The Philadelphia 76ers introduced Daryl Morey as President of Basketball Operations on Monday. The conference included managing partner Josh Harris, newly-extended general manager Elton Brand, and head coach Doc Rivers. From the pre-hire process to organizational charts, there were many questions and many interesting takeaways from Morey’s inauguration.
Elton Brand Advocated For Morey
Since news broke about the Morey hiring, there had been much speculation as to how Elton Brand fit into the franchise’s plans going forward. Josh Harris eliminated any belief that Brand would be displeased to have Morey there; in fact, quite the opposite. In the very beginning of the conference, Harris confirmed that Brand actually pushed him to bring Morey to the franchise. Morey later stated that Harris and Brand were very aggressive in their courting of him as soon as he became available for the job.
Morey Is Very High On Joel Embiid
Houston’s dedication to small ball the past few seasons, especially the past one, invited the public to speculate what that philosophy would mean for Joel Embiid’s future with the franchise. Morey was extremely complimentary of Embiid, offering high belief in the star big man’s ability to lead the 76ers to a title. “Joel is a dominant, dominant big man. I’m excited to get back to that. I worked with Yao Ming, we got very close in Houston with Yao Ming. I think we can go all the way with Joel,” Morey said.
He then pointed to Embiid’s dedication and the importance of being flexible with the system implemented around the star big man. “It doesn’t take much to look at when Joel is on the floor and healthy, and he’s been in here twice a day for quite a while. He’s very focused and motivated.”
In conjunction with that endorsement, Morey wants to fit the playbook to the pieces, not the other way around.
The Plan Is To Mold The Philosophy To The Pieces
Daryl Morey shied away from the notion that the Sixers would be necessarily adopting the small ball concepts that his Rockets team implemented. He even pointed to Doc Rivers as being responsible for how the team will play, citing his excitement to work with a championship coach.
“The best way to win in the NBA,” Morey said, “is to take your talent and figure out how to utilize them the best. It’s not to take your talent and hammer it into a particular system. It’s to try to get the most out of who you have. This is an unbelievable defensive team. The fact that he’s also an extremely good offensive player, Joel is the kind of player you win championships with if you look back through NBA history. We were trying to build the best team around our talents in Houston. But here, Doc is going to take the talent we have and use them to the best of their ability.”
Morey also touched upon whether the Sixers would be emphasizing three-point shooting to the same degree that his Rockets did. Morey remarked, “The goal is not to shoot three-pointers, the goal is to win. You can score in a whole bunch of different ways. Joel is one of the most efficient post-up players in the league. Again, we played the way we played in Houston because that was the best way to utilize the talents we had in Houston. Doc is going to figure out how best to use it. It doesn’t have to be a three, it can be transition.”
Doc Rivers built upon Morey’s sentiments, saying, “We have a loaded roster, I really do. I love a lot of the guys, I think we’re deep. We have to get in the lab, and see what we actually have. We have to find out how we can make it work and fit, and I think it will fit.”
Regarding the importance of prolific three-point shooting, Rivers added: “Scoring is scoring, we don’t care where it came from.”
The roster isn’t going to be perfect immediately, and Morey stressed that the perfect roster takes time to build.
Don’t Expect Big Trades Right Away
Morey did not downplay the importance of manufacturing a roster conducive to bringing the best out of the team’s pillars. However, Morey emphasized that that project would progress over time.
Morey offered sage remarks on rushing to build the perfect roster: “One thing I think organizations make a mistake is they try to make sure the roster is perfect on game one. The players who are going to thrive under Doc and how Doc utilizes them is going to teach Elton and I a lot about how best to fit the players around him. So, if there’s a great opportunity, obviously we’re going to do it early. We’ve got some important windows coming up with the draft and free agency and also the trade window in there before whenever we play our first game. The main thing is you want to do great moves when they’re available, but often the best move is not a move that is done right away. We want to increase our understanding before we start to make those moves.”
It Will Take Time To Identify And Fix The Team’s Problems
It is very easy for those who observe the Sixers daily to diagnose the team’s problems. But, even for someone who was employed to manage the daily operations of a franchise in the same league, a professional diagnosis takes time. The newly minted President of Basketball Operations did not want to commit to what the Sixers’ problems are or when he’ll know what they are. Morey said, “I’m on day one, Elton and I have all day. Ten-plus-hour meetings scheduled for the next few days to understand better what we need to do and for me to come in and act like I know exactly what the Sixers need to do on day one would not be very smart decision-making.”
Even with those problems not diagnosed at this point in time, Morey and the organization believe in the pieces they have.
Morey Is Bullish On A Healthy Simmons and Embiid, Doc Leading The Team
The entire NBA society saw a clunky fit on the basketball court last season. The fanbase made their feelings about last summer’s decisions known at the conclusion of each and every loss. Local media portrayed their various perspectives on the disappointing season in different ways. Even with the public sentiment about the Sixers as bad as it was, the organization is confident in the state of the team. Morey remarked, “We are currently not considered one of the favorites out there now. I think we all feel very good about the roster and the fact that, with a healthy Joel and Ben Simmons, and a group that Doc is coaching, we feel like people are underrating the Sixers right now but we need to go out there and prove it.”
