Collared Greens: How Mismanagement And Greed Ruined The Sixers Dynasty Chances
In the most roundabout way possible, Kobe Bryant was the one who kicked off The Process, The Philadelphia 76ers long-view plan of tearing a professional basketball team down to the studs and building it back up to contender status. Kobe had a competitive streak that, along with his immense resources, gave him the impetus to seek alternative treatments for the everyday aches of playing a sport professionally for decades without rest. One of those treatments came from a seemingly effective but ultimately illegal knee procedure based around stem cell injection and other medical terms I’ve got no idea how to explain. Legality was merely a hurdle to Kobe(this wasn’t the first time that statement would be true), and when the opportunity to travel to Germany, where the procedure was legal, came about, he made his way overseas to take care of his ailing joints. Kobe’s teammate, Andrew Bynum, had similar knee issues plaguing him throughout his career. A talented, eccentric big man, Bynum was instrumental to the Lakers winning two championships before being shipped off to Philadelphia in a blockbuster deal centered around Bynum, future Hall-Of-Famer Dwight Howard, All-Star Center Nikola Vucevic, and Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. Shortly after he parted for Philly, Bynum decided to try out the same procedure that worked so well for Kobe just before the season was set to begin. The buzz around Bynum’s arrival was palpable among Sixers faithful, and as a Sixers fan myself, I was excited to see what the big fella could do. We finally had our star, and as soon as he was healthy we’d make a run at an Eastern Conference and, fuck it, NBA championship. As soon as he was healthy which was, any day now, he should be good soon, right? He’s gonna practice this week? This month though, right? RIGHT??????
Due to complications from the procedure and generally awful health and decision-making, Andrew Bynum played as many minutes for the Sixers that season as I did. The Sixers gave up a future All-Star at Bynum’s position, a future Finals MVP, a then-rookie that remains in the league eight years later, and a first-round pick to top things off. They also saddled themselves with the horrible contract of the effective but aging Jason Richardson, in case the gut punch wasn’t vomit-inducing enough for you. The Sixers, a franchise that had been stuck in the mud for a decade, were now bereft of talent, draft capital, and general attractiveness as a franchise, all three of which were key in building a perennial winner.
Two years after new ownership came in the form of Josh Harris, who’s basically a centaur if centaurs were composed of worms and pig shit instead of horses and humans, Sam Hinkie was brought on as General Manager, tasked with taking the team from basement dwellers to respectable in a city that wanted nothing more than likable teams to root for. Hinkie executed a strategy of employing an extremely bad roster in order to sink to the bottom of the standings and top of the draft order, at least until those draft picks he was losing for turned into stars. There’s a lot more to it, but I gave up litigating the Hinkie administration years ago and I’ve pledged to never go back. Let’s just say he was extremely polarizing, with his cold, calculating nature and willingness to drop games a deterrent to many and a long-awaited godsend to others. Hinkie made objectively brilliant moves and objectively horrible ones, he was never good with the media (a major no-no in Philly), and he had trouble understanding the personal side of basketball by some accounts. He is also the last Philadelphia decision-maker to make any major transaction of consequence that was helpful to the teams ability to compete for titles in the long-term. The important thing to remember about Hinkie is the way his tenure ended: in the midst of a 10-win season in which the Sixers came just sort of sporting the worst record in NBA history, their prized draft picks were floundering and The Process(a term dubbed by former point guard Tony Wroten describing the long rebuild they were in the midst of) looked like a complete failure after two-and-a-half seasons. Center Nerlens Noel was a good but limited role player, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric had yet to play for the team after two years due to injuries(Embiid) and international commitments(Saric). Worst of all, then-rookie Jahlil Okafor was a clear bust, causing issues both on and off the court during his short, tumultuous time in Philly. The Sixers still had loads of draft capital and decent young role players, but the promise of a contender was looking more and more bleak by the day. NBA commissioner Adam Silver was not pleased with a large-market franchise losing so many games (“tanking” was the phrase most used in those days) and decided to step in. Faithful Hinkie advocates were largely unswayed by the lack of progress, but the national and local media were extremely critical, leading Silver to convince Sixers ownership to bring in Jerry Colangelo who, in turn, hired his italian-collared, technologically incompetent failson Bryan to usurp Hinkie as the team’s decision maker on basketball-related matters(the younger Colangelo’s famously massive shirt collars, along with the financial interest of the league in ousting Hinkie, inspired the ‘Collared Greens’ article title, pretty clever I thought!).While Hinkie remained employed, he had effectively been pushed out of power, and resigned in the spring.
