As we wait to see what changes, Sixers could use a paradigm shift in front office


The Sixers are defined by uncertainty at the moment. We don’t know who their next head coach will be or what exactly the front office evaluation general manager Elton Brand promised will yield. In a more general sense, we don’t know what direction the franchise is headed.

Timing matters here. The NBA draft is set to take place in about two months. Brand on Aug. 25 was asked if it’s important for the team’s new head coach to be involved with the draft and free agency.

“… It would help so that I can understand what their philosophies are, what kind of players they want to play, where they want to go,” he said. “But I just can’t rush the decision. Talking to them about their philosophies offensively, how they plan to use Joel (Embiid) and Ben (Simmons), their defensive philosophy, what kind of players that they would like to play, would bode well for the relationship coming into it. I just can’t rush this, though.”

It’s true that rushed and desperate decisions are rarely good ones. That’s an idea few would dispute. The more salient point is that there are important choices looming about how to change the Sixers’ trajectory and the same front office is intact. 

Major adjustments are reportedly under consideration. The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported Thursday that “league sources have said the Sixers are inquiring about the possibility of hiring a president of basketball operations.” Pompey cites one source who said Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey “might have some interest in the Sixers, but that’s only if he has total power, as the president and general manager.”

Also of note from The Inquirer story is that "a source also believes the Sixers will attempt to inquire about Houston GM (Daryl) Morey and Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard," but that it's believed to be "unlikely" either would be interested. 

While it’s easy to evade blame in a “consensus-oriented” front office, Brand has been the highest-ranking basketball operations member, the person nominally responsible for signing Al Horford to a four-year deal with $97 million guaranteed and Tobias Harris to a five-year, $180 million contract. Executive vice president of basketball operations Alex Rucker and assistant GM Ned Cohen have certainly been influential, as well. Managing partner Josh Harris’ insistence on a collaborative structure has also substantially hurt the Sixers, and much of the culpability lies at the very top of the organization

It’s odd, though — and that might be a charitable description — for Brand to have publicly said he’ll be the one tasked with assessing the front office. If the aim is to make a few tweaks around Brand and add a new perspective or two he can consult, then perhaps that process would make some sense. Brand has acknowledged he didn’t know much about being a general manager when he took the job two years ago. His only previous executive was as GM of the Delaware Blue Coats, the Sixers’ G-League affiliate. 

“I’d say it grew,” Brand said. “I was a rookie thrust into the position to lead a team with championship aspirations that the fan base sacrificed and struggled for for some years. My understanding of the game grew and how to manage and how to lead. I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot, but now, I do know a lot more. I’ve been through almost every situation there is so I’m looking forward to leading this offseason and figuring out how to get us back on the right path.”

Brand being in charge of the front office evaluation isn’t conducive to a paradigm shift. Removing holdovers from Bryan Colangelo’s regime would help. Hiring executives who have seen the Sixers’ mistakes from the outside and have the experience and acumen necessary to address them would be positive, too. Ultimately, however, larger changes would be an appropriate response after a season of disappointment and failure.

We’re still waiting to see if those come to fruition.

“My job is to fix what happened, our failures,” Brand said. “That’s what I’m working on now. We’ve had some candid conversations, but the options will be open. … We’re going to do the right thing for the organization. We’re not going to skip any steps to better this organization regardless of who that is and how that plays out.”

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