Should the Philadelphia 76ers Star Hunt or Bench Build?

Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey speaks during a news conference at the team’s NBA basketball practice facility, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Less than two weeks removed from their playoff exit at the hands of the Miami Heat, the offseason rumors are already flying for the Sixers. One early rumor is that President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey is hunting for another star to add to the pair of Joel Embiid and James Harden. However, when watching this team over the past few months, it wasn’t the star power that was lacking; it was the depth. This has led to a question being commonly asked. Should Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers go star hunting in free agency? Or should they focus on building up the bench?

The Case for Star Hunting

Very simply put, the better players you roster, the better your chances of winning are. With that in mind, it stands to reason that by adding another star, you’re improving your chances of winning. It may be an overly simplistic way to view things, but there is some truth to it.

What’s potentially more valuable for Philadelphia is the ability to constantly have a high-level scorer on the floor. Without Joel Embiid on the court, the 76ers struggled to find any consistency on either side of the court. While Harden and Maxey can help bare the load, the former is allegedly past his prime while the latter is only entering year three of his NBA career. Adding a scorer in their prime like Zach LaVine or Bradley Beal would allow the 76ers to have at least one of their four high-volume scorers on the court at all times — a luxury few other teams have.

Then there’s the case for adding one star in particular — Bradley Beal. The Sixers have been connected to the Wizards’ star for some time to the point that it seemed the Ben Simmons trade was down to either Beal or James Harden — who the 76ers, of course, acquired. In the time that followed the Harden deal, it’s been rumored that Sixers’ star Joel Embiid actually campaigned for the team to acquire Beal at the trade deadline.

Keeping that in mind, fast forward to Embiid’s comments after once again being eliminated in the second round. It’s become clear that Embiid is less than enthused about the way the Sixers have managed the team around him. Going out and getting the player Embiid wants could go a long way to repairing the relationship. Something the 76ers would be wise to keep in mind, assuming they care about their star’s happiness.

The Case for Building the Bench

There are plenty of reasons to go star hunting, but now it’s time to look at the rationale behind building the bench instead. Without top-end talent, it’s near impossible to win an NBA championship, but an underrated aspect of winning has always been depth. Now, this isn’t to say that you need ten starting-caliber players, of course, but even the greatest, most star-studded teams have had a modicum of depth — especially compared to this past 76ers squad.

Building the bench around the star has worked out for many teams in the past, and there’s no reason the 76ers cannot replicate such success. The reigning — for now — champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, rostered seven players who averaged ten or more points during the regular season and employed a bench of shooters/athletic defenders. This is similar to the approach the 2018-19 Toronto Raptors took as they surrounded Kawhi Leonard with the likes of Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka. Yes, the playoff rotation may have run roughly eight deep, but that’s because the talent level of this team was so solid from top to bottom.

It’s not just about generic statistical impact, either. Depth doesn’t always come in the form of a Manu Ginóbili or a Jason Terry. It can come either in the form of talent or even be as simple as experience.

When looking at the big-three Miami Heat, players like Ray Allen and Shane Battier — aged yes but not finished quite yet — played crucial roles in the team’s success. When looking at the Golden State Warriors, while they featured one of the greatest starting lineups in NBA history, they consistently had depth in every season they won the championship. Without players like Andre Iguodala (who did not initially start for Golden State) and Shaun Livingston, the Warriors may not have had the same level of success.

The Philadelphia 76ers would be wise to pay close attention to this postseason. Depth has been and continues to be crucial to a deep playoff run. Even now, the four remaining teams are at least eight quality — in either talent, or scheme — players deep, and the team with the least depth, the Dallas Mavericks, is one game away from being swept.

Should the 76ers Focus on Star Power or Depth?

In all honesty, there is probably not a wrong answer here. As long as the 76ers do not mortgage the future to acquire a star or add the completely wrong bench pieces, there’s a lot of potential for good this offseason. Targeting stars like LaVine or Beal — whom you do not have to part with Maxey for — or signing players like Gary Harris or Bruce Brown Jr. will make this a more complete team one way or another.

From this point out, the key for Daryl Morey and the 76ers will be using their assets wisely, whether they be players, draft picks, or available salary. The time of allowable mistakes is over; it’s time to complete “The Process.”

“We’re in the Endgame now.”