By Mark Gallagher
There are eight teams left in the Disney bubble fighting it out for the NBA title.
The Sixers are not one of them, even though they had high hopes to make a serious run.
So they are left to pick up the pieces:
Record: 43-30 (sixth in Eastern Conference, lost 4-0 to Boston)
2020 NBA draft picks: 21, 34, 36, 49, 58
Pending free agents: Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III, Raul Neto, and Kyle O’Quinn (unrestricted)
There will be a new head coach.
And despite the calls for a total house-cleaning following a demoralizing sweep, that sounds like a stretch.
“I’m not looking to trade Ben [Simmons] or Joel [Embiid],” Sixers GM Elton Brand told reporters last week. “I’m trying to complement them. They’re 24 and 26 and want to be here. You try to make that fit as long as possible.”
Brand will apparently be the one trying to “make that fit,” consolidating decision-making power after “the collaboration days” that followed Bryan Colangelo’s ouster “didn’t work too well.” That assessment indicts the work of a power structure that took the reins post-Burnergate and presided over a string of nearly-as-preposterous events. (That Brand was part of that power structure seems noteworthy, but is evidently beside the point.)
Here’s what The Athletic thinks:
That the end of the Markelle Fultz saga; the souring of an apparently savvy draft-night deal, thanks in part to a sesame allergy; trading four draft picks and Landry Shamet for the right to pay Tobias Harris $180 million; telegraphing their infatuation with Matisse Thybulle so much that Danny Ainge was able to soak them for a high second-rounder; and quintupling down on size by paying Al Horford $109 million to play out of position while fielding a roster parched for guards who can dribble, pass, and shoot.
As a result, the Sixers—who were on pace for a third straight 50-win season before the hiatus and employ two prime-aged All-Stars—seem like a screwed and bloated disaster. Woof.
Since Brand can’t time-travel back to before the Jimmy Butler trade, and since getting off Philly’s worst contracts would likely require a bunch of draft-capital sweeteners—especially that Harris deal; dude’ll make $39.3 million in 2024—his best bet might be to take a deep breath and think smaller.
Canvas the league to see whether trading Josh Richardson can get you a more reliable shooter and/or shot creator.
Focus on developing the in-house options on the wing—Thybulle, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, Zhaire Smith (who shot 37.6 percent from 3 in the G League this season).
Work the draft, the bargain bin, and undrafted free agency to get more bites at the apple; try like hell to be the team that finds the next Danuel House, Terence Davis, Duncan Robinson, or Luguentz Dort.
Swallow hard and make Horford the league’s richest backup center.
Do everything you can to put shooting around Embiid and Simmons, entrust your new head coach to maximize their potential, and see where that lands you.
Worst-case scenario? You can still revisit the league’s most well-worn “will they/won’t they?” drama next offseason.