This is a lot, but bear with me, it’s been a weird seven years and it all matters. Hinkie wrote a long manifesto that some saw as inspiring and others saw as downright weird, the player selected immediately after Okafor went on to be a star player at a position of need, and the Sixers found themselves with the top pick in the 2016 draft after a miserable season that nobody should ever have to think about again. This is the turning point, because since the 2016 draft the Sixers have failed at every. single. turn. With their three picks in the 2016 draft, the Sixers selected no-brainer Ben Simmons first overall, short-lived fan favorite Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot with the 24th pick, and sharp-shooter Furkan Korkmaz two picks later. Simmons remains a star player that, despite the complete lack of a jump shot, has made two all-star teams in two seasons, won rookie of the year, and his likely on his way to an All-NBA and All-Defense team this year despite missing his first season after suffering a broken foot. For someone that just turned 24, that’s quite the resume. Luwawu-Cabarrot had some moments but was ultimately shipped out(prematurely) after two seasons, while Korkmaz has blossomed into a rotation player mainly due to his shooting abilities and newfound confidence that he can “make it rain”.
The moves since then have been crippling to the chances of success for Simmons and Joel Embiid, an oft-injured big man that has become a lovable god and crown jewel of a rebuild that was centered around finding a player exactly like him. These two are top-fifteen or top-twenty players in all of basketball, an objectively incredible duo that present issues due to their conflicting strengths and weaknesses but ultimately should be well on their way to multiple championships. How could such a formula be ruined from here? There’s no way to be brief, so let me start with saying that bad luck has played a part. While they’ve made the playoffs all three seasons they’ve played together, both have missed a ton of time due to injuries, and during the year they looked close to breaking through, the Kawhi shot happened(I refuse to expand on this, Google is your friend).
But there have been factors far beyond luck that cannot be ignored, and those factors are largely a matter of roster and personnel-related decisions that have sapped the organization of it’s promise, fun, and chances of winning a championship. I’m going to go ahead and list the moves and write blurbs under a handful of especially impactful transactions. Let’s start in 2016:
- Signed Gerald Henderson to a 2yr/$16mil deal.
- Signed Sergio Rodriguez to a 1yr/$8mil deal.
The issue with these signings was Colangelo’s insistence on signing vets who did little to contribute to winning. While much of the fanbase was bizarrely clamoring for players like this, the reality was that acquiring stars and young players were the only ways to make a leap in team quality. I argued that they should have looked to take on bad contracts from cash-strapped teams while picking up draft picks in the process, but in the grand scheme these were small potato moves.
- Signed Jerryd Bayless to a 3yr/$27 mil deal
This was larger potatoes, a horrible move at the time that limited cap space in future seasons for a player that never came close to making an impact. THREE YEARS WITH A PLAYER OPTION??? I’m still mad.
- Traded Kendall Marshall to Utah for Tibor Pleiss, two second-round picks and cash.
This would’ve been decent if they didn’t sell the picks for cash. Wish it was the only time this happened! Josh Harris is worth like $8 billion by the way, maybe I’ll write about capitalism some other time.
- Signed Elton Brand to a 1-year, minimum deal.
For Sixers devotees, lol. For those new to the party, Elton Brand was in his late-30s, far past his days as a player that contributed to winning basketball. He was signed to be an adult in the room, never mind that they just blew $51 million for players that were supposed to do exactly that. The “lol” comes from the fact that he’s currently the Sixers General Manager. Yeah, lol.
