Morey explains what might be next, why he believes in post-deadline Sixers


The second version of the 2020-21 Sixers isn’t necessarily the final one.

With approximately $4.8 million of their taxpayer mid-level exception left to spend and an open roster spot after trading for George Hill before Thursday afternoon’s deadline, the Sixers could sign a player on the buyout market.

A high-impact addition appears improbable, though. Speaking with reporters on Zoom minutes after the Hill deal became official, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey indicated he’s pleased with the team as is. 

“We feel very good about the roster we have and our chances to win the championship,” Morey said. “I think (head coach Doc Rivers) had some good comments recently about looking for a two-way guard, one of what he thought was the very few needs for us. That’s what we got with George — a veteran, two-way guard who can shoot at a very high level and defend at a high level. I think one thing that Coach Rivers and (assistant coach Dan Burke) can do right now is put strong, playoff-tested guys who can play on both ends of the floor at one time, if they want to do that in crunch time. We’re pretty excited about that.”

Morey, to nobody’s surprise, did not tip his hand on any specific potential acquisitions. In terms of a deadline, the only strict restriction of note left is that players must be waived by April 9 to be eligible for the playoffs. 

“Really, at this point, some of the players you can’t really get feedback on, because it’s early days,” he said. “I feel pretty good that someone who Coach Rivers thinks will help us will be available but it is very early to give too many details on that. But we feel good about the buyout market right now.”

The Hill trade should improve the Sixers’ chances of winning playoff games, but it diminished their resources in the frontcourt. With Tony Bradley heading to Oklahoma City, Joel Embiid sidelined by a left knee bone bruise since March 13 and Dwight Howard ejected after the first quarter, rookie Paul Reed played emergency center minutes in the Sixers’ win Thursday night over the Lakers. 

The 23-year-old Bradley likely wouldn’t have been essential in the playoffs, but he’d played well as a replacement starter over the last two weeks. In his final game with the team, he had 18 points on 8-for-8 shooting, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks against the Warriors.

How does Morey assess the Sixers’ current frontcourt depth? And did Ben Simmons’ ability to play at center factor into his pre-deadline thinking? 

“We were building around Tony Bradley, as Joel was saying,” Morey said with a laugh. “Honestly, Joel made fun but Tony Bradley, let’s talk about him — he gave us amazing minutes and obviously really helped us through the stretch with Joel out this year. He’s been a big factor. … We didn’t want to lose Tony. He was a key part of the deal that allowed us to get it done, and I think his great play made that happen. In terms of our frontcourt depth, I do think in the buyout market I generally just always go best player. I’d rather have the best players than fit. 

“That said, I think in the buyout market it’s often a conversation about opportunity and role. We have probably more opportunity at that big spot, so I would expect a buyout would probably be more big — if we do any at all, it’d be more big. That said, we feel good. Joel and Dwight can obviously play the five, more of a traditional five. As you mentioned, Doc if he chooses can put unique lineups on the floor with Ben and Tobias (Harris) and Mike Scott (at center). We feel good about where we’re at but if a buyout comes along, more likely big than not.”

For the time being, the Sixers are slightly smaller and, in Morey’s mind, equipped to handle the unorthodox lineups opponents might employ in attempting to stymie Embiid. 

“I think teams are going to play smaller lineups against us,” he said. “It’s a better way to combat the best big in the league, in my opinion, in Joel, than it is to try to always throw a traditional five at Joel. I expect teams to try that. I do think Joel’s at a stage in his career where that could go very poorly for other teams but if I was trying to attack us, I’d try to be creative as well. 

“I think we’re pretty hard to beat. I think Brooklyn’s going to go into these playoffs the favorite, but I think we’re right there. I don’t think there’s really a clear favorite in the league. I think there’s probably five or six teams that have an extremely good chance to win it and we’re one of them. That’s where you like to be. I think we upgraded ourselves a lot today and we’re going to be one of the top few teams to win the title, and hopefully we get it done. We feel very good about our squad.”

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