76ers’ Team President Daryl Morey returned to Spike Eskin and Mike Levin’s “Rights to Ricky Sanchez” podcast.
I recommend you go give the entire pod a listen at your first opportunity. The reason I enjoyed this one so much is because it’s so hoops-centric.
For example, Morey has done a number of pod appearances where hosts will (have to) ask him a bunch of questions regarding subjects he simply can’t speak openly about. Obviously you remember the “this could (go on for) four years” bit regarding Ben Simmons. Then there are the countless times he’s been asked about what it’s been like dealing with critics of analytics, yadda yadda.
In this one, Spike and Mike get much more of the absolute hoops junkie that Morey truly is to come out and it’s a rare treat.
Let’s get to some takeaways and analysis.
Montrezl Harrell not in the playoff plans?
If you’re in the social aggregation business, this would probably be where you start.
Spike and Mike get right to a burning question on many of our minds. They basically asked the President of the 76ers some version of dude, why does the team always suck when Embiid sits, and do you feel you’ve finally fixed this never-ending nightmare?
Morey says “we feel comfortable with P.J. [Tucker], and Paul Reed, and [newly acquired Dewayne] Dedmon as our group.... that’s probably the group we’re rolling with.”
The glaring omission here is of course one Montrezl Harrell. Last time Morey was on “The Ricky” he gushed over Trez and talked about how the former Rocket wouldn’t be here if not for Doc Rivers, and how much the Philly fans are going to love what he brings.
Impressively, the team is +0.4 differential in the 1,237 possessions Harrell has been on the floor filling in for Joel Embiid, per Cleaningtheglass.com. It’s even more impressive when you remember Harrell spent an absolutely mind-blowing 801 of those possessions without either of Joel Embiid or James Harden on the floor.
Trez boasting a positive differential having played 65 percent of his minutes with neither Jo or James is downright incredible.
And why we were forced to witness so much of that (-3.3 differential Trez on, with Jo and James off) is a great question for them to ask Doc Rivers if they ever get him to come on the pod.
But Trez has been out of the rotation since the team’s ugly loss to the skeleton crew Celtics. on Feb. 8th.
And I guess he’s now the odd man out, and if so, it makes you wonder if Trez was who might have been cut to make room for Kevin Love (when the team spoke to him last weekend before Love signed with Miami), and if he still may be on the line for a looming buyout player. They have until Mar. 1st to land buyout guys who could remain playoff eligible.
Morey adds here that for people uncomfortable with Dedmon’s 2023 statistics, that DD has been a teammate of multiple Sixers in the past, is a player they’ve had their eye on for some time now, and fans may not have known he was dealing with a case of plantar fasciitis that is now resolved.
To all that I say: I have no clue if Dedmon is any better than Trez, but I’m open to it! But dude, the team should have just kept and developed Charles Bassey and Isaiah Joe over both of them. There was nothing about this (likely sore spot for Morey) on this pod. That was one “burning question” they never really got to, but of course Morey isn’t allowed to discuss players on other teams. Convenient!
Levin calls out that it’s interesting Morey names three backup bigs, Montrezl Harrell being the clear omission and Morey deftly opts for the 10,000 foot view simply adding “we have been playing well with Joel off for a good margin.”
Morey is very optimistic and excited for the stretch run
“We have the best record in the league since we’ve had James and Joel back this season,” Morey says.
Indeed, since Harden returned to the lineup in early December their 26-7 record is best-in-class.
“We’re top ten in both offense and defense, we have an inside presence, we have an outside presence. If you look at historically teams that go on to win the title, we look like those teams.”
To Morey’s point, they’re top six in both offensive and defensive rating to date. And in the span where they have the best record, their offensive and defensive rating is 1st and 9th respectively.
Morey acknowledges that the Celtics and Bucks deserve to be favored over his Sixers. But he doesn’t think the Sixers are “out of range.” He names Denver, Phoenix, Philly, Milwaukee, and Boston as the NBA’s five best teams.
