Remember when the Philadelphia 76ers were one of the worst teams in the NBA for multiple years? Remember how former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie was scrutinized by the media, making him responsible for Philadelphia being an embarrassment and losing games on purpose to secure a high draft pick? And remember how the narrative suddenly changed once the Sixers managed to get their hands on Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to build around?
Fast forward to 2020. The Sixers are on the verge of elimination in the first round against the Boston Celtics, and they’ll fail to meet championship expectations once again assuming they don’t pull off a miracle.
Now, after losing in the conference semifinals two years in a row, this year’s impending first-round exit may finally mark the beginning of change in Philadelphia. However, instead of potentially trading away Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, as has been rumored for a while, the obvious change that needs to happen is the firing of head coach Brett Brown.
It is never easy to ask for someone to get fired from their position, especially if they have been there for a long time. Brett Brown has been the head coach of the Sixers since 2013. He took the job when there was no Simmons or Embiid to build around and the franchise was in the midst of an identity crisis. Therefore, one could make the argument that Brown was as integral to the rebuild of the Sixers as their general manager and their superstar nucleus.
Nevertheless, change is inevitable after another year of underperforming. Despite contributing to the Sixers becoming one of the better teams in the East, Brown also contributed to the team’s inability to play effective and successful basketball on a championship level.
Generally speaking, the Sixers can go one of two routes this offseason: They can hire a new head coach or trade away one of their franchise players, who seemingly can’t play together on the highest level. But what does the latter really do for the Sixers?
In a sport where one player has this much influence on the outcome of a game, you do not trade dollars for quarters. Whatever the Sixers get in return for Embiid or Simmons does not improve their chances of getting past the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors or Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future.
Plus, with big-money players like Al Horford and Tobias Harris under contract for multiple seasons, there is not much room to improve the team via free agency. Even if draft picks were to be included in the deal, they likely would not make a major impact on the team at the outset. After all, in the Sixers’ position, why would you trade a proven superstar for a draft pick, whose best-case scenario is to become a proven superstar like the one you just had? Yes, maybe they turn out to be a better fit, but there is a whole lot of risk betting on that.
What it comes down to is the risk involved in each scenario. Trading away Simmons or Embiid, and hence ending “The Process” for good, would be realistic if the Sixers had tried multiple coaches in the last season. Since they have not, who says that these two can’t play together under a different coach who can put together the right scheme while surrounding them with shooters to space the floor as much as possible?
Conclusively, the easier path to go down this offseason is replacing Brett Brown and giving the stars another chance together with a tweaked supporting cast. Trading a superstar who has not even reached his prime yet may only take you multiple steps backwards and should therefore be the last option to take, not the primary one.