The latest person to chime in on the whirlwind offseason facing Ben Simmons was the most important voice in the room. Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey discussed the future of the franchise’s star point guard during a lengthy Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday. The savvy front-office executive tip-toed around a final decision but dropped several major hints.
Morey, who just wrapped up his first year in Philly, raved about the job Doc Rivers did in coaching the Sixers to the best record in the Eastern Conference. He also called the team’s nucleus (Simmons, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid) an “extremely good trio” and a solid foundation to build on.
He’ll use the three tools at his disposal — free agency, trades, draft — to keep improving the roster. Championship or bust. But when it came to specifically address the long-term plan for Simmons, Morey’s answers became vaguer. Draw your own conclusions.
“We have a very strong group we believe in, there’s none of us that can predict the future of what’s going to happen in any place,” Morey told reporters. “We love what Ben brings, we love what Joel beings, we love what Tobias brings. In terms of what’s next, we’re going to do what’s best for the 76ers to give us the best chance to win the championship with every single player on the roster.”
SportsRadio 94WIP’s Howard Eskin wouldn’t let him off the hook. He kept pushing Morey. Does that mean Simmons will be back next year?
“Not addressing Ben Simmons,” Morey said. “But any move that will help our team win the championship or improve our odds we will look at and do if it makes sense to do that.”
Morey went on to explain his above answer as literally being the job description of a general manager.
“So you justify the job of a general manager which is to assess everything,” Morey continued. “Assess every player on the roster, figure out what is best to do with them to help us win the championship. Yes, I am going to oeprate as the genral manager of the 76ers. And I appreciate you defining my job description.”
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Switching Simmons to Stretch Forward?
The first step to fixing Simmons centers on his shooting, specifically his free-throw shooting. Rivers already had one sit-down meeting with the All-Star guard to address that. And another one is scheduled for next week. The two of them are committed to getting into the gym and working on it this offseason.
But another idea being floated out there is to possibly move Simmons to a different position. They are in the market for a stretch forward, so why not take some talent on the roster and maximize it? No one has ruled it out.
“After being here for a year, I really believe we’ve identified what and how and now we have to do the do part,” Rivers said on fixing Simmons. “We have to work to do it. It’s not going to be an easy job but it’s definitely a job that Ben can do and I believe that.”
Tyrese Maxey would be an option to slide into the starting point guard spot if Simmons were to be moved. On Tuesday, Morey deferred all rotation and lineup questions to Rivers while praising the coaching staff. He has the utmost confidence and trust in them to make the right call.
“I leave that [stuff] to Doc and his staff,” Morey said. “Our best players play a different style and to take that mix, especially with where the rules are at, with how much perimeter contact is allowed versus paint contact — to take that mix of players and turn it into the No. 1 team in the East and obviously we didn’t get as far as we needed to, but I think the job that Doc and his staff did was tremendous.”
Morey Defends George Hill Deadline Deal
George Hill came over to the Sixers at the trade deadline in exchange for backup center Tony Bradley. The move was billed as a long-term fix since Hill was under contract. It added another skilled shooter to space the floor, plus it brought them a veteran guard with a reputation as one of the better defenders in the league.
However, Hill never seemed fully recovered from early-season thumb surgery. He averaged just six points per game in 16 regular-season contests for the Sixers. And that number dropped to 4.7 points per game in the postseason.
“We thought George Hill actually did play really well,” Morey said. “I think people are focused on the offense but defensively he was very strong. We thought he added quite a bit, obviously, it wasn’t enough so in terms of my own self-reflection and the front office, are there opportunities where we could have done more? I think the answer to that is yes.”
Morey was responding to a gripe from Rivers about another area of need that went unaddressed. He had openly lobbied for another stretch forward to spell Harris at the three or the four. He was forced to play 36.5 minutes per game in the playoffs.
“We tried to go out and we just could not find anyone or make the right move to get that,” Rivers said. “But I thought that showed in this series. Atlanta went big and we were small.”
The Sixers also struggled to replace Bradley at the backup center spot. Dwight Howard was the first big off the bench, with the only other option being Mike Scott.