Assessing The Sixers Off-Season So Far
They’re handcuffed, but is this good enough so far?
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In a single word, the Sixers’ offseason to this point can best be described as underwhelming.
While the major domino (Ben Simmons) has yet to fall, the current list of transactions so far have done very little to improve the team’s weaknesses from last season. None of the moves to this point have been calamitous, but one would be hard pressed to argue that the Sixers are any better than they were seven weeks ago.
Here in this piece, I’ll break down what each move means, and where the Sixers might turn from here.
Perhaps our expectations were off after the swift nature of last offseason’s transformation. In his first year at the helm, Daryl Morey turned the direction of the Sixers’ franchise around in one night -- selecting Tyrese Maxey, and trading for Danny Green and Seth Curry on draft night 2020.
No such quick fix has come this offseason, which to be clear, is not inherently a bad thing; perhaps taking their time on a Simmons trade will lead to the best return. But my concern lies in the fact that it’s not at all clear that the franchise has any sort of vision for how to improve the team in the non-Simmons related departments. I don’t proclaim to know what the alternatives were, but all should be in agreement that adding Georges Niang and Andre Drummond to last year’s roster doesn’t move the needle in any meaningful way.
The Drummond signing, in particular, has major potential to be a complete failure. Re-signing Dwight Howard would have been far preferable in my mind. Howard is better than Drummond in just about every way -- he’s an even better rebounder, he has a much higher defensive IQ, he’s a better lob threat in pick and rolls, and he’s far more willing to play within the confines of a small on-court role. I truly struggle to think of a single thing Drummond is better at, other than perhaps that he has better touch around the rim.
Drummond was outright benched by the end of the Lakers’ first round playoff loss to the Suns. That’s right -- he was unplayablein the first round of the playoffs. What place do the Sixers think that he has on a team with finals aspirations?
Everything one could say to defend the Drummond signing, was previously said when he signed in L.A. How could one believe the idea that he’s now been humbled, will accept his role, focus on the little things, and be the consummate team player, when that was all supposed to happen in L.A.?
Ordinarily, I’d agree that the nature of him being on a one-year minimum deal makes this a low risk move. But let’s not ignore the opportunity cost here if Drummond flames out. The Sixers could have devoted more resources this offseason to signing the likes of Gorgui Dieng, JaVale McGee, Robin Lopez, Aron Baynes, Tony Bradley, or even Dwight Howard, but instead, they’ll be forced to turn to the midseason trade market if things go south, and the past few years should show how difficult it is to acquire a playable backup five during the season.
Drummond is not a Greg Monroe-level abomination as a player, but I do not see how he is a net positive in any way. He is a regular season innings eater who then barfs up those innings. His Lakers stint should definitively prove that he has zero place on a winning team regardless of role -- even in the best case outcomes, I don’t see how he stays on the court in the later rounds of the playoffs. This is yet another chapter in the franchise’s unfathomable inability to find quality backups for Joel Embiid. Whether they’re paying them $30 million or $2 million, they just can’t seem to get their hands on the right guy.
On the other fronts, re-signing Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz to team friendly contracts is great. I like Niang’s game; in what is a novel concept to many players in recent Sixers history, he actually shoots 3s when there is a defender in the same zip code as him. Niang’s 12.3 3-point attempts per 100 possessions would’ve been second on last year’s Sixers behind only Isaiah Joe. He makes a lot of sense as a gunner off the bench -- the Sixers can trot out some lineups with outrageous amounts of shooting.
Outside of that, the waiving of George Hill is a bit of a bummer. It’s a shame that they couldn’t find a trade partner for that contract, and it also means yet another disappointing ending to a midseason acquisition. Like Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III before him, the Sixers gave up three second round picks to get Hill, and got next to nothing out of him. It is those types of failings on the margins that one hoped would have disappeared when Morey took over.
It’s hard to be too harsh on the Sixers’ offseason knowing A) that there is still a monster deal waiting to happen, and B) that free agency isn’t over, and there’s more room for success on the margins. Still, it’s disappointing that the Sixers have been so quiet, and that their most interesting move is signing a blatantly bad backup center. It would’ve been nice to see them take a swing on a player with any type of upside potential -- whether that’s a young player like Malik Monk, or a reclamation project veteran like Otto Porter, Jr. Not only are the Sixers no better than they were before the draft, but they’ve given us very little reason to even dream about why they could be. A Simmons trade will eventually come and breathe some intrigue back into the franchise, but as of now, this has been a dull and unimaginative Sixers offseason.