You knew Daryl Morey would shake it up Wednesday night aside from making selections in the NBA draft.
The new 76ers president of basketball operations took over a squad with spacing issues, a poorly constructed roster, and bad contracts impairing the goal to compete for an NBA title.
The team headed into the evening with the 21st overall pick and picks 34, 36, 49, and 58 in the second round.
So it was far from surprising when Morey started the night by using the 34th pick and a future first-round pick to start the process of reshaping the Sixers roster by trading Al Horford to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then he used the 21st pick to select Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey. Afterward, the Sixers packaged the 36th pick and Josh Richardson to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Seth Curry.
“You know I haven’t been here, but Al Horford is a really good player,” said Morey, who was hired three weeks ago. “I know there’s been some buzz around fit and things like that, but honestly we tried to sign him at my past team. I don’t like how that went down here, because he’s very good. Josh Richardson the same.”
But the theme for the night was trying to improve the team fit with Green and Curry. Morey said the Sixers went into the night with the goal of increasing their flexibility. He added that they wouldn’t have been able to make the second move for Curry without making the initial trade first.
“Having a truly gravity elite shooter really changes the dynamic for Ben and Joel. Those who watched the Sixers up close and personally, like you [more] than me, know that when Joel and Ben have had that, it’s actually insane how good those lineups and teammates played when everyone was happy.”
The Sixers concluded the 2017-18 regular season with 16 consecutive regular-season wins in route to a 52-win season.
They had sharpshooters Robert Covington and JJ Redick in the starting lineup. Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli were the first two players off the bench after being acquired in the buyout market. Those four sharpshooters created spacing for Embiid and Simmons.
“So that was really the theme for tonight, getting Seth,” Morey said. “For him, you can argue for him as the best shooter in the NBA. You know it was really exciting.”
Curry was the second sharpshooter the Sixers acquired on Wednesday night to help create spacing for All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. They acquired Danny Green from the Thunder in the multi-player deal that enabled them to dump Horford’s salary.
Then with the 49th pick, the Sixers drafted Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe, one of the best three-point shooters in college. Joe has always been high on the Sixers’ radar. There was a thought the Sixers would select him at 34th and 36th before trading those picks.
The Sixers ended a great draft day by selecting former DePaul forward Paul Reed at No. 58.
In Curry, the Sixers get a player who is shooting 44.3% on three-pointers in 256 career games. Curry is the younger brother of Golden State Warriors perennial All-NBA player Steph Curry and the son-in-law of Sixers coach Doc Rivers.
Curry, who is set to make $7.8 million this season, has three years remaining on his contract. Richardson is making $10.9 million this season and has a player option for $11.6 million in 2021-22. So not only did the Sixers get a much-needed three-point shooter, they saved $3.1 million on this season’s salary cap.
Maxey was a second-team All-SEC Conference performer after averaging 14.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in his lone college season. The combo guard, who was projected to be selected in the teens, was a first-round steal for the Sixers.
“Guys who passed on Tyrese will regret it,” Kentucky coach John Calipari, a former Sixers assistant, said to ESPN. “But I’m happy he’s going to Philly.”
The 6-foot-3, 198-pounder is from Garland, Texas, the same hometown of Sixers guard Zhaire Smith.
“Zhaire is cool,” Maxey said. “It’s crazy, man. His high school was five minutes away from my high school. We were rivals back in the day. It’s going to be really cool. I can’t wait to talk to him.”
The 20-year-old was overwhelmed with joy after being selected. He was emotional because of the hard work through the years to make his dream come through, combined with the sacrifice his parents made for him. After mentioning his parents, Maxey noted how his siblings, his uncle and entire family sacrificed so he could chase his dreams.
“For them to come true,” he said, “and for me to get an opportunity to show how hard I work and how much I appreciate the game, it means a lot.”
That’s why talked about wanting to show his family that he can compete in the NBA during his post-draft ESPN interview. He spoke of trusting himself.
“I trust myself,’ he said. “I put the work in. I’m just so excited. I’m so thankful.”
He began crying while talking about spending time with NBA veteran Rajon Rondo.
“I learned a lot,” Maxey said. “I really appreciate him, man. He took the time out of his day every single morning to teach me the tricks of the trade.