However, Morey left the door open to roster turnover: “Our championship team probably isn’t going to have the same exact players we have right now. I do think the players we have right now are very good and we can build around them and continue to grow from there. We have to continue to improve, that’s Elton and my job. To know exactly who is going to work, at least give us til day two and have a full meeting with Elton’s staff. My goal is to win a championship, whatever gets us there is what we’ll do. To have two star-plus players 24- and 26-years old, that is why I couldn’t get Doc Rivers to come and interview in Houston because he saw this roster.”
It seems as though Morey and Rivers already agree on one thing: the value that a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can bring to the Sixers.
Morey And Rivers Believe Embiid And Simmons Can Co-Exist
The Sixers’ star duo has been a polarizing topic of conversation for years. Many believe they can co-exist, many believe one needs to be traded to better build around the other. Morey and Rivers shot down beliefs that it must be one or the other. Morey stated that he believed that they could fit and win together, but quickly deferred to Doc Rivers on that topic. Rivers said, “I have no doubt they can [win together]. Again, I haven’t been in the lab with them yet. But, I know they can. I think we have to change the narrative to ‘they haven’t won yet’, not that ‘they can’t win’. That should be taken out. There’s a lot of combinations of players around the league that haven’t won yet, and they’re just two other ones. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
The fans can be excited that management seems to be dedicated to keeping Embiid and Simmons together for now. But, they still have one thing to be concerned about: collaborative decision-making.
The Organizational Structure Is Fluid
Since last summer and beyond, the public has criticized the Sixers for not having centralized decision-making. That issue came to a head this past season, and led to an entire makeover of the brains behind the operation this offseason. Nonetheless, Elton Brand and Daryl Morey conveyed that a collaborative structure would remain in place. Brand said, “In the next few days, we’ll have the org chart and the roles and who’s going to do what. Daryl is excited about the hires we made and looks forward to working with everyone.”
Morey provided some clarity or, in a sense, unclarity: “I have a very collaborative style, that’s why I was excited when Elton was open to having me join, because I’ve heard the same about him. Look, you make great decisions by having great people who are all working towards the same goal, and not worrying about what title someone is or what role. The best ideas can come from anywhere–interns all the way up to hoping Elton and I have a good idea every once in a while. If we have great people and we have data that gives us the ground truth of what we’re working towards, we’ll make great decisions in draft, trades, and free agency. That’s the currency of what Elton and I do.”
Of intrigue was that Morey pointed to himself, Brand, Rivers, and Josh Harris as the people responsible for final decisions.
The Sixers Have Been Doing Their Homework On The Draft
The truth is always out there. On the internet, the truth seems to be that Daryl Morey’s Rockets have not made a first round selection in more than five seasons. That fact discouraged some fans, especially those who had begun conducting research on this year’s prospects. However, Morey maintained that the Sixers will have a plan for the draft, a draft for which the Sixers possess five selections: “Elton has been working hard on those five picks. It’s actually more prep for the draft when you don’t have a pick, because you’re maybe buying a pick in the second round or going after undrafted guys. We’ll be ready, we were prepping six months before and during the bubble. That’s still in my brain.”
Morey has cultivated a resume for extracting value at the margins, whether it be with his staffs, the draft, or free agency. The Sixers added a big name in the local basketball community to their staff this past week, and Morey touched upon that briefly, as well.
Jameer Nelson’s Role Might Be Understated
In the days following the dismissal of head coach Brett Brown, Elton Brand emphasized the importance of adding basketball minds to the mix of decision-makers. The Sixers added a basketball junkie to their staff last week, hiring St Joseph’s University legend Jameer Nelson as a scout.
Morey believes that Nelson will add tremendous value to the Sixers’ plans, stating, “I think former players who are smart, basketball smart, like Jameer can really add a lot to an organization. It brings a perspective that is extremely valuable.” I wouldn’t expect Nelson to have decision-making jurisdiction, but also wouldn’t be surprised if the front office and coaching staff looked to Nelson for insights into different contexts on the basketball court. Nelson’s role is, after all, to be a scout for the Sixers and Assistant GM for the Blue Coats.
It’s not all about what the Sixers see on their own basketball court, though. They will keep an eye on the twenty-nine other courts in the NBA, as well.
Doc Rivers Is A Connective Asset In Trade Talks
The Painted Lines’ own Jason Blevins asked Morey about the importance of looking at other teams in facilitating trade talks. Morey did not downplay the importance of paying attention to the rest of the league.
He remarked, “That’s actually another reason why I’m excited to work with Doc. He is one of the most respected coaches in the league; players talk to him, other teams talk to him. So, the intel I get from him, from Elton, from Jameer, from Prosper, from Peter, the people that we just added. That kind of intel is super important when you’re trying to make a trade. And to your point, we have. It’s going to be a sprint from here until game one, whenever that is. It’s actually a little bit overwhelming; very important trade windows, very important draft picks, and an important free agency period coming up. So, that’s why Elton and I are going to be locked in a room together for quite a while.”
There is certainly a lot of information to absorb here, so I’ll keep this short: Morey emphasized the importance of not rushing, but he also didn’t close the door on striking quickly in the upcoming window. Regardless of what happens, the Sixers are a whole lot more interesting than they were four months ago.