The Philadelphia 76ers are a strange fit in the modern NBA landscape.
The Daryl Morey era of the Philadelphia 76ers kicked off in a big way. After getting rid of Al Horford’s horrendous contract on draft night and picking up Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson, Morey snatched Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, and Paul Reed. A few days later, the Sixers made a big splash in free agency, landing a certified backup center for Joel Embiid in Dwight Howard. The Sixers added Seth Curry in exchange for Josh Richardson and flipped Zhaire Smith for Tony Bradley.
All of these acquisitions come at a cost, however. While I would agree the 76ers are in a much better place to win than they were just a week ago, it will be incredibly interesting to see how Doc Rivers sets his lineup.
The league has seen a shift toward 3-and-D wings — players who can shoot the 3 ball with success and play lockdown defense. Think of Klay Thompson, Robert Covington, or similar players.
Last year the Sixers were one of the best teams in the league in terms of defensive proficiency. They were in the middle of the pack, however, when it came to offensive proficiency. The bulk of complaints about the 2019 Sixers that were not Al Horford-related were about the team’s offensive struggles.
We all know that Ben Simmons does not shoot 3s for whatever reason, which has caused Philadelphia problems in the past. Daryl Morey has corrected this issue. Historically, Seth Curry is one of the best shooters in the league, and Danny Green is a career 40 percent 3-point shooter. The 3 part of the 3-and-D equation is fixed, but where does that leave the defensive aspect?
Josh Richardson’s greatest benefit was his ability to guard the opposing guards. If you remember back to 2018, the Sixers were often cooked by the likes of Kemba Walker. Josh, for the most part, shut this down. Who will take this role now?
Ben Simmons is an All-NBA defender who took great steps last season, but only time will tell if Ben can defend the opposing guard with the 76ers not being exposed in the frontcourt. Horford had been taking the frontcourt role along with Embiid, and now that he is gone, Tobias Harris will need to step up.
The Sixers’ new additions are not known as defenders. Seth Curry is a big-time 3 point shooter but a liability on the defensive end (i.e., J.J. Redick). Danny Green, as we all saw, got torched in the Finals and has significantly declined on the defensive side of the ball, but can still shoot the 3.
If you examine the rest of the 76ers roster, it is more of the same, either a 3-point shooter or a high-quality defender — but never both. Furkan Korkmaz (assuming he remains on the roster) is a great shooter. Matisse Thybulle is an outstanding defender. Shake Milton is lights out offensively but often gets bullied defensively, and Mike Scott’s struggles are well documented.
The question then becomes how Doc Rivers will balance his lineups. Will it be a 3-point heavy offensive barrage with little defense played? Will the Sixers play stingy defense but be monotonous on the offensive end? The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Daryl Morey has worked hard to fix the Sixers roster, and he has done so successfully. But years of neglect and poor decisions mean that Morey cannot fix the roster in just a few weeks. It will take time, and the Sixers are a better team than they were a month ago. Finding well-rounded players will be key to the Sixers’ success in the years ahead. This is not to say that Seth Curry, Danny Green, and Dwight Howard will fail in Philadelphia — in fact, I think Curry and Howard will be wildly successful. But are they apart of the answer moving forward? Only time will tell.