“I want to say thank you so much. I thank Philadelphia for the opportunity. I promise you, [you won’t regret it].”
The Sixers were expected to select a pure point guard or a shooter with their first-round pick. Maxey is more of a slashing shot creator. He’s more of a small shooting guard.
“When you have a guy like Ben, who has the ball, you don’t need a pure point guard, you need guards,” coach Doc Rivers told ESPN. “You need players, and I think Tyrese kind of fits that mode.”
A couple of hours before the 8 p.m. draft, the Sixers agreed to send Horford, a 2025 protected first-round pick, the 34th pick in Wednesday’s draft and the rights to Serbian point guard Vasilije Micic to the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to league sources. In exchange, they received Green, along with Terrance Ferguson, from the Thunder.
The first-rounder is protected in slots No. 1 through 6. If the pick doesn’t convey, it’s protected in slots No. 1 through 4 in 2026. If it still doesn’t convey, it becomes a 2027 second-round pick.
This move enabled the Sixers to get out from underneath Horford’s massive contract. The 34-year-old had three seasons left on the four-year, $97 million guaranteed contract he signed in free agency last season. The power forward/center could have made up to $109 million with championship bonuses.
The $27.5 million due to Horford this upcoming season would have accounted for 18.49% of the Sixers’ salary cap. That figure was unheard of considering he was at his best as Joel Embiid’s backup center.
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 had more than $145 million guaranteed 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 Horford. So the Sixers ownership group will pay a luxury tax.
The combined salaries of Green ($15.3 million) and Ferguson ($3.9 million) are around $8.3 million less than what Horford will make this season. Green will become an unrestricted free agent for the 2021-22 season, while Ferguson is eligible for a qualifying offer of $5.6 million. So the Sixers freed up a load of money for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 season by unloading Horford’s contract.
The five-time All-Star wasn’t a great fit while playing alongside Simmons and Embiid. The belief was the Sixers would trade Horford this offseason if they were able to send his contract to another team in return for shooting.
The Sixers get a sharpshooter in Green, regarded as one of the league’s top three-point shooters. This marks the second time he’s been traded this week. The Thunder acquired Green and the No. 28 pick in Wednesday’s draft from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for point guard Dennis Schroder on Monday.
Green averaged 8.0 points while shooting 36.7% from three-point range during the regular reason. He struggled in the postseason. The 33-year-old even received threats via social media after missing the potential series-winner in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers ended up defeating the Miami Heat in six games, marking Green’s second straight NBA title and third overall. (He won the 2019 NBA title as a member of the Toronto Raptors.) Green shot 36.4% from three this past postseason, but he’s shooting 40% in 688 career regular-season games.
In Ferguson, the Sixers will get a 6-6 swingman, who averaged 4.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in 191 career games, with 124 starts in three seasons.
Knocking down shots is what Joe is known for. He was the SEC’s top three-point shooter the last two seasons in both shots made (207) and attempts (548). He was one of the nation’s top volume three-point-shooters with 3.45 made and 9.13 attempts per game at Arkansas. Joe shot 44% from beyond the NBA three-point distance this past season. He missed six games because of arthroscopic right knee surgery and was limited in five more before the surgery.
In 26 games, Joe averaged 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists and shot 34.2 % on three-pointers. Playing with the injury affected his three-point shooting, but he made 41.4% of his threes as a freshman, and he’s healthy now.
Following the draft, a reporter referred to Joe as a pretty good shooter.
“I wouldn’t say he’s pretty good,” Morey said, “I would go great.”
Entering Wednesday, a lot of pre-draft discussions surrounded the Sixers’ interest in trading for Houston Rockets perennial All-NBA selection James Harden. The former MVP is said to prefer a trade to the Brooklyn Nets. Yet, the Sixers remain a possibility for Harden, who’s unhappy in Houston.
Harden’s presence would create a lot of spacing for All-Star center Joel Embiid to operate down low. It would also be another way to catapult the Sixers back into the elite status conversation.
The Sixers would have to include Simmons in any package to the Rockets to get the deal done. Houston is saying it would take an elite player and draft picks as part of a package to get Harden. The Rockets are also comfortable at this time to see if they can work things out with Harden, who has two years remaining on his contract.
Meanwhile, the Sixers want to keep the tandem of Simmons and Embiid together.