- Traded Jerami Grant to OKC for Ersan Ilyasova and a top-twenty protected 2020 first-round pick
Syntax clarity: “top-twenty protected” ensures that if the pick falls inside the top-twenty of the draft, the pick either goes away, gets pushed to another year, or turns into something else. In this case, this pick turns in to two second-round picks. This isn’t the last time protections will come into play. Now that we’re done, HAHAHAHHAAHAHA. Jerami Grant is an incredibly versatile defender whose developing jumper and insane length have allowed him to develop into a premier role player for some very good teams. This is another move that was senseless at the time and looks much worse even now. Ilyasova will come into play again, but during this tenure he largely shot way too much for a team that was very good when Embiid played (he only played 31 games that season, with limited minutes in many of those. He was also clearly the superstar we’d all been waiting for, so good that after 31 games he was rewarded with a deal worth $147 million and nobody batted an eye) and very bad when he didn’t. He would be traded for two second-rounders a couple months later to clear playing time for Dario Saric. Thinking of all the ways Grant could have helped the current iteration of the Sixers hurts my brain, but just know this deal was and is horrible.
- Ersan Ilyasova Traded to ATL for Tiago Splitter and two second-rounders
- Nerlens Noel traded to Dallas for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a top-eighteen protected first rounder.
There’s those protections again. Let’s roll through this one: Nerlens Noel was a weird player in a weird situation. He was the best high school player in the country, went to Kentucky, was a defensive force before tearing his ACL, causing him to drop to sixth in the 2013 draft, where Hinkie traded All-Star Jrue Holiday for Noel and a future pick that would become Dario Saric and some change in a move that would signal the beginning of The Process. Noel missed the entire season before debuting in Summer League and having a very good rookie season marked by outstanding defense and burgeoning pick-and-roll game. He was far from a star, but he was a great role player whose defense reminded many of Ben Wallace, if Ben Wallace was built like a plank. His second season was rockier with Jahlil Okafor entering the fold(remember Embiid still hasn’t played yet at this point, although him and Nerlens had become very close friends) and some mild off-court drama that had many questioning his character for the first time. After a second year in which the highlight was building a weird but very real chemistry with point guard Ish Smith, he went into his third season understandably miffed about being the third center on the depth chart. By now, most teams were hardly carrying three centers on the roster, let alone playing all three significant minutes. After briefly falling out of the rotation, he established himself as a far superior player to Okafor, and became the backup big that would spell Embiid when the star center was tired or needed a game off. They were a “menace at the rim” as some might say, then this trade happens. Moving on from Noel had been rumored, and while the fan base loved Noel, it was understandable that something had to give. The issue lied in the return, which was as bad as it was condescending, a trade that left fans insulted by it’s bet that they were an ill-informed, easily fooled bunch. Bogut never played for Philly because he was an old shitty racist that provided no on-court value aside from pinching arms and presumably saying “Oy mate, Pizzagate is real” while players were shooting free throws. Fuck Andrew Bogut. Justin Anderson played hard and even got some playoff minutes, but the issue was his inability to develop any skills that pertained to basketball. The first-round pick was where the condescension came into play. Dallas was entrenched in the lottery, drafting ninth that season with almost zero mathematical shot at winning enough games for that pick to become a first-rounder. Colangelo knew this, he just didn’t think the fans would know that he couldn’t get a true first-rounder for a player that was clearly worth the cost. Unfortunately for Bryan, nobody was dumb enough to fall for it, and he was universally and rightfully panned for getting such a horrible return for a guy he didn’t need to trade in the first place. Noel’s career would only get weirder from there, hot dogs were involved, but much to our displeasure, it would not be weird in Philly anymore.
