It was August 27, Elton Brand was on a zoom call talking about changes coming to this offseason after being swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Brett Brown was just fired, and Elton said he was leading the coaching search and dropped the bomb that he would be re-evaluating the front office and wanted to bring in more “basketball minds”. Today is September 28 and no changes have been made and no coach has been hired but there are a few things we do know, and a few things that leaked to reporters.
What do we know about the coaching search? Well, it appears that there was the first round of interviews, not in person, and there was set to be three candidates coming to the Philadelphia area for the second round of interviews, this time in person. Tyronn Lue, the Clippers assistant, Mike D’Antoni, former Rockets head coach, and Billy Donovan, the former Thunder head coach, all were believed to be in the running for the job. However, Bill Donovan recently accepted the Chicago Bulls job, leaving the Sixers with MDA and Tyronn Lue. It appears the interviews will be coming in the next few days with a decision coming soon.
As far as the rumor mill is concerned, you would think that the connection between Ben Simmons, Lebron James, and Tyronn Lue would make him the front runner but according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the job is D’Antoni’s to lose.
While Keith has reported multiple times that its MDA’s job to lose, and that Embiid, Brand, and Ownership have given their blessing, what is confusing to me is, why isn’t that it then? Everyone involved seems to be on board then why not just hire D’Antoni?
According to Brian Jacobs, co-founder of The Painted Lines, it’s as simple as a leverage play. There was mutual interest between the 76ers and Lue from the beginning, and now all the sudden MDA is the front runner. If you subscribe to the ideology that Brian does it makes sense the leaks coming out to try to drive Lue’s price down. If D’Antoni was what everyone wanted then he should just be hired by now right? I guess we will find out in the coming days.
It is important to note that Joel Embiid did sign off on D’Antoni and the idea of playing face up to the basketball and five out. An offense that one would think is much more geared to Ben’s strengths and would require serious commitment from Joel to change a large portion of his game, get in a little better shape, and play faster in order to accommodate that style of play. As long as Joel is on board with that, and assuming Ben is ok with the hire (there is nothing to say wether he is ok with MDA or not, there haven’t been any leaks from Ben’s camp about who he wants in general), maybe D’Antoni really is the front runny but the team is just doing their due dilligence. Or maybe they are just trying to drive Lue’s price down.
With the two candidates slated to come in for in-person interviews shortly, the 76ers should have their head coaching search filled out soon. With the draft combine starting today (September 28) and the Draft slated for November 18, it would be smart for the team to make a decision soon, so they know the style of play, and who they want to draft at pick 21, assuming they don’t trade the pick.
The Front Office
During Brand’s end of the season press conference, he mentioned that he was going to re-examine the front office talent and make some moves, including bringing in more “basketball minds”. Since that day, nothing has happened. the front office is made of Brand, the GM, and then guys left over from both the Hinkie and Colangelo regimes, some of who Brand referred to as analytic based, and that is why they need more basketball people. Many believed that these comments meant to reshape the front office, and would come with firings of current front office personnel. Outside of a small rumor that Pompey leaked, saying Alex Rucker may be one to be fired, there hasn’t been much more about what the team’s plan is.
The one thing that seems to be clear is that Elton Brand’s job is safe, in fact, it was rumored by Pompey again that the team and Brand met recently to discuss a contract extension. But reading, maybe a little too much, into Sham’s article it almost seems like the Sixers plan isn’t to reshape the front office, but rather strengthen it, add to it, rather than subtract.
Outside of that, there doesn’t seem to be much clarity to what the team’s plan is when it comes to the front office. One would think that if they were going to fire anyone it would be done by now, or maybe the team is looking for replacements before they let go of anyone. It’s been just over a month since Brand mentioned some kind of front-office changes, and so far no changes with very little leaks or rumors about possible changes, it seems like we are in a wait and see mode.
As the postseason comes to an end, there are more trade rumors of players becoming available and teams that have an interest. With the talk of D’Antoni being the front runner for the job, Keith Smith has said that the 76ers had let teams know that they are open to trade talks because the roster construction as is wouldn’t fit what MDA runs. Makes sense, I would also think that any coach comes in, in this era of basketball, would want to trade some of the teams abudance of bigs too.
There have been a few players possibly being traded linked to the 76ers included Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Buddy Hield, and Chris Paul. Any of these players would be a huge upgrade to the roster depending on the cost of the trade, one would guess the Sixers try to move Al Horford, but who else could be on the move? According to Brand in his press conference, no one except Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons was safe of being traded. Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, pick 21 (from OKC), and future picks would most likely have the most value if the 76ers were to make some major moves this offseason.
With no planned 2021 season start date, as of right now won’t be any sooner than December 25th, 2020 but still to be determined, technically the 76ers really do not need to rush to make these decisions. However, with the amount of roster overhaul they may need, and having a first-round pick and two high second-round picks it would be smart of the team to start ironing the details out. As far as the coaching search, it seems it may come to an end soon with only two candidates left in the running. The front office mess is a little more troubling. To the public eye, the front office seems to be a mess, and the constant leaks to local reporters do no paint it in a much better light.
Draft, free agency, trade season, and the start of next season just around the corner, hopefully, we start to see some moves that show where the team wants to go in the near future. Last season had championship aspirations and they didn’t win a playoff game, the last thing the team can afford is to fumble another offseason and lose yet another year with the two stars playing together. Hire a coach, figure out the front office adds, firings, both, or none, make some moves, reshape the roster, and as Brand said in his zoom call “build around their two stars”. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are just entering their prime, the right coach, a few moves, and some definition of who is making decisions, this team isn’t that far from getting back on track and get some championship aspirations again.