Analyzing The New Look, Post-Draft, Post Trades, Sixers
It was a busy night.
Mike O’Connor is the best O’Connor in basketball writing. Previously of The Athletic, you can find Mike on Twitter @MOConnor_NBA.
Folks, the Philadelphia 76ers are a much different basketball team than they were when we woke up yesterday morning. In a matter of a few hours, Daryl Morey managed to transform the Sixers from a disgusting morass of antiquated players to an actual, modern basketball team.
And look, there were some dark sides to tonight. They had to admit defeat on the awful Horford contract. They traded Josh Richardson -- who they had previously acquired for Jimmy Butler -- for an inferior talent in Seth Curry. In both cases, they had to swallow some difficult pills that came to them completely by their own doing.
But sunk costs are sunk costs. All things considered, this was an excellent job by Morey and company of making the most out of a desperate situation. They may not have transformed themselves into true title contenders in one night, but they are finally a functioning, watchable basketball team again. Imagine that.
Let’s start with the big one: the decision to send Horford packing along with a 2025 top-6 protected first rounder and the 34th overall pick in last night’s draft in exchange for Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson. In my view, this is about as good as they could’ve done for a Horford trade. To only give up one first round pick, with a useful player on an expiring deal coming back, is a terrific job by Morey. They got better in the short term and saved an incredible amount of money in the long term.
Green, 33, is a very good addition in spite of the fact that he’s clearly past his prime. He is an elite shooter and top-notch team defender who will help offset some of the loss of Richardson on the perimeter. Green doesn’t put the clamps on point guards in the same way that Richardson does, but he’s a player who automatically makes your team defense more cohesive with his sheer presence. Green is, of course, a nightmarishly bad ball handler and passer. He’s also a horrific finisher around the rim, but -- and this is super important -- he doesn’t fucking clap whenever he smokes a layup. Good riddance, Al Horford.
Green (as well as Curry, but more on him in a second) is capable of knocking down shots on the move and with tight contests, which was a skill that was sorely lacking from last year’s roster. He and Curry will open up the opportunity for some of the offensive sets that JJ Redick allowed the Sixers to run during his time with the team. At the very least, having those two guys in place of Horford and Richardson should give Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid some much needed room to breathe.
Between Green, Curry, Isaiah Joe, Furkan Korkmaz, and Shake Milton, the Sixers now have five (5) players who are knockdown shooters capable of running around screens. It’s entirely possible (perhaps likely) that only three of those players crack the Sixers’ rotation next season, but regardless, they have made major upgrades in the shooting department.
As for the Curry-Richardson trade, it’s a downgrade on sheer talent, but a major upgrade in terms of fit and long term flexibility. Curry is an elite shooter who is on an incredible contract -- around $8 million per year for three more seasons.
But don’t box Curry in as a mere shooter. He is a very capable ball handler who can get to the rim and create shots for himself in a pinch. He played 37 percent of his minutes at point guard last year (per Cleaning the Glass) on a Dallas team that was loaded with ball handlers. In sophisticated terms: he can both shoot AND dribble, which has, for some reason, been an impossible archetype of player for the Sixers to find in recent years.
Oh, and speaking of players who can both shoot and dribble: TYRESE MAXEY!
I can’t say I expected it to happen. I thought for sure that a team in the late teens would take Maxey. But sure enough, they got him.
I had Maxey ranked No. 1 on my Sixers-centric (meaning only consisting of players who had a shot of being around at No. 21) big board. Maxey is an incredibly shifty ball handler with elite body control, fluidity, and touch around the rim. His skill set will allow him to not only operate as a scorer with the ball in his hands, but also as a valuable cog in the team offense -- he’s superb at attacking closeouts and shooting gaps to find his way to the paint, which will help make this team’s offense flow.
Maxey also gets after it on defense, and at this stage, you might be able to consider him the team’s best point of attack defender from day one. Certainly, Simmons, Green, and Matisse Thybulle are capable in that role, but Maxey is far more naturally suited to defend point guards than any of them.
The question, of course, is what comes of Maxey’s jump shot. He shot just 29 percent at Kentucky on 3.6 3PAs per game, but he did shoot 83 percent at the stripe, and has been working tirelessly over the past several months to improve his stroke. He has a bit of a goofy form, but it’s fluid and compact. I expect him to become a league average shooter in due time, but year one may involve some struggles.
Regardless, the Sixers got a super high character kid with role player value from day one and legitimate upside as a scorer. Maxey brings a lot of things to the table, but most notably quickness and shot creation -- two things that this roster that had been lacking.
The Sixers wrapped up the night by drafting Isaiah Joe and Paul Reed with the 49th and 58th picks. Joe is a lights out shooter who I expect to compete with Korkmaz for minutes next season (side note: do the Sixers have TOO MUCH shooting?), and Reed is a toolsy power forward who will likely put up some ridiculous defensive numbers in the G-League next season. I’m not especially high on Reed’s odds of becoming a useful player -- the jumper is a trainwreck -- but if the shot comes around, he’s got some Jerami Grant type of appeal.
After tonight, the Sixers are once again a basketball team. They are not yet contenders -- they still are lacking a player that can be the engine of a championship level half court offense -- but they are, at the very least, a fun team. This was an A+ debut for Daryl Morey, and he still has some offseason to work with. Free agency begins Friday, and we will surely have you covered on whatever the Sixers end up doing.