NBA Scouts Mostly Love Daryl Morey's Upgrades for Philadelphia 76ers

Mo DakhilFeatured Columnist INovember 23, 2020

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) reacts during the second half against the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Kim Klement/Associated Press

The Philadelphia 76ers under Brett Brown underachieved last season after signing Al Horford in free agency (four years, $109 million), re-signing Tobias Harris (five years, $180 million) and bringing in Josh Richardson in the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade. The roster never fit cleanly and found little offensive cohesion.

It was clear changes were coming under new head coach Doc Rivers, and Daryl Morey wasted no time putting his imprint on the 76ers. After becoming team president at the beginning of the month, he executed two trades to start to build a roster that makes more sense.

Before the draft proceedings began, Morey sent Horford, the rights to Vasilije Micic, the 34th pick (Theo Maledon) and a top-six protected 2025 first-round pick to Oklahoma City for Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson.

The deals did not stop there, as they then moved Richardson and the 36th pick (Tyler Bey) to the Mavericks for Seth Curry and also signed Dwight Howard in free agency. The Sixers also selected Kentucky point guard Tyrese Maxey in the first round and Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe and DePaul forward Paul Reed in the second round of the 2020 draft.

Bleacher Report asked two NBA scouts for their thoughts on the moves Morey and Sixers made.           

Should Morey Have Traded for Harden?

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The moment Morey became the Sixers president, the rumors started that he would be interested in trading for James Harden. It intensified once news broke that Harden wanted out of Houston, and the Nets and 76ers were "believed to be" his top choices, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. A trade for Harden would most likely cost the Sixers Simmons, and the scouts were split on whether they should've made the move.

Scout No. 2 thought the Sixers should consider it for a simple reason: "I just feel like it would complement Embiid to have a guy like a scorer, like Harden."

Scout No. 1 was on the other side: "You got to give those two guys (Embiid and Simmons) a chance with Doc's system. I think they needed an injection of new energy from the coaching staff."

The Rockets seem to be in no rush trading Harden. The moves  Morey made with the Sixers have not taken them out of the race for him. He would flourish around the shooters they have added if they tried to make a move.


The Horford Trade: 'That Contract Was an Albatross'

Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

Last offseason, Horford signed with the Sixers. It was praised in some circles at the time, but in his only year in Philly, he was never able to fit in. With the clunky fit with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Horford was sent to the bench.

Anonymous scout No. 1 said of the Horford trade: "I thought it was a good first move, and not because they added Danny Green or Ferguson, but because they got rid of Al Horford. That contract was an albatross around their necks for three more years, so I think getting rid of all that money was a good move."

Anonymous scout No. 2 agreed, saying: "I thought that was an unbelievable deal that he was able to get off that contract. … It's not really sustainable to have a guy making $27.5 million coming off the bench."

The cost to make up for the Horford contract mistake was draft equity. The 34th pick that went to Oklahoma City became French guard Theo Maledon. The protections on the 2025 first-round pick are only 1-6, so it will most likely convey then. The Sixers also sent the draft rights to Serbian guard Vasilije Micic, their second-round pick in 2014, so all in all it was a fairly light sacrifice to correct the mistake.

In return they got Green, who's coming off a second championship in as many years. He struggled with his shot in the playoffs but still was a three-point threat during the regular season. Time is beginning to catch up to him defensively, but he provides something the Sixers need: shooting.

Scout No. 1 said of Green: "Now, can Danny Green still make a standstill three? Yes. Is he the defender he once was? No, and he can't dribble. He can still hit a standstill three and has all that playoff experience, so that is a positive."

This past season, Green shot 36.7 percent from three in the regular season, and it dropped to 33.9 percent during the playoffs. He is primarily a catch-and-shoot option, which will fill a need for the Sixers.

The concerns of Green's defense slipping are real, though. Scout No. 2 observed: "He looked slower...he was never the quickest guy in the world, but he looked like he lost a step and was a little slower. He's still smart, still knows how to play."

That said, this was still a good trade for the Sixers, who moved Horford's contract while getting a solid piece for their rotation.

                

Seth Curry Fit > Josh Richardson Fit 

Morey was not done wheeling on dealing on draft night, sending out Richardson and a second-round pick for the sharpshooting Curry. Richardson had his moments with the Sixers but shot only 34.1 percent from deep. Ultimately, he never got comfortable with his role.

Both scouts were high on Richardson but noted this was more about fit.

Scout No. 1 said: "In normal situations, I don't think they make that trade because Josh Richardson is an excellent basketball player. But they need shooting, and they have to get shooting around those two guys [Embiid and Simmons]."

Scout No. 2 echoed those sentiments, saying, "I think on the Philly side you are trading the more talented player for a better fit."

Curry is coming off his best season as a shooter, finishing third in the league in three-point percentage (45.2 percent). He has been a 42.5-plus percent three-point shooter over the last four seasons.

Scout No. 2 said Curry "established himself as a high-level shotmaker, and he helped out in the playoffs; he definitely was good in the playoffs." In the playoffs for the Mavs, he shot 47.6 percent from three in their first-round series.

Curry can come in and immediately give the Sixers their best three-point threat since JJ Redick in 2018-19. Curry shot 48.1 percent on catch-and-shoot threes last season and was second in points per possession off spot-ups at 1.36 (minimum 40 games played). He isn't as effective an off-screen threat as Redick, but he will keep the floor spaced.

It cost the Sixers a good player, but as scout No. 1 said, "They had to sacrifice something to get more shooting in there."

          

Backup Superman

With trading Horford, the Sixers were in the market for a backup center. Scout No. 1 even called it a pressing need when we spoke before free agency began, saying at the time, "What do they do with their backup center position?"

Morey had a plan. Early in free agency the team agreed to sign Howard to a one-year, $2.6 million deal to be that backup. It was the role he filled for the Lakers this past season, where in 18.9 minutes per game he averaged 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.

If Howard embraces this role the same way he did in L.A., he'll be a strong pickup for the Sixers.

Grading Morey's Moves: Consensus 8 out of 10

The East was wide-open last year. It might be even more competitive this year at the top. Milwaukee, Boston, Brooklyn, Toronto and Miami all figure to be in the mix. How do the Sixers stack up after these moves?

Both scouts think the Sixers will be in the top four based on the moves Morey made. They also both gave him an eight out of 10. Scout No. 2 said: "To be honest with you, I think he did pretty well. I would give him an eight or nine—probably an eight. Only because a nine or 10 to me would have been like making a huge splash, a huge move."

Last season, the Sixers' roster construction was a mess, and it did not fit around their two stars. Changes were being made before Morey got there. Since he arrived he has begun to build a roster that has more balance with more shooting around Embiid and Simmons to hopefully make the Sixers a real threat in the East.

         

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Mo Dakhil spent six years with the Los Angeles Clippers and two years with the San Antonio Spurs as a video coordinator, as well as three years with the Australian men's national team. Follow him on Twitter, @MoDakhil_NBA.