Three Most Pressing Offseason Issues For Daryl Morey And The Sixers
Daryl, here’s your checklist.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He has been legally banned from covering the team in person, and when that ban was set to be lifted, Covid-19 struck. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
With the NBA and NBPA having agreed upon the framework for a 72-game season beginning on Dec. 22, it’s time for us to finally turn our attention to the offseason.
The 2020 NBA Draft is taking place on Nov. 17, and free agency is supposedly going to begin mere days later. Additionally, the moratorium on trades is going to be lifted before draft day. That means the clock will start ticking soon for Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey (I can’t believe I just typed those words), and he has a lot to address.
In what will be the first of many offseason columns from me, let’s evaluate the most pressing issues facing Morey and his front office as they enter their first test as new Sixers leadership.
Issue #1: Getting off at least one of the Al Horford and Tobias Harris contracts
Bar none, this is the most pivotal predicament of the next six weeks for the Sixers. Horford and Harris, whose total contracts near $300 million, have both been massive disappointments in Philadelphia. It simply will not be tenable to pay them both at their 2020-2021 salaries and be a legitimate contender. Harris is a decent player paid like a superstar; Horford can be a very useful player in the right role, but has been put in quite possibly the worst role conceivable.
For my money, Harris’ deal is much worse in a general sense, as it is significantly longer and also more expensive on a year-to-year basis. But most assume the team’s priority would be moving Horford, which does make sense: Horford cannot play with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid at the same time, Harris can. Plus, quite frankly, the size of Harris’ deal may simply put him in the untradeable category.
Priority number one needs to be shedding at least one of these two contracts.
Issue #2: Acquiring a legitimate perimeter creator
The Sixers went without real perimeter creation for multiple years before bringing in Jimmy Butler, and with Butler’s departure came a return to their desperation for someone who can dribble AND shoot… crazy idea, right? Whether the Sixers can add a valuable guard in a Horford trade remains to be seen (I’m skeptical), but they need to be willing to find other avenues to their desired outcome.
The most obvious method would be to build a trade package around Josh Richardson -- Richardson and Mike Scott make over $15 million combined, and Zhaire Smith makes over $3 million himself, so making the money work shouldn’t be difficult.
Richardson is a good player who has been put in a difficult spot here, and I believe he can thrive in the right environment. But, like for many players, Philadelphia has proven not to be the right environment. Richardson’s defensive skills are tantalizing, but on this team a luxury. Even if it were for a slightly worse overall player, it would do the Sixers a lot of good to flip Richardson for a high-level creator if they can’t get one in a Horford trade.
Issue #3: Adding wings
It’s snuck up on all of us, but the Sixers are actually back to needing as many wings as they can find. Other than Richardson, Simmons and Harris, the only true wings on the roster are Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Smith. Thybulle is a liability offensively, Korkmaz is a liability defensively, and Smith remains a total mystery as he enters his third season. I believe the Sixers can get by if they properly build an array of wings, but they will need to bring in more, especially considering Thybulle and or Korkmaz could very possibly be used to facilitate the solving of one of the larger issues.
I’d expect this to be focused on in free agency, where the Sixers will look to replace Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III with players who will take fewer than six months to arrive in Philly and… be better at basketball. Burks had his moments, but was out of the rotation at times and on the whole failed to impress. Robinson III was outwardly unsatisfied from the moment he arrived, and never failed to produce consistently.
The issue is far less harmful than it was back when JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli were guarding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the playoffs, but while focused on making the top of the roster make some sort of sense, Morey and co. cannot lose sight of the team’s previous downfall.