(Funnily enough, when he hopped on a year ago, Morey did not name the Celtics in his top five and Boston then quickly morphed into the East’s best team ever since... Cavs next!?)
Big swings and consistency
Fresh off the nearly-blown 28 point lead over the Cavs before the break, Morey admits feeling some frustration when the team has these maddening swings within games. He says all teams have these but theirs are even more glaring and he’d like to see a touch more consistency in terms of effort, dominance. But he certainly prefers a scary win to any loss and is encouraged by their ability to blitz a great team even for a half, as opposed to the “Johnny try hard” squads.
He tries to remember what Sam Hinkie might say, that if you reversed the scoring for each half, it would be a comeback win instead of a near-loss; underscoring the somewhat arbitrary nature of human’s chronological experience.
Gotta love a good Hinkieism. They should try to hire him back. That great Mad Men scene but with Sam and Daryl....
Peggy Olsen: “What if I say no?”
Don Draper: “I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.”
Morey gets frustrated like the rest of us when they go away from things that work, for example the Harden-Embiid pick and roll
“I did underestimate the time it was gonna take for Joel and James to develop a chemistry. I think, this is another place I’d like to see that consistency. Because when we have it humming it’s really humming and I think you guys, who watch every minute like I do, have seen it. And then there will be times you’re just like ‘wait why aren’t we doing the thing that’s working really well? What’s happening?”
You can just picture Joel, James, and Doc all getting called into Daryl and Elton’s principal’s office to explain why they crushed a team with pick-and-roll for three quarters then forgot the play existed for the home stretch.
On the Cleveland Cavaliers being a very real threat
“Cleveland is a very good team this year. Better than I expected them to be. They have a better point differential [than us]. They have a lot of things that make people think Cleveland may even be better than us, and we’ll see.”
The Cavs’ nightly differential is +5.7, nearly two points per game better than the Sixers’ +3.9.
Given their schedule, and perhaps youthful exuberance, the Cavs have the inside track to nab the three seed away from the Sixers, forcing them down into that four-five bracket where Morey said on the last Ricky, team’s odds to win a title drop quite a bit. Ruh-Roh.
Morey thinks McDaniels has starter potential.
“....I look at starter potential as someone who is generally either a two-way player or like in the top 10 percentile of the league on one end or the other.”
We know Matisse Thybulle was the latter, so they’ll have to hope they’re right about McDaniels. They appear to have preferred McDaniels’ two-way capability, or at the very least felt it was a coin flip and this rout allows them to duck some crushing future luxury tax hits.
“You almost have to be that,” Morey continued, “or you’re not a good-enough-to-be-on-a-championship team starter. I see Jalen as a guy who could be an above average both way player.”
On their odds of keeping McDaniels beyond 2022-2023:
“Re-signing him will be potentially a challenge but a lot of the teams that will want him may not have their [mid-level or bi-annual] exceptions or cap room or things like that, that should potentially help us. Defensively we really liked what we saw... offensively we thought the opportunties he’d get here, more simplified [than his looks in Charlotte], he’d excel at.”
As Morey mentions, they’ll have McDaniel’s Bird-rights so they can offer more money and years than any other team, exceeding the salary cap to do so. If for example a contender offered him a bi-annual exception in the $4.5M range, Philadelphia could offer $6M to sweeten the idea of the Seattle native sticking around and building something.
Bryan Toporek broke it all down for us here.
They talk generally about the idea that Tucker has been thus far disappointing to some fans. I won’t spoil everything because this is one of the more fascinating and fun parts of the pod.
Morey admits that he’s asked P.J. Tucker to be more aggressive offensively. And believes P.J. has been “in range” of what they expected defensively. He thinks that Tucker spends plenty of time defending an opponent’s best player so that’s at least part of why he’s not hitting the mark on some fan’s eye tests.
At a later point, he defends De’Anthony Melton’s on-ball defense in a similar fashion. Morey used former Rocket Shane Battier’s getting torched by Kobe Bryant, but torched ever so slightly less than other defenders, as a comp here.
