Inside Philadelphia 76ers' Plans to Match Brooklyn Nets' Firepower

Jason DumasContributor IMarch 10, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers' Tobias Harris (12) drives into Houston Rockets' P.J. Tucker (17) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

If they weren't already, the Brooklyn Nets are now the clear Eastern Conference favorites after their acquisition of Blake Griffin

FanDuel is currently giving them the best chance of all Eastern Conference teams of winning this year's championship. And with the addition of Griffin, the Nets have become even more formidable.

"Blake makes them even more dynamic offensively because he's a guy they can give the ball to and run off-ball stuff for their Big Three because of his passing," one rival scout tells Bleacher Report. "He is also a great pick-and-roll partner because he can stretch the floor and make plays. Defensively, he's on par with what they've been doing, so he won't help in that aspect."

That is high praise. Even skeptics have to admit it will take a Herculean effort to take down a team consisting of Griffin, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

All eyes now turn to Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who built a decade-long regular-season powerhouse with the Houston Rockets but never won a championship. 

Playoff basketball is a different beast. Personnel issues that can be masked in the regular season with analytics-informed bets often get exposed in the postseason when teams find creative ways to win with superior game plans.

The Sixers have roughly two weeks to answer the main question within the front office: Do we have enough? 

Right now, they have two All-Stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The former is the MVP front-runner, while the latter is one of the leading Defensive Player of the Year candidates. 

Morey and Co. are set on winning or failing with Embiid and Simmons. They are banking on those two, along with Tobias Harris, to continue producing in the postseason. But there's a growing feeling among league insiders that they need another wing who can be a two-way playmaker and defend in space.

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Based on conversations with sources close to the team, they are not content with their current roster. A source tells B/R the team has inquired about the availability of Will Barton, P.J. Tucker, Delon Wright and George Hill.

Barton fits the playmaking wing needs best. He's averaging 11.6 points per game through 33 games this season, down from his average of 15.1 last year. But his minutes and shot attempts are down this season with the emergence of Michael Porter Jr. It shouldn't require a big return in a trade. 

The next-best fit would be Wright, who would give the Sixers the flexibility to move Simmons off the ball more, specifically in the low-block dunker spot. That would immediately take some pressure off the offense in a slow-paced, methodical playoff series. 

Wright has been one of the lone bright spots for the Detroit Pistons this season. They didn't come into the season thinking they'd be able to trade him at the deadline for anything. But they are undeniably in rebuild mode and could conceivably flip him for a draft pick.

Wright missed the past few weeks with a groin injury, but he averaged 16.7 points, 6.1 assists, 4.3 boards and 1.4 steals in the seven games before the injury. He hung a career-high 28 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the Pistons' win over the Sixers back in late January.

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The third-best option of the bunch is Hill, assuming he is fully recovered from the thumb surgery he underwent in early February. He's a savvy vet who has played on the NBA's biggest stage, which could help him serve as a calming presence in the locker room.

Hill is a career 38.4 percent three-point shooter, and he's only one year removed from leading the NBA with a 46.0 three-point percentage. Like Wright, Hill could allow the Sixers to use Simmons off the ball more. 

The Rockets seem to be heading toward a fire sale at the deadline. Victor Oladipo has yet to commit to the organization and recently turned down a two-year, $45.2 million extension, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and Tucker doesn't fit into their long-term plans anymore.

There are pipe dreams out there for Sixers fans: Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, and to a lesser degree, Kyle Lowry. None of that is happening. 

The Sixers have made it clear that they intend to upgrade in the margins vs. adding another star to the current core. They can't get Beal or LaVine without moving someone within that core group, and neither player may even be available at the deadline.

Lowry is more realistic as a splashy trade target, but it's still far-fetched. He is not itching to get out of Toronto. That doesn't mean he won't be traded, but the notion that he wants to move on is overstated. The Raptors have fielded calls for Lowry, but Philadelphia has not been one of them.

But things can change in the snap of a finger.