The Philadelphia 76ers entered the offseason on Sunday evening after being unceremoniously swept out of the first round by the rival Boston Celtics. Head coach Brett Brown was fired a day later, ending his seven-year tenure with the club and ushering in a coaching search to begin what figures to be an active offseason for the Sixers.
The first step for the Sixers is figuring out a plan for their roster and what they want their identity to be moving forward. Last offseason’s swing at creating a monstrous lineup with Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Joel Embiid led to roster imbalance and a lack of shooting and spacing — without the expected benefit of being physically dominant on both ends. Now, Elton Brand and company must figure out what their approach to this offseason will be, and what recourse they have to undo some of the wrongs of last summer.
As Brand told the media in his exit interview on Tuesday, that will not include trading Embiid or Simmons, but instead the plan this year has to be complementing them with the right players being put in place around them.
Elton Brand: "I'm not looking to trade Ben or Joel. I'm looking to complement them better."
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) August 25, 2020
It’s interesting to note that, while this would seem to be somewhat intuitive to how you build a team, it’s not what happened last year. Their past signings have always been a bit of a hedge against injury concerns for both of their young stars, whether bringing in a ball-dominant guard like Jimmy Butler to assist Simmons in handling the rock or Al Horford as an insurance policy for Embiid missing time.
This year, hopefully, Brand has seen the light and simply goes all in on surrounding his young stars with the best possible teammates rather than trying to thread the needle of bringing in capable replacements that would also need to play with them. What that looks like remains to be seen, the Horford for Buddy Hield swap remains a favorite of just about everyone on NBA Twitter, but the obvious trade rarely happens for a variety of reasons. In any case, one would think there will be a focus on spacing and shooting this offseason, in whatever form that comes.
When GMs make declarative statements in public press conferences, such as “we’re not trading Embiid or Simmons” it’s always wise to take those on-record declarations with a grain of salt. However, it would serve Philly right to give it at least one real, honest shot with those two as the centerpieces of a team built around them, not built with them seen as both foundational pillars and potential obstacles.