76ers

Elton Brand won't be defined by his approach to this NBA trade deadline

Elton Brand won't be defined by his approach to this NBA trade deadline

Last February, the Sixers were the talk of the NBA after their early-morning trade for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott. They made a few splashes this summer, too, signing Al Horford, sending Jimmy Butler to Miami, bringing in Josh Richardson and letting JJ Redick leave. 

This trade deadline was never going to be nearly as chaotic or impactful.

A year into Harris’ tenure in Philadelphia, general manager Elton Brand’s decision to give up as much as he did for Harris, Scott and Marjanovic does not look great. As a reminder, the Clippers picked up the Sixers’ lottery protected 2020 first-round pick, the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder, Detroit’s 2021 and 2023 second-rounders, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and the promising Landry Shamet. The decision to double down on that original bet and sign Harris to a five-year, $180 contract in July has had lukewarm early returns. 

Brand chose to sign the 33-year-old Horford to a lucrative four-year deal and construct a massive team reliant on its defense and hopeful that weaknesses with outside shooting and shot creation wouldn’t be exposed. He has been audacious as a general manager, and as a result placed himself and the Sixers in a challenging position.

He entered Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline with limitations of his own doing. Harris and Horford are being paid more than they’re worth, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are too young and too talented to abandon, Matisse Thybulle is a defensive gem the team should value, and the Sixers’ asset stash is unimpressive after all of Brand’s dealing. Mike Scott is a proven veteran and Zhaire Smith is a 20-year-old former first-round pick, but it appears improbable those two could have assisted Brand in swinging a major move. 

In that context, Brand came away with a decent haul. Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III directly address areas where the team needed help. We’ll have to see if Robinson’s career year carries over to Philadelphia, and if Burks’ streaky tendencies are problematic on a team far more competitive than the 12-40 Warriors. Still, the two have the skills to help the Sixers’ bench, and to lessen the responsibilities on young players like Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton. 

Brand spent three second-round picks to acquire Burks and Robinson, none of which are projected to be high second-rounders. Given the Sixers’ urgency to contend and the frustration around a team that’s been brutal on the road, those were reasonable assets to trade. In fact, it wouldn’t have been surprising if Brand had felt obliged to overpay out of desperation.

The Sixers also received one second-round pick Thursday as a return from the Magic for James Ennis (see story). Ennis, who waived his no-trade clause, had a curious path this season. His role diminished in mid-January because, according to head coach Brett Brown, the Sixers wanted to develop Thybulle with the goal of the rookie being equipped to handle meaningful playoff minutes. Though he was below average as a three-point shooter during his time with the Sixers (33.8 percent), Ennis was a passable, multi-position defender and strong offensive rebounder. He wasn’t playing much, though, and Brand must have figured it was best to get a draft pick for a player who’d been deemed non-essential and had a player option for 2020-21. 

Waiving Trey Burke is another move on the margins open to scrutiny. At his best, the popular point guard can change games with his scoring. We didn’t see much of that ability in Philadelphia as Burke only played in 25 regular-season games. Like with Ennis, it appears Brown picked other options over Burke, specifically Raul Neto. Though they subtracted Burke, the Sixers did add a player in Burks who’s a capable initiator. 

None of these moves are likely to be of tremendous importance, though Brand will hope Burks and Robinson can make a difference in the playoffs. Ultimately, Brand took a little, gave a little and adopted a sensible, low-risk approach. His tenure as GM won’t be defined by these decisions. 



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Ranking the 10 most important members of the 1982-83 Sixers

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AP Images/Getty Images/USA Today Images

Ranking the 10 most important members of the 1982-83 Sixers

Thirty-seven years ago, the Sixers had a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals and were two wins in Los Angeles away from a championship. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia will be re-airing that series this weekend, showing Game 1 on Friday night, Game 2 Saturday and Games 3 and 4 Sunday. 

We’ll have stories to come on that team, which won 65 games in the regular season and came one game away from a perfect postseason. We begin today with a ranking of the 1982-83 Sixers’ 10 most important members. 

10. Earl Cureton 
Cureton didn’t play heavy minutes in 1982-83 as a backup to league MVP Moses Malone. In the playoffs, he played even less. But he did step up in a big spot when the Sixers needed him. With Malone in foul trouble in Game 2, Cureton was forced into action. Though it doesn’t look like much on a score sheet, he got the Sixers through 17 minutes without Malone that night in a 103-93 win.

9. Clemon Johnson 
The Sixers picked up Johnson in a February trade with the Pacers, and he was a solid backup big man. Malone had played a league-high 42 minutes per game the previous season with the Rockets, but he was able to average "only" 36.6 minutes after Johnson’s arrival and be sharp for the playoffs. 

8. Marc Iavaroni 
Bobby Jones may have been the Hall of Famer, but it was Iavoroni who actually started in 1982-83. The 26-year-old rookie had just finished four years playing overseas after his college career ended. On a team loaded with All-Stars, Iavoroni was a glue guy. He wasn’t afraid to get physical and do the little things his team needed. While the stats won’t wow you, make no mistake, Iavoroni was a big part of that championship run.

