4 looming questions for the Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are left watching the remainder of the 2020 playoffs after exiting the Orlando bubble after a disappointing first round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics. This team has a lot to think about over the course of the off-season, which is likely to be shortened as a result of the global pandemic’s impact on future scheduling. Below are five questions on the off-season horizon for Philadelphia’s front office.
Who is the head coach of the future?
After seven years, Brett Brown was finally dismissed as the Sixers head coach. Although nothing certain has been indicated, a few lead candidates have surfaced as possible replacements. One of them is Tyronn Lue, former head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and current assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers. He has a reputation as a “players first” coach and does have experience dealing with multiple superstar egos on one team. However, his coach chops haven’t been truly tested in the absence of Lebron on his team.
Jay Wright, Villanova’s two-time national championship coach, will also be pursued by the Sixers. Jay Wright has long been sought after by NBA general managers but has yet to make the leap from college coach to the NBA. He would likely be a defensive-minded coach with a demand for fundamental and ball movement. This discipline could be exactly what the Sixers need. Other potential candidates include former player Jason Kidd, Nate McMillan, and Mike D’antoni (in the event that the Rockets don’t make it much further in the playoffs).
How stable is the Simmons/Embiid marriage?
The success of any new coach will largely be tied to making the on-court combination of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid work. The Sixers GM Elton Brand has stated that though this off-season will see changes for the team, they are “not looking to trade” either of their young stars. While I think that statement was genuine, I also suspect that the Sixers will at least be listening to offers from other teams. The interesting question is which player the Sixers choose to move forward with in the event that they do intent on trading one. Embiid is a generational dominant force but has not proven that he can carry a team on a consistent basis. As a result, I’d opt to keep Simmons as he is the prototype of a player you can build around in the modern NBA. Shot-making aside, he was still the most competitive player on the Sixers this year and brings his best effort every night.
Ultimately I would keep the pair together and try running it back. This past playoff series would’ve been far from a sweep if Simmons had played. It might just take the right new coach to create synergy between Embiid and Simmons.
What direction will the Sixers go in the draft?
When the Oklahoma City Thunder clinched the fifth spot in the western playoff race they officially forfeited their top-20 protected pick to the Sixers for the 2020 draft. In addition to this first round selection, the Sixers also possess five second round picks. This amount of second round capital is definitely enough for the Sixers to package them together in trades if there is a player earlier in the draft that catches their fancy. All in all, the Sixers can be very versatile in the upcoming draft. Last year’s pick, Matisse Thybulle, has worked splendidly. One player that is projected near the 20 spot who I think would be a great fit on the Sixers is Josh Green, a 6-6 wing who played at Arizona last year. He is a classic 3-and-D player that could mesh will with the current roster of the Sixers.
Will splashes be made in free agency?
The Sixers made waves last off-season through the signing of Al Horford and trading for Josh Richardson. Those high hopes sadly did not pan out. The Sixers have a decidedly high payroll this year with a lot of money tied up in Tobias Harris and Al Horford. I think it would be a prudent move to trade away Tobias Harris, but with his current salary, he might be one of the most untradeable assets in the entire league. There are, of course, wild rumors about a third star pining to join Simmons and Embiid. These are far from plausible with the salary cap most definitely moving down and a mystery surrounding who that star could be (Chris Paul? Russell Westbrook?)
The wisest move for the 76ers may be to solidify their infrastructure and stay away from risky free agent signings for this off-season. Hopefully a new coach can rally the troops in unity and approach next season with confidence.
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