The second-funniest part of the entire pod is here when Levin, still ailing from events transpired from before holiday season in late December, demands answers for why 37 year-old Tucker was playing through a “dead hand!”
What role does Morey have in the front office leaning on a player like Tuck and saying “hey bud, take a week off?”
“In an age of load management...it feels a little insane that he has continued playing at his age through a dead hand,” Levin, channeling all of us, howls.
Morey’s answer gives us a glimpse as to how the team make these crucial decisions. I suppose we could extrapolate to Harden and Embiid (frequently a game time decision) too.
“P.J. would not be out there if our medical staff wasn’t comfortable him being out there. P.J. Tucker himself wants to play more, so I preach to him ‘hey look at the big picture, you’re here to do what you did with Milwaukee, take us from a team that maybe doesn’t know how to win the championship to one that does’.... but long story short, I know that from our medical staff they would not let him out there if they didn’t think he was in a good place to be out there.”
The frustrating thing here for a fan of this routinely injured team is basically this: Simon Rice (the team’s VP of Athlete Care who Morey mentions by name) and his med staff may be answering a completely different question from the one fans want asked.
Is Rice medically comfortable clearing Tucker to play, on a random night in December vs. the Wizards or Pelicans? Sure. Fine. Maybe he is.
But the more important question is this: does Tuck playing through this ailment give this team their best chance to win an NBA title in June? Maybe the med staff simply acknowledging he has a nerve issue at all should lead them to drastically reduce his minutes, if he absolutely must play.
If Morey can’t get through this bigger picture stuff, if Tucker insists on playing, if the med staff deems a dude healthy enough to go, then the last line of defense has to fall on the coaching staff who can restrict him below say 28 minutes defending guys like Zion Williamson on a night six months prior to the start of the Finals.
They need a Czar of Common Sense to navigate these apparent leaks between key departments.
Embiid and Harden pick-and roll
Spike spoke for many of us by asking if something clicked between Embiid and Harden between the start to the year and more recently. And they wonder why the team has still gone away from something so potent for painful stretches.
“If they’re switching with viable switchers, you’re not gonna get a clean look out of it,” Morey says. “One of the two is gonna either attack the mismatch, it’s generally been Joel, although James lately has been looking great on some of that. I find a lot of it is very opponent based.”
He notes how the upcoming stretch where they will face tougher opponents with the ability to switch will be “really helpful ‘cause it’s gonna help us see what teams are gonna throw at us.”
Morey believes De’Anthony has exceeded his expectations. He’s elite at staying in a play, and jumping passing lanes, and crashing the glass. He spoke of Melton fitting in nicely in a “two-year” window.
Does Morey Shampoo his hair each day?
I won’t spoil this part but I will say that it’s the fourth funniest part of the pod when Morey admits to having already researched the issue before making his decision. He appears to blush during this segment, so the YouTube version at the top of this post is best.
(The third funniest moment was when Spike asked precisely when we may see the other two starting lineups we heard they’ll be using.)
Defense lags behind offense in terms of strategy
Morey says teams should switch more. This is where Bill Simmons (who has interviewed Morey on a number of occasions) would rag on Daryl for giving away too much information.
“Switching is one of the very few ways to guard a lot of what’s happening in the NBA with double-drags and spacing and teams are just behind on their defenses being able to switch. It’s one thing that makes us unique, having Joel switch doesn’t make any sense ‘cause he’s so impactful at the rim so we’re still like very traditional in a lot of our defense but teams without a Joel...switching has become way more important and one of the few ways to slow these offenses down.”
The Sixers apparently did try to switch everything at the start of the year, but then Joel was way too far from the rim too often and it didn’t work. They found a better balance when Harden went down with injury, and have settled in around top ten with their mixed-bag approach, ever since. But games like the one vs. LeBron James’ Lakers on the road reminds us they still have suboptimal strategy on the defensive end much too often.
You’d think they’d schemed for the Splash Brothers and not Russell Westbrook and LeBron James that night.