- Sixers trade the 3rd pick in the 2017 draft, and a 2018 OR 2019 first-round pick to the Celtics for the 1st pick in the 2017 draft
This is hard to explain for well-adjusted folks who don’t care that much about unprotected first rounders, but the details matter. The Sixers owned the Lakers unprotected first-round pick in 2018 and the Kings unprotected 2019 pick through multiple trades made by now-former GM Sam Hinkie. Colangelo essentially dealt the third pick(the Sixers own, though they were originally slated to pick fifth before a pick swap from a Hinkie trade kicked them up two spots) to Boston in addition to the Lakers 2018 pick IF the pick fell between two and six. It ended up falling to tenth, so the Sixers instead sent a top-one protected pick from Sacramento to Boston, which was fourteenth in the 2019 draft. In a vacuum, trading the third pick in 2017 and the fourteenth pick two years later for the first pick is far from a heist. There were two major issues: first one is a bit nerdier, but this essentially took away the Sixers ability to deal those two picks for a star while giving Boston the chance at two top-three picks in back-to-back years. The Sixers were fortunate that Kings pick wasn’t much higher, as everyone expected it to be, but ultimately this isn’t what made this trade so bad. The consensus best prospect in the draft was Markelle Fultz, a three-level scorer whose ace ball-handling and defensive potential were tantalizing. In fact, the only real concern was the record of his college team who, despite Fultz’s play, finished with only nine wins in the star guard’s lone season. The deal seemed bizarre, with Celtics GM Danny Ainge having a long record of winning trades and making other teams look stupid in the process. But how could it fail? Fultz was not only talented as hell, but a perfect fit with the roster the Sixers had built to that point. The Celtics had an affinity for Jayson Tatum, who they knew they could get two picks later, so they decided to grab the extra pick while they could and get their guy anyway. For those who don’t know, Fultz FORGOT HOW TO SHOOT and became a notorious draft bust who’s carved out an admirable niche as a backup guard for the Orlando Magic. Tatum is a budding superstar that, as a rookie, sent the Sixers home from a potential Finals run while Fultz sat and watched from the bench. This was the deal that likely had the greatest impact on the Sixers title chances. They would have never gotten Tatum, as he would’ve gone first, Fultz going to the Lakers at pick two, and Philly being left with Lonzo Ball, a decent point guard whose fit with Simmons was questionable. The Sixers pivoting out of this mistake to find a veteran star was also much harder without their two best draft assets to dangle to teams with disgruntled stars. There have been a plethora of star players traded since the 2017 draft, most of whom the Sixers have lost out on. Fun aside here, even after a rookie year in which Fultz showed off possibly the worst-looking jumper of all-time, the Sixers refused to include him in a package to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, who would get traded to the Toronto Raptors for a pittance and beat the Sixers en route to a title and Finals MVP while Fultz was dealt to the Orlando Magic mid-season for more fake picks. Good times.
- Sixers trade a 2020 first-rounder(from the Jerami Grant deal) along with a 2020 second-rounder for the 25th pick in the 2017 draft and select Anzejs Pascenkis
Another good time for a sidenote I suppose, that 2020 first-rounder will come back up yet again. They dealt it here but got it back in the Fultz trade which has yet to be covered. To recap, they gave away Fultz and Jerami Grant for this OKC pick and some second-rounders, which ya gotta give it up for. Anyway, this probably wasn’t as impactful as the Fultz move, but it was much worse on paper. The Sixers held the 36th, 39th, 46th, and 50th picks in the 2017 draft. Many expected them to package some of these to get back into the first round, with everyone having a favorite prospect from this range(mine was OG Anunoby) they hoped to snag. Instead, Colangelo traded a 2020 first(what?) for the 25th pick and drafted a big man who was bad and old and wouldn’t play for the Sixers ever once in his life. It was instantly panned and somehow looks much, much worse in retrospect, as players like Kyle Kuzma, Derrick White, and Josh Hart went shortly after.
- Sixers draft Jonah Bolden, Jawun Evans, Sterling Brown, and Mathias Lessort, traded Evans and Brown for cash
The Sixers have been close enough that every little mistake could have made the difference between second-round exit and title run. Selling picks at all, especially inside the top-fifty, is just horrible management, and Brown becoming a nice role player hurts even more. Small mistake, but these things add up.
- Signed Amir Johnson to a 1yr, $11 mil deal and JJ Redick to a 1yr, $23 mil deal
The Redick deal looked fine at the time and largely was, as his two years with the team were helpful for the young guys and brought much-needed space to the floor. There was also a stigma around the team that they would never get players to play in Philly after tanking, which was always dumb but mostly forgotten after Redick was brought on. Redick predictably couldn’t defend a lick in the playoffs when it mattered, as the Celtics targeted him on defense while he missed big shot after big shot on the offensive end, so I stop well short of calling this a good move. Johnson was a disaster from jump, a good teammate who hit an age cliff and just couldn’t really help when the rubber hit the road, even with some stretches of competence mixed in during the regular season. These guys weren’t bad players, but they were overpays for a team that could’ve used that room to bring in players that better fit the rebuild schedule, or taken on bad contracts for picks they would need later. You’ll start to see a theme, while Hinkie wanted to continue to add picks even as the team improved, the GMs since have decided the youth movement was over and that immediate help was the only way to move forward. Simmons was 21 when these deals were made, Embiid was 23, this approach was inexcusable.
