Brett Brown was hired by the 76ers and Brad Stevens by the Boston Celtics as head coaches in 2013. In seven years, the Celtics enjoyed better success, having gone to the playoffs six times, including this season. The Sixers are in the postseason for the third straight year.
During Stevens’ time, the Celtics have reached the Eastern Conference final twice. In Brown’s first two playoff trips, the Sixers won a round before being eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
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With the two longtime rivals meeting in the Eastern Conference first round, the biggest difference over the last seven years has been stability.
Stevens was hired by Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. Ainge was named to the position on May 9, 2003.
Since the hiring of Brown in 2013, the Sixers have had four general managers: Sam Hinkie, Bryan Colangelo, Brown (interim) and now Elton Brand.
“Stability, ownership, front office, we have a lot of our coaching staff is still here seven years later,” Stevens said in an earlier Zoom interview “We’ve only added a few over the years and I think that stability is helpful. We do have a good feel for each other.”
The stability has led to cohesion between the front office and coaching staff.
“It’s an excellent working environment, it’s an empowering working environment and I am thankful to be here.”
Despite less far stability over the years, Brown likes where the organization is situated.
“The goal and the standard is you win a championship or you don’t,” he said last week on a Zoom interview. “I believe that even without Ben (Simmons) we have a team that’s capable of doing that.”
Simmons is out after undergoing left knee surgery on Aug. 10.
Here is a look at how the Sixers and Celtics have been built since Brown and Stevens arrived. It doesn’t include all the moves, but ones that impacted the current roster.
Since Stevens and Brown were hired after the 2013 draft, we will chronicle the top moves from 2014 to the present.
Key draft hits
Joel Embiid (No. 3 overall), 2014: While Embiid missed his first two seasons due to injury, this has turned out to be a great pick. He has become a three-time All-Star but has been hampered by injuries.
Ben Simmons (No. 1 overall), 2016: There was a very small faction that wanted to select Brandon Ingram instead. While Ingram had an all-star season, Simmons is a two-time all after missing his first season with injury.
Furkan Korkmaz (No. 26 overall), 2016: After two seasons of limited playing time, he has become a key rotation piece this season.
Landry Shamet (26th overall), 2018. The Sixers got great value at No. 26 and Shamet was a big part of the Sixers blockbuster deal last year with the Los Angeles Clippers that brought them among others, Tobias Harris and Mike Scott.
Shake Milton (52nd overall), 2018. Again, technically this was a trade, where the Sixers acquired the pick on draft night from Dallas. Milton was named a starter for the seeding games even before Simmons was hurt.
Matisse Thybulle (No. 20 overall), 2019. Technically, Thybulle was acquired in a trade since the Celtics owned his rights. The Sixers traded up for the No. 20 selection in the 2019 draft, sending Boston the No. 24 and No. 33 picks. Thybulle was advertised as a strong defensive player and he has lived up to this billing.
Key draft misses
Jahlil Okafor (No. 3 overall), 2015. After a strong rookie season, he never matched the production and is now playing with his third team, in New Orleans. What also hurt was the Sixers selected him one pick ahead of Kristaps Porzingis.
Markelle Fultz (No. 1 overall), 2017. Fultz lasted less than two seasons in Philadelphia, suffering from injuries and a deteriorated jump shot. Making matters worse, the Sixers traded up from the No. 3 pick with the Celtics and Boston selected all-star Jayson Tatum with that selection.
Zhaire Smith (No. 16 overall), 2018. Technically he traded to the Sixers on draft night after being selected by Phoenix. The Sixers received Smith and a first-round pick (from Miami) for the No. 10 pick Mikal Bridges. Smith had an injury-marred first season and spent most of this season with the G League Delaware Blue Coats.
Key draft hits
Marcus Smart (No. 6 overall), 2014: Smart has become among the NBA’s best defensive players and is one of the leaders of the Celtics whether he starts or comes off the bench.
Terry Rozier (No. 16 overall), 2015: Rozier played four seasons with Boston, the last three as a productive rotation player and sometime starter. He was sent to Charlotte in a sign-and-trade to acquire Kemba Walker last summer.
Jaylen Brown (No. 3 overall), 2016: Brown hasn’t been an all-star but has been very productive and averaged 20.3 points this season
Jayson Tatum (No. 3 overall), 2017: Acquired with the pick from the Sixers, Tatum is among the emerging young stars in the NBA.
Semi Ojeleye (No. 37 overall), 2017: This second-round pick from SMU has earned a reputation as a solid defender.
Key draft misses
Guerschon Yabusele (No. 16 overall), 2016: He played sparingly in two seasons and is now competing overseas. In that same draft Caris LeVert was selected 20th and Pascal Siakam 27th.
Robert Williams (No. 27 overall), 2018: He has had two injury-plagued seasons.
Yet to be determined
Romeo Langford (No. 14 overall), 2019: He has had an injury-plagued rookie season
Grant Williams (22nd overall), 2019: Averaged 15.1 minutes on a deep team.
Carsen Edwards (33rd overall), 2019: Technically was acquired in the Thybulle trade. He hasn’t had enough playing time to judge.
The Sixers signed Al Horford before this season for four years and $97 million guaranteed. Based on this year, it has been an overpriced signing.
Reserve point guard Raul Neto was signed in the offseason as a free agent after playing his first four NBA seasons with Utah. Neto has been an on-and-off contributor.
Kyle O’Quinn, signed as a free agent, before this season after playing for Indian last year. He has seen limited playing time at center.
Originally signed in Aug. of 2018, Norvel Pelle began this year on a two-way contract, which was converted to a regular contract in February. He shows promise as a shot blocker but is very raw offensively.
Gordon Hayward was signed as a free agent from Utah in July of 2017 and when healthy he has been productive perimeter threat. The problem is that injuries have been a major part of his tenure in Boston. Hayward is now out for the series after suffering a Grade III right ankle sprain in Game 1. He missed all but one game his first year in Boston and over the last two regular seasons has missed a total of 30 games.
Daniel Theis, the Celtics starting center this season, was signed as a free agent out of Germany. This was his third and most productive season with the Celtics.
Center Enes Kanter was signed last summer as a free agent and he has been a rotation player, but one who has been inconsistent.
Brad Wanamaker. The former Roman Catholic star was signed as a free agent in 2018 after playing seven seasons overseas and he provided solid play in reserve.
The Sixers acquired Tobias Harris in a multiplayer deal with the Los Angeles Clippers in February 2019 and then re-signed him to a five-year, $180 million free-agent deal during the offseason. While the consensus is that the Sixers paid him too much, Harris has been a very productive offensive player.
Mike Scott, an in-and-out member of the rotation this year, was acquired last season with Harris.
Starting guard Josh Richardson was acquired from Miami in a multiplayer trade during the offseason, that saw Jimmy Butler leave the Sixers for the Heat in a sign-and-trade.
Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III were acquired in a trade-deadline deal in February with the Golden State Warriors for three second-round picks. While they have been good pickups, both can be unrestricted free agents after the season.
Boston acquired Walker in the aforementioned sign and trade and he was an All-Star in his first season with the Celtics.