Daryl Morey has been the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers for less than three weeks, but he has wasted no time putting his stamp on the team’s roster. The league’s most prolific trader while with the Houston Rockets, Morey swung two draft day deals designed to address his new team’s biggest weakness.
In the first, he flipped the ill-fitting Al Horford to Oklahoma City (along with first- and second-round picks, plus the rights to Serbian guard Vasilije Micić) for Danny Green — whom the Thunder had acquired in an earlier deal for Dennis Schröder — and Terrance Ferguson.1 In the second, Morey sent Josh Richardson and the rights to No. 36 overall pick Tyler Bey to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Seth Curry.
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The Sixers duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons has been at its best when surrounded by shooters. The lineup that paired those two with J.J. Redick, Robert Covington and Dario Šarić, for example, outscored opponents by 17.7 points per 100 possessions. The pair plus Redick, Wilson Chandler and Jimmy Butler compiled 12.2 more points per 100 possessions than their foes. With Redick, Butler and Tobias Harris, their margin was plus-19.6 per 100 possessions.
The 2019-20 Sixers actually knocked down threes at a better-than-average rate (36.8 percent), but they attempted treys less often than the average team. That shouldn’t be as much of a problem with marksmen like Curry (44.3 percent from three for his career)2 and Green (40 percent)3 sliding into the rotation. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Green has extensive experience working as a 3-and-D guy with stars of all stripes, while Curry has played alongside Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Luka Dončić.
Morey’s attempt to secure snipers didn’t stop there. With the No. 49 pick, the Sixers snagged Arkansas shooting guard Isaiah Joe. Joe was widely considered one of the best shooters in the draft despite connecting on only 34.2 percent of his treys last season. He hit 41.4 percent from deep as a freshman during the 2018-19 season, making him a 37.8 percent shooter on more than 500 career attempts from outside the arc. He was also one of only 10 power-conference players to hit at least 75 threes in each of the past two seasons.
Later in the second round, Morey picked up analytics darling Paul Reed. An athletic forward who claims he runs the floor like a deer, Reed was one of only 10 collegiate players since the 1992-93 season to average at least 10 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game. Pair him with Matisse Thybulle and Zhaire Smith off the bench, and the Sixers have a whole mess of long, rangy defenders to throw at opponents and try to force some turnovers, which in turn should help mitigate any spacing issues associated with the Embiid-Simmons pairing by ratcheting up transition opportunities at the expense of half-court possessions.
Morey’s first pick of the night, though, may have been his most interesting. Kentucky point guard Tyrese Maxey isn’t yet a knockdown shooter (he made only 29.2 percent of his threes), but his free-throw percentage (83.3 percent) is encouraging, and he is extremely aggressive trying to get downhill and into the paint.
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The Sixers badly need someone other than Simmons who can collapse the defense from the outside-in off the drive, and Maxey should be able to provide that for them. Harris and Richardson were, other than Simmons, the team’s two most frequent drivers last season, per NBA Advanced Stats, but were both among the least likely high-volume drivers to pass on the drive rather than shoot. Philadelphia has often struggled even to throw basic entry passes to Embiid in the post without Simmons on the floor, and Maxey should help there as well. And at 6-foot-3, Maxey has the size to defend both guard spots, meaning he could eventually be a fit alongside Simmons if his jumper ever comes around.
Throughout his tenure in Houston, Morey was famous for adhering strictly to the math behind basketball. He said often that he’d do things a little bit differently if he had a different roster, and he indeed has one now. Doing things a bit differently than he did with the Rockets doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning his principles, though. So, it should come as no surprise that each of Morey’s acquisitions aligned with attributes he has considered valuable in the past: shooting, defense, athleticism, shots at the rim. He may have changed cities and rosters, but he hasn’t changed his stripes.