly aligned with those of the fans and team governors.

Morey has pointed out that most execs work on four-year deals and so they may feel some incentive to push too hard, burn all of the picks because they know they need to win in a certain short window; whereas an owner’s interest aligns more seamlessly with those of the fans. Owners are going to be around even after the stars, execs and coaches, Morey has expressed. So yes, they want to win like the fans do, but owners also may be a bit more protective than GMs over future draft capital — which would convey beyond the salary of the exec trading them.

Just ask the Brooklyn Nets about crummy execs giving everything away for a short-term shot at glory.

But now Morey is extended through the 2027-2028 season. He’s finally hired his coach in Nick Nurse, one with a robust (Houston) background utilizing analytics and creative-in-season experimentation, whose own contract now aligns with Morey’s, perhaps not coincidentally.

Joel Embiid’s contract runs through the 2026-2027 season (although he has an option for the 2026 summer) and so Morey’s deal extends at least one year further out than the reigning MVP’s.

Now for the first time in Embiid’s sensational career, he can at least enjoy some of the front-office continuity. As for the roster, that’s another story, still to be determined. It’s very likely that whatever trade this team makes, or doesn’t make, whoever they may sign or miss out on next summer, will go down as one of Morey’s next biggest moves as a Sixer.

As for now, we can look back at Morey’s drafting Tyrese Maxey, boldly navigating the treacherous and bizarre Ben Simmons saga, turning the former No. 1 overall pick into a point guard in Harden, trading Harden for useful role players plus a couple of picks, and finally replacing Doc with Nurse as his biggest (and best) moves.

Some fans, haters and doubters will still call his Sixers’ resume into question and wonder if they couldn’t have once snagged Tyrese Haliburton, until this team hoists the Larry O.B. But that’s the gig.

And at least now Morey won’t have to worry nearly as much about collaborating with folks he never hired or losing his job. And he can go “all in” to help Embiid (or Maxey) raise a Finals MVP trophy.

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