The top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers were upset by the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday night, leading to all sorts of questions being asked about the team in the aftermath.
Does Ben Simmons have a future in Philadelphia after being a non-factor on offense this postseason? What about head coach Doc Rivers' future after he failed to get another team past the second round? Just how big is the team's contending window with Joel Embiid given his injury history? And why didn't president of basketball operations Daryl Morey make a bigger splash at the trade deadline to address some of the team's deficiencies?
That last question likely comes down to why Morey didn't push harder for one player in particular, Kyle Lowry. Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer went into more depth on the subject Monday:
"Opinions differ on Philadelphia’s decision not to pursue Lowry harder, but there is a consensus around the league that Morey resisted because he’s angling for an even greater star. He’s thinking about stars like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal becoming available. CJ McCollum or Zach LaVine could also appeal to Philadelphia if they are put on the table."
Morey may have been hesitant to pull the trigger on a Lowry deal during the season for any number of reasons—another consideration is that Lowry is set to be a free agent and potentially could be acquired without giving up any talented young players like Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle—but there's no question that he would have addressed several major needs for the Sixers.
Outside of Embiid, the Sixers didn't have anybody in the postseason who could consistently create their own shot. The offense often bogged down because Simmons' man would help off him to jam the lane or double Embiid, leaving the big man to create his own offense by receiving the ball on the perimeter.
Having a true point guard to run the pick-and-roll with Embiid would have opened up the halfcourt offense in a hugely needed way. Simmons is often called the point guard in Philly, and when the Sixers are running in transition he fits the label, barrelling down hill for layups or passes to open teammates on the perimeter.
But his offensive contribution later in the Atlanta series while the team was in its halfcourt offense was to dribble the ball to about the three-point line, job over to the dunker's spot and... just sort of stand there.
John Clark @JClarkNBCS
Ben Simmons only attempted 3 shots in the 4th quarter in the 7 game series<br><br>Only other starting point guard for 7 game series in NBA playoffs over the last 25 years with that few attempts<br><br>Eric Snow in 2006<br><br>Ben is an All-Star and has a $180 million max contract pic.twitter.com/qb7GFxeaue
If Simmons is your de facto power forward, that role isn't ideal but you can work around it. But you can't win in the playoffs with your primary facilitator basically disappearing from the halfcourt offense.
Lowry may be a Sixer yet. Simmons probably won't be a Sixer for much longer. But it's fair to question if the team might be in the Eastern Conference Finals right now if Morey had pulled the trigger on a Lowry trade.