The Philadelphia 76ers came into the 2019-2020 season with hopes of contention even though they went through a lot of roster change. They let Jimmy Butler walk in free agency after having Butler for half a season, and they decided to sign Tobias Harris to a five year max contract, totalling $180M. They also let their sharpshooter, JJ Redick, leave for New Orleans while they threw over $100M at Al Horford, who they played at power forward all season when his natural position is Center. The Sixers ended up finishing 43-30 with the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, and they were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics without All-Star Ben Simmons. They are stuck with two horrible contracts, two unmotivated stars, and a mismanaged roster that does not seem to fit at all. But can they be fixed?
THE NBA STEPS IN
The 76ers were cruising along in the process era by tanking for picks and assets. From 2013 to 2017, the Sixers did not finish higher than .500 and only won 20 games once. They had records like 19-63, 18-64, and 10-72. Sam Hinkie was their GM during this run and it seemed like he had no agenda to win. He took big men three straight years in the draft in Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor, only one of which is still on the roster. In 2015, they traded, what seemed like at the time, their franchise centerpiece and reigning Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams for the Lakers first round pick, which was coveted. During the 2015-16 season, the NBA, led by Adam Silver, had done everything they could have to try and push Hinkie out. They made the 76ers hire USA Basketball chairman, Jerry Colangelo, who then hired his son, Bryan, as GM. The move was unethical, and the NBA has not seen such a thing since then. Colangelo, would go on to select Ben Simmons with the first pick in the 2016 draft, and things started to look up. They got the third overall pick in the 2017 draft and then they traded it, along with a future first rounder to the Celtics for the number one pick. The Sixers took Markelle Fultz, and the Celtics took Jayson Tatum. After the 2017 summer league, Fultz became a headcase and then the burners started. In June 2018, Colangelo had stepped down as the GM due to his many burner accounts on twitter that he used to defend himself and the shirts he wore. No, he actually commented defending himself about the collars of his shirts. His father, Jerry, would step down as well. After this, the Sixers hired Elton Brand as GM.
A NEW ERA
The Sixers started their offseason with a refresh by firing their coach of the last seven seasons, Brett Brown. Brown went 221-344 over those seven seasons and had two straight disappointing second round exits and ended his tenure being swept by the Boston Celtics in Orlando. Sixers are in search of new candidates with Ty Lue reportedly leading the search, according to Sports Illustrated. Lue, currently an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers, won a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 as their head coach. Other potential candidates could include current assistant, Ime Udoka and Villanova head coach, Jay Wright.
ASSETS AND YOUNG PLAYERS
When Elton Brand was hired as the GM of the 76ers, he began the job with a decent amount of assets and young talent, which he turned into Jimmy Butler (Robert Covington and Dario Saric) and Tobias Harris (Landry Shamet and two first round picks). Brand eventually dealt Markelle Fultz to Orlando for Jonathan Simmons, who recently had choice words on Twitter after the firing of Brett Brown. Butler, as we all know, would leave for Miami, leaving both sides of that trade empty handed, after the Wolves traded Covington and Saric. Currently, they have rookie Matisse Thybulle and second year player, Shake Milton. Milton was inserted into the starting lineup in the bubble to try and help the Sixers stretch the floor. Thybulle is considered a defensive player with a raw offensive game, however his defense was average and is still a project. Zhaire Smith, who was acquired on draft night for Mikal Bridges, has played a total of 13 games in two seasons while Bridges was instrumental in the Suns’ growth and was part of their 8-0 run in the bubble.
POTENTIAL OFFSEASON TARGETS
The 76ers need to figure out a roster that caters to the talents of Simmons and Embiid. This means floor spacing. Simmons’ lack of a jumper, Josh Richardson’s 34% from three point land, which was the second lowest mark of his career, and Al Horford’s 35% clip from three did not help Philadelphia in terms of spacing. The Sixers need guards who space out the floor that would allow Simmons to drive and dish and Embiid to be able to post up down low and not roam around the three point line. The 2020 free agent class is not as loaded as previous years but there are cheap players that could be able to help the Sixers.
Wesley Matthews, SG, Milwaukee Bucks
Matthews’ best days are behind him but a career 38% clip from three is certainly enough to attract the Sixers and he would be most likely acquired with a minimum. However, he holds a player option to return to Milwaukee for the 2020-21 season.
Alec Burks, SG, Philadelphia 76ers
Burks was acquired midseason from the Golden State Warriors and had a good impact off the bench, averaging 12.2 points per game at a 41% clip from beyond the arc in his 18 games with the Sixers. The Sixers would be foolish to not bring Burks back this offseason.
Justin Holiday, G, Indiana Pacers
Justin Holiday, the brother of Jrue, was a Sixer for 9 games in 2013 during his rookie season and he is a target that the Sixers should look into bringing back. Holiday is a career 36% from three and is also a solid wing defender and would fit in well with Richardson and Simmons.
Bryn Forbes, G, San Antonio Spurs
Forbes has played four seasons in the NBA and through his first three, he increased his scoring each year. This season’s PPG is down, from 11.8 to 11.2, but that can be attributed to his three minute per game decrease from the last season. Forbes is a solid shooter, making about 2.3 threes per game in his 25 minutes per game.
POTENTIAL TRADES (SOME BOLD, OTHERS NOT)
Al Horford, Zhaire Smith, and a first round pick to Sacramento for Buddy Hield
This could be tough to pull off with Horford’s contract, but Buddy Hield has been unhappy in Sacramento all season and it would be a fresh start for him to head to Philadelphia. Horford in Sacramento would be a solid fit because he would be able to move back to his natural position, which is Center, and be able to play a lot more freely without having to share the floor with another big man.
Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and Zhaire Smith for Bradley Beal
This is bold but Beal is a proven scorer, averaging about 30 PPG last season with Washington. Beal would be perfect next to Simmons and Embiid and it would rid them of Tobias Harris’ rather large and unfavorable contract.
Mike Scott, Zhaire Smith, Norvel Pelle, 2021 First Round Pick to Detroit for Derrick Rose
Rose is on the last year of a cheap contract and Detroit could look to move him. He would likely be a one year rental for the Sixers but if the Sixers look to keep Ben Simmons at power forward then Rose could be inserted into the starting five but if they decide to keep Simmons at point guard, then Rose would be a good fit to be the backup ball handler.
Al Horford, Mike Scott, and second rounders to Bulls for Otto Porter Jr, Tomas Satoransky
A more realistic trade due to the matching of the salaries. Porter could be inserted into the starting five right away as a solid shooter. Porter, like Horford, is an overpaid asset but with the Sixers he could be a better fit than Al Horford with his versatility and his jumpshot.
The Sixers’ issues stem from their lack of spacing and that bit is obvious. Their mission this offseason has to be finding the correct talent to surround Embiid and Simmons. There is no need for them to deal Simmons or Embiid, because no matter what happens, the value in return will never be enough. The Process failed. But the Sixers should not be talking about “The Process” anymore. The Process is dead. They need to be talking about the progress with the end goal in mind of an NBA championship.
Stats from Basketball reference.