The Sixers have been rapidly completing tasks from their extensive off-season to-do list…
Hiring a new head coach and staff? Check. Did hiring experience NBA executives around Elton Brand? Triple check.

With most off-court roles now filled and the NBA’s transaction moratorium quickly coming to an end, the franchise will now look to make changes to on-court personnel.

By looking at the Sixers’ most recent hire of Daryl Morey as President of Basketball Operations, there are some clues as to where the team goes from here.

Trades, trades, and more trades.

In Daryl Morey’s time as General Manager of the Houston Rockets only one team completed more trades than his, that team just so happened to be the Philadelphia 76ers. With the two now becoming one it would be fair to assume the cycle of consistent change in player personnel will continue.

This strategy does have its downside, players, fans and media members alike have seen how constant roster turnover has impacted the Sixers chemistry in recent times, but the roster as constructed does require some alteration to improve overall fit.

Shooting for the Stars

Photo: Bob Donnan/ USA Today Sports

In recent years Morey has garnered a reputation as a pioneer of “small ball” and the 3-point era in the NBA but that isn’t necessarily the basis of his team-building philosophy. Daryl Morey’s core belief is one he shares with former protégé and “The Process” originator Sam Hinkie, which is that star players win titles. Morey had James Harden in Houston and paired him with Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and then finally Russell Westbrook. Hinkie’s “Process” brought Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to the roster Morey now inherits. Morey could still trade one of Embiid or Simmons but only for another star with a more complimentary skill set. Embiid for Harden? Simmons for Bradley Beal? Considering the recent comments of Elton Brand and Doc Rivers those trades seem unlikely, for now at least.

If the stars are already in place then Morey’s task this off-season will be to build a team around them that maximizes their talents.

Daryl Morey is an analytics guru that covets the most efficient shots, those being layups, threes, and free throws. In James Harden Morey found the perfect player, a superstar who only takes those most efficient shots. Morey then built the Rockets around Harden’s strengths, finding players who could space the floor while Harden engaged in pick & rolls and isolations in the middle of the floor. Harden also needed teammates around him that could cover his failings on defense.

While Simmons and Embiid are more than capable on the defense and can even make up for other players’ shortcomings on that end, they do need to be surrounded by teammates who can better space the floor in order to maximize their offensive strengths. Both players can dominate with layups and free throws, Embiid shot 66.4% from within 5 feet this past season and attempted 8.5 free throws per game, down from 10.1 attempts the season prior while Simmons made 65.7% of his attempts within 5 feet and went to the free-throw line 5.2 times a game. Simmons must improve his free throw shooting but neither player needs to become a 3-point threat in order to be a part of an efficient offense. Simmons creates more 3-point opportunities than anyone in the league excluding Harden and Embiid is seemingly double-teamed as often as anybody, there will be open looks from deep in the Sixers offense, Morey will be charged with assembling a supporting cast to make them.

Value in the Margins

The Houston Rockets only once spent into the luxury tax in Daryl Morey’s time with the franchise, a $3.65 million bill in 2015-16. By comparison, Philadelphia is $16 million over the luxury tax threshold for 2020-21 according to Spotrac.

For Sixers fans concerned by Morey’s history of trading future assets in order to get off of bad contracts, it is important to take into account that it was Houston ownership that forced Morey to make those trades in order to cut costs, Philadelphia, however, has already shown in its front office and coaching hires this off-season that the franchise is willing to spend money to achieve success.

Photo: Bill Streicher/ USA Today Sports

Morey’s ability to uncover hidden gems in the players no other teams want may still be vital to the Sixers off-season. While the franchise has shown a willingness to spend they still have no cap space for the foreseeable future with the roster as currently constructed.

In signing unwanted veterans like Josh Smith, Gerald Green, Jeff Green and Nene Morey were able to add playoff contributors to the team at minimum cost. Signing free-agent cast-offs wasn’t the only way Morey added to Houston’s rotation though, unknown talents like Patrick Beverley, Robert Covington (who they signed, let go, and then traded for) and Danuel House were all brought in before other teams knew what they were missing. Morey even had some success in the draft despite his limited opportunities, Clint Capela, Montrezl Harrell, and Chandler Parsons were all selected in the late first to the early second-round range.

Following the global pandemic and subsequent league shutdown, another opportunity has emerged for Morey to take advantage of the margins. With the loss of revenue for all teams the market for free agents may not necessarily be there. Veterans may have to settle for one-year deals for the minimum in order to re-enter free agency when teams are able to make bigger financial offers. Cash-strapped teams may also want to trade down in the draft in order to avoid paying the higher guaranteed salaries allocated to players selected earlier in the first round.

These are the opportunities Daryl Morey has capitalized on for over a decade, he has the stars and the financial backing, the transaction moratorium can’t end soon enough.

Featured Image: David J. Phillip/AP
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