- Declined Jahlil Okafor’s fourth-year option
This is extremely rare for top picks, and shows how awful Okafor was during his time in Philly. He’d only play sparingly from this point on.
- Gave Robert Covington a 4yr/$47million extension
Pretty easily the best move of the Colangelo era, Covington would prove to be a bargain as a low maintenance 3-and-D wing. I have an irrational love for Covington, but some fans were driven nuts by his streaky shooting and failure to show up in the 2018 playoffs against Boston, a series not one Sixer showed up for.
- Traded a Second-Round Pick, Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas to Brooklyn for Trevor Booker
This Sixers pulled off the truly incredible feat of dealing the three best assets in a four-player trade. Remarkable work. That second-rounder became the 31st pick in last years draft, which is some real magic to top off the trade.
- Sixers waive Trevor Booker
This is the funniest part of the trade in my eyes. They could’ve simply released Okafor and Stauskas and saved the pick, instead they got Booker in December and let him go in February after 33 games and zero starts.
- Sixers sign Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova for remainder of 2018 season
I always felt Colangelo got far more love than deserved for these moves, but credit where it’s due when you get guys for nothing that contribute. Belinelli joined the team and quickly established himself as a lethal shooter that gave the team an edge on offense that helped propel them to a 17-game winning streak and 52-win season. Ilyasova was a versatile defensive piece that took charges, got in the way on defense(in a good way), and knocked down enough threes and backdoor-cut layups to get by on the offensive end. The issue with Belinelli was the obvious trouble you’d run into during a playoff series when teams game-planned to take advantage of his leaky defense. He was largely unplayable in the Celtics series because of this, we all saw it coming, but we were all too busy enjoying the show during the regular season. Ilyasova was fine, he struggled in the playoffs as well but not because of any implicit limitations. He just didn’t play well against Boston, nobody did.
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I heavily encourage all of you to google “Burnergate Colangelo” and enjoy. It is one of the more bizarre sports stories ever, and it got Bryan Colangelo ousted from his post as GM, with his father resigning not long after. Brett Brown was named interim GM, and quality GM candidates would be lining up to build a team around two young stars, how could they mess it up?????
- Sixers draft Mikal Bridges, later trade him for 2021 First-Rounder and Zhaire Smith
Lotta people hated this because of Bridges’ local celebrity status, but it was a very prudent move for the process>results crowd. Surely this will bear fruit down the line!
- Sixers draft Landry Shamet 26th overall
The Sixers nailed it, finding a starter for a contender in the back half of the first round. Just don’t ask which contender he starts for at the moment!
- Sixers trade Kyri Thomas for two second-rounders
- Sixers trade for Shake Milton
Probably the best move of the post-Hinkie era. Shake has emerged as a quality starter that fell to the 57th pick in the 2018 draft after a disastrous combine. It was early but the returns from the post-Colangelo era were promising, as the team began to look toward the future once again. I know I said nobody since Hinkie has made a move good for the team’s future, you could absolutely argue that drafting Shake Milton proves that wrong. I’ll give it more than ten good games before I take it there, but it’s fair to say it’s gone very well so far.