7. Clint Richardson 
Richardson was valuable as the team’s primary guard off the bench. He stepped up in the Sixers’ Game 1 Finals win when Maurice Cheeks got into foul trouble, playing 31 minutes and recording 15 points, four steals and three assists. 

6. Billy Cunningham 
You have to show some love for the man running the show. Though 1982-83 was Cunningham’s only title with the team, he’s easily the best coach in Sixers history. He coached and won more games and has the highest winning percentage and most playoff wins of any coach in franchise history. Cunningham was also a Hall of Fame player for the Sixers, helping capture a title in 1966-67.

5. Bobby Jones 
“The Secretary of Defense” earned the NBA’s inaugural Sixth Man of the Year award in 1983 after starting 73 games in 1981-82. As always, he was one of the league’s better defenders and finished the season third in defensive box plus-minus. Jones had 13 points on 6 for 7 shooting, four steals and two blocks in the Finals clincher. 

4. Andrew Toney 
While Toney is often looked at as a “what if” story, the healthy version of the guard was a crucial part of the 1982-83 team. He made the first of his two All-Star teams that season, averaging 19.7 points and 4.5 assists a game. He was just as critical in the playoffs, averaging 22.1 points in the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals. “The Boston Strangler” appeared to be destined for the Hall of Fame before serious foot issues derailed his career.

3. Maurice Cheeks 
Cheeks made his first of four career All-Star Games in 1982-1983, and it was a well-deserved selection. He was a reliable presence, starting 79 regular-season games and all 13 playoff contests, and an excellent defender and distributor. Cheeks posted 12.5 points, 6.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Most importantly, he got the stars the ball when and where they needed it and conducted the team with ample poise and intelligence. 

2. Julius Erving 
For most of his Sixers career, Dr. J would probably be No. 1 on a list like this. Though he wasn’t quite at the peak of his powers at age 32, Erving was still an unreal athlete and an All-Star. He averaged 21.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals in the regular season. While his scoring numbers were down slightly during the playoff run, his defense was on another level. He averaged 2.1 blocks a game that postseason, including 11 in four NBA Finals games. Erving needed a boost from Malone to get him over the top, but it was still a 1 and 1A type of situation with the pair of Hall of Famers.

1. Moses Malone 
It’s difficult to exaggerate how good Malone was in his prime. After being traded from Houston to Philadelphia, he won a second consecutive MVP award, led the league in rebounding for a third straight season and helped the Sixers finally overcome the Lakers. He also was a clear choice for Finals MVP, averaging 25.8 points and 18 rebounds in the series. Even if the Sixers didn't pull it off, fans will always remember his bold "fo', fo' fo'" prediction and how he nearly backed it up with his play. GM Pat Williams' deal to add Malone is one of the best trades in Sixers history, and the 1986 trade that sent him to the Bullets is one of the worst

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2020 NBA draft profile: Kira Lewis Jr. has the whole package offensively

2020 NBA draft profile: Kira Lewis Jr. has the whole package offensively

Kira Lewis Jr.

Position: PG
Height: 6-3
Weight: 165
School: Alabama

One of the top scoring point guards in the 2020 NBA Draft, Lewis filled up the box score as a sophomore at Alabama, averaging 18.5 points, 5.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. He was the only player in college basketball to reach all those averages this season. 

He posted solid shooting numbers across the board — 45.9 percent from the field, 36.6 percent from three-point range and 80.2 percent from the free throw line.

Lewis just turned 19 years old in April and is younger than Cole Anthony and Tyrese Maxey, who both declared for the draft after their freshman seasons.

Strengths

Lewis is an impressive offensive creator in the half court and an absolute blur in the open floor. He’s one of those guys who can race down the floor for a transition layup before the defense can get set. He reminds me of a skinnier Coby White, who put up big-time scoring numbers in the second half of his rookie season with the Bulls.

Lewis can take his man off the dribble in pick-and-roll situations and is a good enough three-point shooter to keep defenses honest. He has elite quickness and is going to make some big men look silly when they get switched onto him. 

Alabama often gave Lewis the ball and let him take his man off the dribble while the other four players spread the floor. That game plan makes sense when you watch Lewis work. He has the whole offensive package: hesitation dribbles, crossovers, step-back threes and blow-by layups. He also has a nice knack for driving all the way to the baseline and finding open three-point shooters in the corners.

Weaknesses

Lewis has some adjustments to make at the NBA level. He’s very skinny, which could lead to difficulties holding his position defensively and finishing in traffic against bigger, stronger defenders.

He also averaged 3.5 turnovers to go with his 5.2 assists this season, but again, he had the ball in his hands a lot. 

As an NBA rookie, Lewis needs to figure out how to keep the turnovers down while also adjusting to a more complementary offensive role. 

Fit

Lewis checks a bunch of potential boxes for the Sixers.

Offensive creator off the bench? Check.

Backup point guard who could run the show and make threes when Ben Simmons posts up? Check.

Upside potential to be a starter down the road? Check.

The problem is that skill set will also appeal to a bunch of other teams who pick ahead of the Sixers. I’m not sure he’ll make it to them on draft night, but stranger things have happened.

The combination of Simmons and Lewis leading fast breaks for 48 minutes would make the Sixers one of the most fun transition teams in the league. 

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