The 76ers have fallen short of their postseason expectations once again. Seemingly hitting a playoff plateau after failing to advance past the second round of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, the Sixers have some real soul-searching to do. With the window of Joel Embiid’s prime capable of being closed at any wrong step or fall, this is a crucial offseason for the franchise.
Here is my best attempt at righting the ship and building a roster more effectively built for postseason success.
What’s Up With Doc?
The relationship between Doc Rivers and Philadelphia has soured rather quickly. While he is oftentimes blamed for far more than he is responsible for, putting a new face in charge would do a lot of good for everyone. Rivers has had some success in Philadelphia. He led the team to the best record in the East last season and was more creative than he has been in years when attempting to win games with Joel Embiid in the Heat series.
While there are worse coaches in the league, it is still fair to question if Doc Rivers is a championship-caliber coach at this stage in his career. He comes with a pedigree but at times coaches as if it is the same game it was 15 years ago. There have been increasing rumors connecting the Los Angeles Lakers to Doc Rivers. The series of leaks give off the feeling of Morey and the Lakers playing hardball about if the Sixers actually want the current Head Coach back.
It is important to note that Doc Rivers was hired before Morey and thus was not his choice for Head Coach. It is even more noteworthy that Rivers has three years left on his contract at $8 million per year. This is a bill that Sixers management seems uncomfortable swelling, which makes trading him increasingly important.
It is uncommon for a coach to be traded, but Doc Rivers is one of the few coaches to have experienced this. In 2013, Rivers was traded from the Celtics to the Clippers for a 2015 first-round pick. Times are certainly different, but Rivers could serve as the splash the Lakers are looking for and allow the Sixers to get off the contract. The Sixers should accept a second-round pick for the Head Coach and move on with the offseason. Head coaches are often overvalued in the NBA, but the tone and personality Rivers gives offsets a negative tone that seems to rub off on the team.
While plenty of rumors connect Daryl Morey and his former Head Coaching choice Mike D’Antoni, this would be even more of a disaster than Rivers. Morey would be wise to promote Sam Cassell to Head Coach instead. Cassell has 13 years of experience as an assistant coach and is ready for a Head position. He deserves a ton of credit for the rapid development of Tyrese Maxey and brings a burst of positive energy with his coaching. Sam Cassell is going to make a terrific Head Coach in the NBA sooner rather than later and the Sixers should ensure it is with their organization.
Trading Tobias Harris
The quality stretch of play that Tobias Harris played in the postseason is arguably the best of his career. The veteran deserves a ton of credit for adapting his game to the Sixers’ needs throughout his time in Philadelphia. The hefty contract has clouded views on Harris for most of his time here, but this is an indictment on the Sixers’ front office and not on Tobias Harris. The 29-year-old has controlled what he can control, competed every night, and been a model teammate during his time with the Sixers. Regardless, the Sixers need the cap flexibility that his contract holds up, and flipping him for better-fitting role players would benefit the Sixers greatly.
Sixers Get: Reggie Bullock, Davis Bertans, Tim Hardaway Jr
Mavericks Get: Tobias Harris, Isaiah Joe, Shake Milton, Two 2nd-Round Picks
Reggie Bullock is a perfect wing player to complement the Sixers‘ starting lineup. He is a hard-nosed defender and an effective three-point shooter. His career 38.5% three-point percentage and style of play would be the well-rounded wing the Sixers are missing.
Davis Bertans would be the best floor-spacing power forward since Ersan Ilyasova. Standing 6’10” and never shy to let a three-point fly, Bertans would be a great floor spacer next to Joel Embiid. Tim Hardaway Jr also would be the Sixers’ best bench option in several years. His scoring pop would be necessary and create nice flexibility in the starting lineup.
Flipping the Bench
Sixers Get: Alex Caruso, Javonte Green
Bulls Get: Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Danny Green
The bench has also been a consistent problem with this Sixers team. The lack of offensive development from Matisse Thybulle has made him unplayable in the postseason and there is little indication this will change. He is coming off his second-straight All-NBA Second-Team Defensive team and still holds value around the league. He will be the focal point of this trade and the Sixers will benefit by adding more two-dimensional players. The injury to Danny Green was a heartbreaking end to his season. While it may not be the most ethical move to trade him, his contract was structured in a trade-friendly way and this was likely the plan that was in place.
Alex Caruso is a perfect role player on a contending team. While he may not have the eye-popping blocks or steals, his effective team-based defense is more important for postseason success. He also is a career 36.6% three-point shooter. JaVonte Green is a hard-nosed energy guy with plenty of potential. He will bring a necessary pop of athleticism and effort to the Sixers roster.
Sixers Draft: EJ Liddell
A three-year impact player at Ohio State, EJ Liddell projects greatly as a modern-day power forward. He stands just 6’7″ but has a powerful build and is a versatile defender. Liddell is a capable perimeter defender who can also play some small-ball center. He blocked 2.6 shots per game last year and brought down 7.9 rebounds per game.
Offensively Liddell took a notable step forward in his junior season. After averaging 6.7 points as a freshman, he then scored 16.2 points as a sophomore and 19.4 points this past season. He has been most comfortable operating out of the post and mid-range but became more comfortable around the perimeter this past season. Liddell shot 37.4% on three-pointers on the most attempts per game of his career (3.9).
The 21-year-old plays a winning brand of basketball and is comfortable doing the little things. He is more NBA-ready than most prospects in this area of the draft and will be an effective role player at the next level. Liddell would be a great addition to the Sixers’ young core and would likely be able to contribute quicker than some of the current young players on the roster. With Sam Cassell at the helm, he may even get a chance as a rookie!
While the looming James Harden contract is the biggest piece of the puzzle, the Sixers are fairly tight on money regardless this offseason. It does not seem to be a matter of if James Harden will return, but rather what the price will be. When looking at the other options in free agency it makes complete sense to bring Harden back. Even at this stage of his career he is a very useful player and fits well with Joel Embiid. Inking him to a 4-year $135 million deal should please both sides.
The Sixers hold two remaining roster spots after all of these moves. The first signing should be Danuel House with the mid-level exception. House played under Morey at the Rockets and remains just 28-years-old. Standing 6’7″ House is a solid two-way floor-spacer. He has bounced around the league since his time with the Rockets and most recently played with the Utah Jazz. Across 25 games he averaged 6.8 points and shot 41.5% on three-pointers. The veteran would be a solid role player to add to the bench.
With the last open roster spot, the Sixers should hand a minimum contract to DJ Augustin. The 34-year-old has been around the NBA for a long time but would be a nice veteran presence on the Sixers. Adding another point guard to the roster would continue to allow Tyrese Maxey to continue to operate as a scorer. He also is an effective three-point shooter and connected on 41.5% of his long-range attempts last season.
Sixers 2022-23 Roster:
Head Coach- Sam Cassell
PG: James Harden, DJ Augustin, JaVonte Green
SG: Tyrese Maxey, Tim Hardaway Jr, Alex Caruso, Jaden Springer
SF: Reggie Bullock, Danuel House, EJ Liddell
PF: Davis Bertans, Georges Niang
C: Joel Embiid, Paul Reed, Charles Bassey
AP Photo/Matt Slocum