- Traded Isaac Bonga for a future second-rounder
- Re-signed JJ Redick to a 1yr, $12mil deal
- Traded for Wilson Chandler plus two second-rounders from Denver
- Traded Richaun Holmes to PHX for cash
- Signed Jonah Bolden to a 4yr/$7mil deal
- Sixers trade Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Justin Anderson to OKC/Atlanta for Mike Muscala
- Re-signed Amir Johnson to a veterans minimum deal
Ok, quick backstory. Three stars had come available during the above off-season. First was LeBron James, whose relationship with Ben Simmons and desire to win more rings made the Sixers the spot where his immediate title hopes had the highest chance of coming true without screwing with his money or the current structure of the team. Then there was Kawhi Leonard, who had demanded a trade out of San Antonio and was likely to get his wish over the summer. The Sixers were reportedly offering Robert Covington and Dario Saric, which seems like a massive low-ball now but given Kawhi’s recent injury history and seeming desire to leave for LA as soon as he could, it was reasonable. The refusal to include Fultz was ridiculous then and looks even worse now, and instead of starting combo guards with a revamped game, we got a summer of vague Drew Hanlen tweets about Fultz practicing his jumper during the summer only for him to come back in worse shape. Last was Paul George, who also seemed determined to find his way to LA, but had grown close with then-teammate Russell Westbrook in OKC, and seemed happy to stay there. The pipe dream was to land LeBron, trade whatever it took to get Kawhi, and win a title. LeBron of course went to LA(though he confirmed that Philly was on his list of teams in consideration) and Kawhi was dealt to Toronto, where he’d win a title and beat the Sixers by his lonesome in the playoffs. Suffice to say, it was upsetting that this off-season ended up so mild, and it’s hard to say how much the front office really could’ve done. Sometimes having the best situation doesn’t matter, and the Spurs clearly wanted players that could contribute immediately and had been around awhile, and once the Sixers made the Fultz trade, they were never going to be able to overwhelm the Spurs with draft picks. Almost like every bad move hurts even more down the line! Anyway, there are three moves listed above that ended up looking pretty bad, starting with the decision to give up on Luwawu early for a backup center whose dolting nature made him the opposite of a fan favorite. Next was the Jonah Bolden signing, who showed he wasn’t an NBA player during summer league but got a deal based off a wink-wink agreement after a stellar summer league showing the year prior. He was never good enough to hang in the league, but good for him getting paid. The worst was the Richaun Holmes trade, a fan favorite whose energy gave the team a boost despite his apathy toward defense and low IQ on that end. To get nothing for a player that had real NBA skill and cost little to keep around was nonsensical, maybe his agent wanted his client to play elsewhere for more minutes, but the Sixers probably could’ve just given him those minutes on their own team. They gave Greg Monroe minutes in the playoffs, they could’ve found him a role. Holmes has gone on to become an ace role player for the Kings, growing his game and providing the same energy he always has.
- Sixers trade Robert Covington, Dario Saric, a second-rounder and Jerryd Bayless for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton
The Sixers hired former player Elton Brand as GM after a short stint as a G-League GM. This was, plain and simple, a terrible decision all around. Better candidates such as Mike Zarren, Gersson Rosas, and David Griffin were all RIGHT THERE(Rosas and Griffin have since taken GM jobs elsewhere). They hired Brand because they felt he worked well in a collaborative environment and with players, which is flawed in a number of different ways and shows a complete misunderstanding of what good team management looks like. As of now, nobody knows who makes the final call on basketball decisions, or even if one person pulls all the triggers. Back to the trade, the package was iffy and looks worse as time progresses. Dario has grown into a key role player for a budding Suns team, while Covington is a starter for the contending Rockets, helping unlock a cutting-edge offensive juggernaut as his size, defense, rebounding, and shooting became a boon for a contending Rockets team. Butler is enigmatic and difficult, but a damn good player whose shot has betrayed him the last few years, making his fit with Simmons tricky. Embiid loved Butler, and he was a fantastic playoff performer who would’ve been a Philadelphia legend had things gone a different way. His personality, toughness on the court, and willingness to answer the call in big moments were critical for a Sixers team in need of that exact player when it mattered most. During the regular season, Butler didn’t play particularly well, and despite twelve great playoff games to flip the script, there were concerns about his age, personality, and mileage meshing with Simmons and Embiid. The Sixers inexplicably decided not to offer him a max contract despite trading two starters for him. I’ll chalk this trade up as a slight loss made worse by the front office’s incompetence. Bayless, Patton, and a pick were involved, none of which are relevant enough to dive into.
- Corey Brewer signs back-to-back 10-day contracts with Philly
Remember this! Good times.