The funniest moment on this pod of all
The funniest moment of all was when Levin expressed frustration with the team “over-doubling.” I won’t tell you why this was the best part you’ll have to find it, but assistant coach Dan Burke catches a stray here from Levin that has everyone whooping. Hilarious stuff.
Maxey off the bench moving forwards? And all-bench mayhem
More for the aggregator crowd! Levin asked Morey if the Maxey-off-the-bench thing is something he likes and if it could be here to stay well into the future:
“[Maxey] is a starter quality player.... We have Joel, James, and Tobias [Harris] all very offensive focused players...I thought it made sense when Doc decided to do it to sort of balance that out and also allow Maxey some opportunties to grow. A lot of people when they’re frustrated by it’s - five nonstarters on the floor at the time, a lot of that is we want to play a wider rotation in the regular season but some of it is just Maxey is one of the key feature players of this franchise so let’s give him pretty wide berth to develop.”
Sigh. I have too much to say on this subject. I said a lot of it here below.
"I’m human and I want to be able to help my team as much as possible. New roles, different stuff happens."— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) February 11, 2023
Sixers fans are reliving some all bench nightmares that cost them in the '21 playoffs.
They'd better listen to their star.https://t.co/Pu9LIgKT6v
I’m glad to hear he does’t think Maxey is a sixth man for the long-term.
The thing is, it was totally justifiable to experiment with Maxey coming off the bench. I think it could even continue to work, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they wound up starting ‘Rese again before the playoffs. If so, hopefully they get to that sooner rather than later.
But if any fan witnessed this team lose two very recent, and important games, where they led by 20-plus points to the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks, while trotting out a pile of all-bench Maxey-Harrell lineups playing all this 2-3 zone defense, and Maxey hero-ball offense, it’s just.... (allows head to plop on my desk.)
What Morey says he prioritizes just isn’t what we see sometimes and the disconnect really burns them at times:
Daryl Morey to @RTRSPodcast before year said we want "to do the things in the reg. season consistently, even when they don't necessarily apply to the team we're playing, such that we are ready for the playoffs."— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) February 22, 2023
But we sure saw plenty of all bench units get cooked here in a 2-3 pic.twitter.com/GdVQpuCQgV
These strategies, (they’re not going to play all-bench 2-3 zone with Trez in the middle vs. Milwaukee are they?) which co-host of CookiesHoops pod Ben Detrick calls “super goofy rotations” has absolutely cost them games, it has cost them the chance to rehearse things they’ll actually be doing in the playoffs, and it sounds like it even contributed to hurting Maxey’s confidence to the point he admitted he had a “rough past week, mentally,” and had to to “let it out” emotionally on a call with his parents, not long ago.
So when Morey says they did this stuff to help develop Tyrese, it’s winds up sounding like the coaching staff set out to do something vital, but just picked the worst possible way rotation-wise to do it.
And it backfired completely.
Doc deserves plenty of credit for developing Tyrese Maxey. And he deserves plenty of the criticism he gets for his young player development track record in general. Hopefully, with high impact games and a new backup five strategy in place, they’ll get away from the super-goofy rotations we’ve had to stomach.
They discuss the slam dunk champion. Teaser only here.
Levin asks about Springer being part of the rotation next year.
“I think he has a real shot because we’re going into the offseason wanting to re-sign a whole set of players, but the history of the league is we’re not gonna be able to sign all of them. His perimeter defense, Doc is very excited about so....
The Sixers’ (who play first and second-year players infinitely less than every other team) may turn to Springer next season. That will be his 3rd season.
I suppose you could say this is the very first hint we’ve gotten that Doc Rivers may be back next year, if Doc’s excitement about Springer’s defense is part of why Daryl thinks Jaden will be a rotation player come 2023-2024.
Talk amongst yourselves.
On making it past second round
“I think this is the best team since I’ve been here. I feel very comfortable with that. Now we also maybe have a tougher second-round opponent than we’re ever gonna face possibly....we definitely tripped over our own feet against Atlanta in particular. Miami I feel like we should have won too.”
Enough from us, go listen.