Daryl Morey spent 12 years as the architect of one of the best teams in the NBA in Houston and stepped down a few weeks ago in what appeared to be a mutual and agreeable parting. Now, the Philadelphia 76ers, fresh off another disappointing playoff exit after a letdown of a regular season, are interested in his services. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports the organization is nearing a deal with Morey that would give him control of basketball operations, while GM Elton Brand would remain in his position.
This is unbelievably great news for Philly fans and terrible news for anybody who enjoys watching the Sixers flounder despite their talent level. It was surprising when Philadelphia didn't restructure their front office after this season. Brand was definitively the general manager, but the power structure above him was a confusing collection of leftovers from the Bryan Colangelo days and the decision-making process was blurry to those outside the building. Now they've stumbled into the best personnel manager in the NBA to fix the mess they've made.
Tobias Harris, he who averaged 19 points per game with mediocre defense and rebounding last season, will make $34 million. Everybody knows the tragedy of Al Horford, the prized 2019 offseason signing who will make $27 million in 2021 as a reward for scoring 12 points per game. Josh Richardson is a good three-and-D player who has been forced to play point guard and is making $10 million to play out of position.
Worse than the cap sheet, these pieces do not fit. Richardson isn't in a role he's best suited to succeed in. Simmons won't/can't shoot and Embiid is streaky from outside. Harris will turn down a three-point shot for a turnaround jumper at the free-throw line nine times out of 10. God only knows what Horford is doing out there offensively. Every other player on the roster is a replacement-level talent. They're stellar defensively against teams who can't go small and punish them, but that's the only positive.
Morey has his work cut out for him, and it's a very interesting situation. He's going from the smallest team in the NBA in Houston, which started 6-foot-7 P.J. Tucker at center for half the season, to the biggest starting lineup in the league. He's taking over a franchise that owes all of its current success to his own mentee, Sam Hinkie, a few years after Hinkie was rudely ousted with no thanks for his efforts. Morey loves spacing. This team has no spacing. Morey loves the dribble-drive. Nobody on the roster can dribble-drive with regular success.
The whole "go big or go home" lineup idea didn't work well for Philadelphia last year, and there's no reason to think that would change with Doc Rivers coaching instead of Brett Brown. The only way the Sixers were going to be competitive in 2021 was if they got extremely creative on the trade machine and engineered deals that would work with the massive numbers they have on the books. Fate then gift-wrapped perhaps the greatest deal-maker in recent NBA history and sent him to Philadelphia.
This doesn't mean that Simmons or Embiid are on their way out. But it does mean that everything is on the table. Brand is not a particularly good GM, even if he's beloved in the organization. Nobody outside of the Wells-Fargo Center had any faith he had the wherewithal to pull off even one successful trade, much less reshape the team. But now the only limit is Morey's imagination. And as we've seen, his imagination really doesn't have a limit at all.