- The Sixers trade Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, Wilson Chandler, two first-round picks, and a second-round pick to the Clippers for Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, and Boban Marjanovic
Where do we begin here? Tobias Harris has never made an all-star team and likely never will despite spending the majority of his career in the shit-ass Eastern Conference. A good-not-great shooter that is loved in the community and locker room, he tries every night on both ends and rebounds fairly well for a guy his size. He is, by all accounts, a nice player. He is not worth TWO first-round picks and a young, knockdown sharpshooter that was filling in nicely for JJ Redick. As we sit today, the Clippers would hang up the phone immediately if the Sixers offered Harris for Shamet straight up. This deal sapped the Sixers of just about every asset worth a damn they had left in exchange for a player who would ideally be the fourth-best guy in the rotation. As for the others, Muscala didn’t play for the Clippers before being dealt, hilariously, for Ivica Zubac at the deadline. Boban made for some fun content but wasn’t much of a factor in games that mattered. Scott actually had some big moments in 2019, most notably a game-winning shot to put away the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs. He also endeared himself to fans in a way no role player I’ve ever seen has been able to, with fans starting the #MikeScottHive, posing in his stance for pictures on social media, and inviting him to meetups and Eagles tailgates despite his allegiance to the Washington Football Team. Chandler is still out there somewhere. The picks will be late but still useful, especially to a team lacking depth, good guard play, and shooting. Remind you of anyone?
- Acquired Malachi Richardson from Toronto for a 2022 second-rounder
- Traded Markelle Fultz to Orlando for 2020 first-rounder from OKC and Jon Simmons
Touched on this earlier, end of an era for Fultz in Philly. He was never gonna work with Butler and Harris in tow, and Orlando has proven to be a nice spot for him to grow into a good role player. Still only 21, Fultz could still become great if his jumper comes back. That OKC pick ended up conveying in the early twenties, still nowhere close to worthwhile in such a horrible draft, but a lucky turn thanks to Chris Paul’s resurgence in OKC. Simmons was really bad in Philly, like really bad. It should be noted that the Sixers lost three trades involving the OKC pick, a remarkable feat. For those tracking at home, they’ve now lost two Nerlens Noel trades, two Markelle Fultz trades, two trades that would(eventually) involve Dario Saric, and three OKC pick trades. There will be more of this, stay tuned!
- Acquired James Ennis from Houston for two seconds-rounders
A move that looked bad at first actually worked out fairly well, with Ennis overcoming early struggles to become a rotation player in time for the postseason. His hot shooting won them a couple big games, well worth the minimal draft capital given up.
- Sixers sign Greg Monroe
Guy won them a playoff game off the street, can’t ask for a whole lot more.
- Drafted Matisse Thybulle after trading picks 24 and 33 to move up to 20
Brand’s inexperience got exposed here by Celtics GM Danny Ainge, who knew the Sixers coveted Thybulle and got them to overpay while he got two guys he wanted in Grant Williams and Carsen Edwards. While Thybulle has mostly been worth it, it was a poor idea to have Thybulle cease working out after meeting with Philly, tipping off other GMs to Philly’s interest.
- Sixers draft Marial Shayok, trade other second-rounders
The Sixers had picks 33, 34, 42, and 54. They traded 33 to move up for Thybulle, traded 34 to Atlanta for three future seconds, traded 42 and Jon Simmons to get off of Simmons’ contract, and selected Marial Shayok with the 54th pick. There was some other minor maneuvering I won’t bore you with, but this was a fairly poor use of assets. For a trove of selectionss equivalent to two early-twenties picks, they were only able to get Thybulle and Marial Shayok, a good shooter who doesn’t offer much else.
