It’s pretty safe to say there will be some significant shakeups coming soon to the Philadelphia Sixers if their season ends tomorrow night. There might still be changes even if they surprisingly extend their first-round series against the Boston Celtics for more than five games.
Before last season’s trade deadline, first-year general manager Elton Brand made some huge chest moves to elevate a Sixers roster categorized by many as an NBA Finals contender. The additions of Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott, gave them a scorer at small forward and additional depth to their thin bench.
So why is everything seemingly blowing up a year later?
Jimmy Butler, who was acquired from an earlier trade last season, moved on and signed with the Miami Heat. Marjonovic went on to sign with the Dallas Mavericks and Ben Simmons — the team’s most versatile star – had to have surgery on his left knee just three games into the NBA Bubble restart.
Three games into the No. 6 seed’s first-round series against the Celtics, and they haven’t won a single game.
Which would be an excellent opportunity for me to say: It’s time to throw in the towel. A Simmonsless squad seems not to know how to run the offense. I think the roster needs a solid backup point guard, like a Reggie Jackson or Terry Rozier. It’s like everyone is standing around with no sense of what is being run.
The first two games of their NBA Bubble Playoff series were pretty hard to watch, but Game 3 seemed like the effort was there to push them over the hump, but the Celtics drummed out the win. Joel Embiid had his way down low on the block, but Al Horford and Tobias Harris have struggled offensively in this series. I know this team, with the loss of Simmons, is missing Butler’s offensive output.
And this doesn’t just fall solely on Brett Brown’s shoulders, but I think he will receive the brunt of the repercussions if swept. In basketball, we always talk about coaches like Doug Collins with the ‘89 Bulls or a Mark Jackson, who had a steady hand with player development. A young Steph Curry and Klay Thompson walking into the league wouldn’t be where they are today if they didn’t have Jackson as their coach.
Brown, in my eyes, fits into that category. He has helped push Simmons and Embiid in developing dominance as a floor general and scorer or in Embiid’s case with his game down low, but there needs to be a different voice taking over the driver’s seat.
“I told Ben, ‘If you aren’t willing to shoot, then do I just bench you? Because I can do that,’” Brown told Jackie Mac Mullen earlier this year. “We could have gone that route or continue to coach him as it relates to spacing. We worked on the ability to use it as a choice to shoot the 3, catch and go, get in the paint, or find someone else.”
To be clear, Jackson and Brown are not bad coaches by any stretch, I see it as, they have done all they can with their respective situations and it’s reached a plateau. From a spectator’s seat, the coach that young NBA talent is tasked with is making sure their player’s development is headed in the right direction. Simultaneously, he instills confidence in a player like Simmons, who has spoken about the psychological impact shooting has on him. Brown has been doing that for the last three years; I don’t see it having the impact that is necessary to get them where they ultimately want to be.
Simmons and Embiid, by all stretches, have expanded their game under Brown; it’s just time to get a better bench around them and a different voice leading them.
Suppose Brown was let go by the Sixers tomorrow and was hired by the Celtics to be their head coach. In that case, he very well within two seasons could lead them to an NBA title — it just reaches a point where you’ve watched a team for a few years, and the players have developed under a coach’s leadership, and then things taper off. Not because there is anything wrong with the coach, but he can’t get this roster to the level of play needed to get a title.
You see what happened with the Warriors the season after Jackson was out in Golden State, they were in the NBA Finals. I think the Sixers have that same ceiling if they get the right voice and clean up their bench.
Doug Collins and Mark Jackson is immense company to be in if you’re Brett Brown but something about dynasty type rosters and teams that can win multiple titles, the person that drove them to the game can’t be the one who escorts them to the presidential box.
Brown was the right coach to lead the team through “The Process” but just not the right guy to get them to an NBA championship.