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Does Doc Rivers landing in Milwaukee help or hurt the Sixers?

The Milwaukee Bucks have hired former Magic, Celtics, Clippers, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers. Will that help Giannis Antetokounmpo win his second NBA championship ring or not?

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Well, well, well. (Rubs hands together). Former Sixers’ head coach Doc Rivers, who was fired last summer (before Philadelphia President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey, smashed the upgrade button by inking former Raptors’ title-winning coach, Nick Nurse) is now coaching the Milwaukee Bucks.

And while precious few (if any) Sixers fans have missed Rivers, we did have to suffer through a bunch of characteristic self-serving narratives and parting shots while the 2008 title-winning coach became a media member with ABC and ESPN.

(So does this mean we can at least get Jeff Van Gundy back in that booth?)

There has been no shortage of jokes on Sixers’ Twitter with this newsbreak either:

Now part of me thinks that this is awesome and hilarious. That part of me cannot wait to see if Doc convinces GM John Horst to quickly sign one of Paul Millsap, Montrez Harrell, Taj Gibson or Glen “Big Baby” Davis in preparation to defend Joel Embiid come May.

That part of me is giddy with joy that now Bucks fans will have to wonder why all of Damian Lillard, Giannis and Brook Lopez are off the floor at the same time as the five-man bench unit gets waxed by teams who... well... don’t do as many Doc things.

But then there’s the other part of my brain that’s a bit more pessimistic. And that part of me wonders: OK, if Adrian Griffin was the absolute worst coach in the NBA, how could it be good for the Sixers if the Bucks just landed even a subpar coach?

If we could all magically agree that Doc was the 23rd-best active head coach, might that still represent a pretty significant upgrade for a team that many felt had been underachieving?

Is it possible that Griffin was so flagrantly bad that this helps the Bucks lock up a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, and wrangle homecourt away from the Sixers for a playoff showdown?

At the very least, it sets the stage for a potential dreams and nightmares second-round series:

Perhaps the biggest winner of all is Sixers Managing Partner Josh Harris.

Harris, with help from folks like David Blitzer and Elton Brand infamously, crushingly, signed Rivers to a five-year deal back in the 2020 offseason, just before they hired Morey.

That fateful decision meant Doc, the head coach with the most incomparably ghastly history of playoff flameouts, was guaranteed all of the five-year, $40M salary the former “collaborative” (Pre-Morey) front office doled out.

And with this move, Josh Harris should get back a decent chunk of the money he still owes the future Hall-of-Fame coach with the record-high 10 Game 7 losses; money the Bucks pay Doc will offset some money still owed to Doc from Philadelphia.

So could that part be good for Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and co.? For example, the Sixers ownership group has found “creative” ways to avoid paying luxury taxes in a few pivotal seasons of Embiid’s career now. There was that time when they didn’t offer a max to Jimmy Butler and instead traded him to Miami while onboarding cheaper options like Al Horford and Josh Richardson.

And then last season, when many of us expected the team to seek a trade where they could take back more salary than they were shipping out, they surprised us and sought instead to duck the tax again. That move led to essentially salary dumping both Isaiah Joe and Matisse Thybulle for next to nothing in return.

Could Morey have found a role player who cost $4M more than the combined salaries of Joe and Thybulle? He also could have simply kept Joe and only traded Thybulle... but instead of focusing on players earning less than the current Blazers’ wing, Morey could have focused on players earning significantly more. Is it possible (or impossible) that keeping Joe plus maybe some other Thybulle trade was available at the time a year ago which could have helped put them over the top vs. Boston last spring?

Without the impetus to save ownership’s tax dollars, maybe the front office could have landed one more decent role player before last season’s trade deadline; or just extended Joe. Food for thought.

But if this move (and the fact that Harris may not be pursuing another local rival franchise this time around) coaxes Harris to pay a bit more than he seemed willing last season, then that could be a good thing. I suppose we’ll see what the Sixers do ahead of the 2024 NBA Trade Deadline.

If the Sixers do suffer unthinkable heartbreak and lose to a Doc Rivers-coached team in the playoffs, well then at least Josh Harris and Daryl Morey could say: see, we told you sticking Embiid with Doc for three years of Joel’s prime wasn’t that bad!

Once upon a time, the Orlando Magic moved on from Doc and eventually promoted Stan Van Gundy who took Dwight Howard and co. to the NBA Finals.

The Celtics traded Doc and replaced him with wiz kid coach-turned GM Brad Stevens.

The Clippers canned Doc and hit the upgrade button with Tyronn Lue.

And the Sixers fired Doc and replaced him with 2019 title-winner Nick Nurse.

And there’s a pretty healthy list of superstars, former superstars, plus past and present role players who were anything but crushed to see Doc go and have since made that clear.

I guess we can one day worry about who the Bucks might replace Doc with if he fizzles there too....

Can you believe the Bucks had Mike Budenholzer and didn’t want him, then couldn’t get a deal done with Nick Nurse, then settled upon Griffin... and now this?! LOL!

It’s funny and I’m here for all of the jokes, truly. But then there’s that other part of me that worries Doc will represent a real upgrade over the prior Bucks’ head coach. Sure, Nick Nurse might be able to run circles around a Doc led team in terms of in-series playoff adjustments. But is it possible that Nurse might have absolutely obliterated Griffin and now things might just a bit more challenging?

Let us know your thoughts in the replies.

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