On Oct. 28, ESPN columnist Adrian Wojnarowski announced that Daryl Morey would be signing a five-year deal to be the Philadelphia 76ers’ next President of Basketball Operations. Just two weeks after stepping down from his role as General Manager of the Houston Rockets, Morey had found another home.
While Morey’s time with the Rockets is often tied to analytics and the rise of three-point shooting, he was involved with numerous iterations of their team, many of which didn’t consist solely of a small-ball lineup. To think that Morey’s first move in Philly would be deconstructing the Sixers’ young core and turning them into the Rockets 2.0 would be selling him short.
“The goal is not to shoot three-pointers, the goal is to win. You can score on offense in a bunch of different ways,” Morey said in his introductory press conference.
Sixer Joel Embiid came up multiple times as an efficient scorer with a high ceiling and “the kind of player you win championships with.” While many fans are clamoring for a Ben Simmons trade to bring James Harden to Philly, it’s unlikely.
The Sixers organization had been due for a thorough front office purge. In 2013, following a coup by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, then-Sixers GM Sam Hinkie resigned. Hinkie wrote an infamous 13-page resignation letter where he communicated the importance of “the longest view in the room.” He emphasized high draft picks and investing in young stars: the gist of The Process.
Bryan Colangelo, Hinkie’s successor, did not share this vision. During Colangelo’s two-year tenure in Philadelphia, he orchestrated a misguided trade for Markelle Fultz, made poor draft day choices (Anzejs Pasecniks, anyone?), and mishandled both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor’s contracts. Not a single player that Colangelo acquired through trade is on the Sixers roster anymore. While those poor decisions speak for themselves, it was only after news broke that his wife was running multiple Twitter burner accounts used to slander players on the team that was he finally ousted.
After “burner-gate,” there were no efforts to rid the team of the administrative pieces Colangelo had brought in. The fact that he left wasn’t enough; his toxic legacy needed to be removed as well. Instead of doing that, investor Joshua Harris and the rest of the ownership team decided to let Brett Brown, Sixers Head Coach since 2013, serve as interim GM. Brown handled the 2018 draft in that capacity, which led to us drafting Zhaire Smith in the first round, who has barely played in the NBA. To add to the circus in Philly, Elton Brand was promoted from GM of the Delaware Blue Coats, the Sixers G-League affiliate team, to GM of the Sixers at the start of the 2018-19 season.
Brand’s tenure with the Sixers is a complicated one. He made a blockbuster trade to acquire Jimmy Butler in 2018, only to let Butler go to Miami on a sign and trade when the season was over. Butler said on The JJ Reddick Podcast that “[o]n any given day, me as a person, as a player, I didn’t know who the f— was in charge.” This only further pointed to the mess in the front office. The Sixers were too prideful to even offer Butler a contract, instead content watching him lead the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals just the following season.
Brand went after Tobias Harris, signing him to a five-year, $180 million contract. He also added a 33-year-old Al Horford to a four-year deal. The concept of “star-hunting” that Brown had introduced seemed to mean grabbing anyone who had shown up on House of Highlights with no regard for how they would mesh with the team.
After a bevy of unchecked decisions over the last two seasons, it’s hard to watch Brand be let off the hook with no consequences. He was put in a difficult spot with little-to-no experience but seemed to serve a puppet role for ownership instead of a GM. With Morey’s introduction to the team, Brand will be keeping his role but potentially act as more of a figurehead: this time for Morey instead of Joshua Harris and the ownership group. Brand can continue interfacing for the team while learning the ropes from Morey and (hopefully) without touching anything. It is unlikely that Morey would come to Philadelphia to play second fiddle to a man as incompetent as Brand.
While the Sixers may not need a complete gutting of the roster, they do need a change. Over the past few years, the Sixers have embraced an outdated team model, focusing on size instead of spacing. But the solution isn’t necessarily getting rid of Simmons or Embiid; it’s surrounding them with the right pieces. New head coach Glenn Rivers wants to set the record straight: “They haven’t won yet. It’s not that they can’t win.”
At a pivotal point in the Sixers’ journey to a championship, it can feel like they are back where they started. Sure, they have Embiid and Simmons, but they’re lugging around the dead weight of Harris and a washed-up Horford. Morey himself said that “[the Sixers] championship team probably isn’t going to have the same exact players that [they] have right now.” For now, it’s enough that the Sixers have come full circle: hiring the mentor of the man they kicked out. If Hinkie died for our sins, then Morey’s signing is the second coming. Sixers fans can look forward to a future with a competent front office and coaching staff.
At his end-of-season press conference, Brand made it a point to say that he wanted to balance the Sixers “strengths with analytics and strategy, with more basketball minds.” With the addition of Glenn Rivers as head coach and Morey as head of basketball operations, he’s already taking the first steps towards fulfilling that promise.