Daryl Morey can be described as a win-now executive.
His win-now moves have resulted in his former team, the Houston Rockets, not having a pick in Wednesday’s NBA draft. But that’s far from surprising, considering the Rockets haven’t chosen a first-round pick since selecting Sam Dekker in 2015 because of his approach.
During his tenure as the Rockets general manager, Morey was known for packaging draft picks in blockbuster trades for star players.
Will he follow that blueprint in his first draft as the 76ers' president of basketball operations?
The Sixers have the 21st pick in the first round and picks 34, 36, 49, and 58 in the second.
The team has made improvements in the organization credibility department this offseason by hiring Morey, future Hall of Fame coach Doc Rivers, a who’s-who assistant coaching staff, and adding Pete Dinwiddie, Prosper Karangwa, and Jameer Nelson to the front office.
Yet, none of the new additions will be counted on to make baskets, grab rebounds, or block shots. The Sixers' roster still has pieces that don’t fit and is built for an early exit in the playoffs. Rivers might prevent them from being swept in the first round for the second straight seasons, but it would be wishful thinking to assume that the current roster will finish ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, improved Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference.
Nor is there anyone in this year’s draft who’s capable of elevating them to that level, especially not at the No. 21 spot. Plus, the Sixers don’t have the cap space needed to add a high-profile free agent to help with that.
The salary cap will remain at its current $109.1 million because of lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The luxury-tax threshold will stay at $132.6 million.
The Sixers have more than $145 million guaranteed going to nine players, including more than $122 million tied up in Tobias Harris ($34.3 million), Ben Simmons ($30.5 million), Joel Embiid ($29.5 million), and Al Horford ($27.5 million). So, Sixers ownership group will be paying a luxury tax.
And the financial situation won’t improve anytime soon.
They have more than $400 million tied up in the contracts of Embiid, Simmons, Horford, and Harris over the next several seasons. And their championship window is about to close.
So they made lucrative five-year investments in Morey and Rivers with the hopes of winning an NBA title.
An expensive and poorly constructed roster, a subpar draft, no cap space, and championship aspirations translate into needing to make a blockbuster trade. It would benefit them to make one this season, if not on draft night.
The urgency, in part, could have something to do with never knowing how long Embiid is going to stay healthy. The three-time All-Star center could suddenly get hurt, which could lead to a lost season. So Morey’s trademark win-now moves would be the best way for the Sixers to go.
James Harden’s name has been mentioned the most as a possible acquisition.
The Sixers have had interest in the Houston Rockets franchise player even before hiring Morey, Harden’s former boss.
Sacramento Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul are other possible candidates. The Sixers are reportedly looking into acquiring Paul in a trade. And Hield has indicated on social media that he would like to be traded to the Sixers.
Morey has a history of making the big move, and none would be bigger than trading for Harden. In him, the Sixers would get a legitimate league MVP candidate. The 2018 MVP has won the last three NBA scoring titles and is a six-time All-NBA first-team selection.
His presence would create a lot of spacing for Embiid to operate down low. It would also catapult the Sixers back into the elite status conversation.
The Sixers, however, would probably have to include Simmons in the package to complete the deal.
While he publicly says he committed to Houston, word around the league is that Harden is unhappy there. ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins reported that Harden hasn’t been answering phone calls from Rockets officials the last two weeks. Perkins also said he’s hearing that Harden could in line to form a Big Three in Brooklyn with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, or play with the Sixers.
So that’s something to definitely pay attention to, considering Morey’s relationship with the superstar guard.
Hield would also be a great fit for the Sixers.
The 41.1% career three-pointer shooter could provide the consistent sharpshooting the Sixers lost by not re-signing JJ Redick in free agency last summer.
A package that would include Horford to the Kings for Hield would make sense for both teams. However, the Kings would have to decide if they want to give up a 27-year-old standout guard in his prime for a 34-year-old center with three years left on his contract. The Sixers might have to surrender their first-round pick in that package.
And then there’s Paul. The biggest question is can he and Rivers co-exist. The two didn’t always see eye-to-eye when Paul played for Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Phoenix Suns are trying to put together a package to acquire him in a trade. They may need to get a third team involved.
But if that doesn’t workout, one would think he would be an asset for the Sixers. Paul would be someone whom Simmons, Embiid, and their teammates would instantly respect. And the second-team All-NBA point guard could take some of the ballhandling duties off Simmons.
With Paul, they could contend for the conference title. Now, the point guard has a huge price tag with $41.3 million and $44.2 million owed to him in the final two years of his deal. So the Sixers would have to give up a lot for the 35-year-old.
Even at his age, Paul is one of the league’s elite players, and let’s not forget that the Sixers' championship window is closing. They need to win now, and change the culture. Paul is equipped to help them do both.
But everyone in the organization would have to get on board to make the deal work.
Whatever the Sixers decide, they realize their championship window is closing.
So what will the win-now executive do?
We’ll find out on Wednesday night.