- Traded Jimmy Butler and Mathias Lessort to Miami for Josh Richardson
There’s a much larger deal here that doesn’t really matter, so I’ll just stick to what we need to know. Butler wanted out after the Sixers inexplicably wouldn’t offer him a max contract, and Miami was his destination of choice. The issue was Miami’s inability to open up enough space under the salary cap to sign Butler outright, so through a series of maneuvers the Heat and Sixers worked out an agreement to send Josh Richardson to Philly for Butler in a sign-and-trade deal. Who knows what would’ve changed, but the Sixers not doing all they could to bring Jimmy back was a disastrous choice, so it’s a loss on that alone. Butler had his warts, but he was and is a star and often their best player when they needed him to be. The Heat are also a rival, besting the Sixers in the standings this year with their former go-to guy leading the charge. Richardson has struggled this season, but it wasn’t a bad return at all for Butler given the circumstances. Most teams lose free agents for nothing, and Richardson is a solid two-way player on a good contract, and if he can get things right in time for the playoffs he could make this deal look a lot better than it does currently. Losing two trades involving the same player in a span of nine months is just not gonna cut it though, and while there’s still a lot to shake out, Butler was the one who stepped up in the playoffs last year for Philly. Who will that be this season? (Remember when I said there would be more instances of losing multiple trades involving the same player?)
- Sixers sign the following players to their respective deals: Tobias Harris, 5yr, $180mil. Mike Scott, 2yr, $9mil. James Ennis, 2yr, $4mil. Al Horford, 4yr, $108mil. Kyle O’Quinn, Raul Neto, Trey Burke, 1yr, minimum. Shake Milton, 4yr, $7mil. Ben Simmons, 5yr, $170 mil.
Harris and Horford were bad contracts at the time that look worse now, another theme of the past four years. They backed themselves into a corner with Harris, and had to pony up if they didn’t want to lose him after a half-season. When you make one mistake it affects your future decision-making, which was the case here, compounding mistakes leads to the bind they’re in now. Scott is a fan favorite who cashed in before falling off a cliff this season, hardly playing and for good reason prior to his minor resurgence in the bubble. Ennis’ second go-round wasn’t nearly as strong as his first, and he’s since been dealt. Horford is my least-favorite Sixer of all-time, full disclosure. After terrorizing us with the Celtics for three years, he fell off a cliff in year one of a disastrous contract and looks completely lost every time he plays. It’s not just physical decline, he’s gone from one of the league’s savvier players to often appearing as though he’s picking up a basketball for the first time and working through growing pains. I cannot fathom a signing going worse short of a Gordon Hayward situation, and even then Tiki Torch Hayward bounced back to give the Celtics *something* on the back-end of his deal. Embiid hated the move as well, and slogged through the first half of the season in protest while Al mucked up the court for the rest of the Sixers starters. He was mercifully moved to the bench in favor of an ascending Shake Milton before injuries to Embiid and Simmons moved him back into frame. The Sixers will never get out from under this contract without sacrificing a key player or pick(s) in the process. O’Quinn, Neto, and Burke all flopped, while Shake may come to have the most team-friendly contract in basketball. Something about blind squirrels I suppose. Simmons has earned his extension and we should all be glad he’s put up with this buffoonery for as long as he has.
- Sixers trade James Ennis to Orlando for a future second, acquire Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson for three future seconds
Net two picks out the door, all very late, for what is essentially half a season of Alec Burks. This deal’s worked out so far as Burks has been excellent in a Sixers uniform, shooting well and providing some much needed creation off the dribble.
Before we go, I should blurb on Brett Brown, whose name I only mentioned briefly. I love Brett Brown, he’s been through a lot and has dealt with it all really well. The players seem to like him, and his demeanor lends itself well to player development, although I question how great the teaching actually is given the lack of development in some key players. Brett will likely lose his job this off-season, and while some fans will be excited for a change, anyone whose read this will probably understand why I think the man who has been covering up for over a half-decade of incompetence and endless losing will be missed. This organization, which already looks bad, will be exposed further and taken advantage of by smarter teams at every turn. Stars will ask to leave while the team stagnates, and they’ll have to start all over in about four years with a (hopefully) new, bright mind to lead them through another rebuild. Here’s to Brett, who could probably use the vacation anyway, Joel, who deserves nothing but great things, and Ben, who deserves a team with players who complement him, not the other way around.
UPDATE: The Sixers 2020 offseason has gone about as well as possible thus far, with the hiring of Doc Rivers, Daryl Morey, and some key assistants both on the bench and in the front office. It’ll take a lot to get out of their current jam, but credit to ownership(yuck) for bringing in the best people they could to remedy the situation.