Elton Brand

Sixers stock watch: Elton Brand making moves, Jimmy Butler quietly excellent, Jonah Bolden out of rotation

Sixers stock watch: Elton Brand making moves, Jimmy Butler quietly excellent, Jonah Bolden out of rotation

What a week it was for the Sixers.

After getting beat pretty handily by the Raptors Tuesday night, the mood postgame was somber.

All that changed when the Sixers pulled off a late-night trade for forward Tobias Harris.

Let’s get right into this week’s stock watch.

Stock up

Elton Brand

Duh, right? Less than five months into the job and less than three years removed from actually playing for the Sixers, Brand has pulled off the two boldest moves of the NBA season. Landing a player the caliber of Harris signifies to the rest of the league that the Sixers mean business. 

For anyone that’s concerned that this trade is a “rental,” you need to realize the situation Harris is in. This is already his fifth NBA team, it’s the best one he’s ever been on and the Sixers can offer him more money than anybody. From the Sixers’ perspective, you have a 26-year-old borderline All-Star that has improved consistently over his NBA career. Hell of a move by Brand.

Aside from Harris, Brand did a solid job upgrading the team’s bench with players like Mike Scott, Boban Marjanovic, James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons. All four guys are experienced, battle-tested and can play average to above-average defense.

Bonus points for telling Magic Johnson and the Lakers to kick rocks.

Jimmy Butler

The slam dunk here would be Harris, but he’s only been here for two games so there’s no baseline for his performance as a Sixer. 

Butler, on the other hand, has had a weird tenure with the Sixers. There have been questions about his fit and reports that he “aggressively challenged” Brett Brown. The questions came back up with Harris’ arrival, but Butler has quietly been excellent over the last two games.

Against Denver, Butler was aggressive and lived at the line, making 14 of 14. He was efficient vs. the Lakers, hitting 6 of 10 for 15 points in just 30 minutes.

Brown is enjoying what he’s seen out of Butler:

With this team, he respects the game, he plays the right way. So you start putting him in a system and on a team that has more firepower, you feel even a greater level of respect. I see that with him. I really do see that with him. He and Tobias I think are incredibly unique in that regard. Normally you get shot hunters and they’re not doing that. They take what the game gives them and I think to the points that we all talked about, there is a good ecosystem, there is a good vibe. They are sharing the ball.

It’s an interesting point Brown brings up here. Butler is an All-Star caliber player, but he’s never been a volume shooter. The highest amount of shots per game he averaged in a season was 16.5 in 2016-17. That mark was good for 23rd in the league.

It’s entirely possible that Harris’ presence will actually allow Butler to thrive, creating more space for Butler to drive and get to the basket.

Stock down

Jonah Bolden

This one is tough because it’s really just a matter of circumstance. Bolden had solidified his role as the team’s backup five, but with an experienced big like Marjanovic in the mix, Bolden finds himself on the outside looking in with the rotation.

It will be interesting to see what Brown does if a team chooses to go small at the five with Marjanovic — it didn’t work out well when the Lakers did it with former Sixer Mike Muscala. Bolden has done well as a rookie and could still get playoff minutes if there’s an appropriate matchup against a smaller and more athletic five.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

NBA league office, Elton Brand respond to Magic Johnson-Ben Simmons situation

NBA league office, Elton Brand respond to Magic Johnson-Ben Simmons situation

Updated: 5:51 p.m.

The mini-drama regarding Ben Simmons wanting to work with Magic Johnson this summer to learn "big guard" secrets might not be over.

The NBA is looking into whether any contact took place between the Lakers and Simmons that violated league rules.

Tampering, we would presume, might be one of the league rules in question. 

Sixers general manager Elton Brand also responded to the situation, speaking with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Lakers released an official response Monday night, indicating that they received an email from the Sixers in November asking if Simmons would be able to speak with Johnson.

Earlier Monday, Brand said on 97.5 The Fanatic that he declined to give Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka permission to talk with Simmons

Johnson's decision Sunday before the Sixers' 143-120 win over the Lakers to mention the possibility of working with Simmons this summer was unusual, and it's certainly grabbed a few headlines.

The notion that Simmons would want to learn from Johnson isn't so odd. Simmons is obviously not at a Hall of Fame level yet, but his game has justifiably drawn comparisons to Johnson's. His 12 regular-season triple-doubles last season passed Johnson for second-most ever by a rookie, behind only Oscar Robertson.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sixers weekly observations: 'The window is now,' challenges for Brett Brown, human side of Markelle Fultz saga

Sixers weekly observations: 'The window is now,' challenges for Brett Brown, human side of Markelle Fultz saga

We usually begin these weekly observations with a review of how the Sixers fared on the court over the past seven days. After the acquisition of five players and the departure of four, that doesn’t feel especially relevant.

But, in case you forgot, the Sixers lost to the Raptors on Tuesday and beat the Nuggets on Friday. 

'The window is now'

One of the more interesting parts of Elton Brand’s press conference Friday was his rationale for the bold Tobias Harris trade. Of course Brand cited Harris’ ability and seemingly excellent fit on the Sixers, but he also discussed the overarching philosophy of the deal. 

He attributed his move, in part, to the development of his two youngest stars.

“Joel Embiid, seeing his growth. Ben Simmons, seeing his growth,” Brand said. “They’re rapidly improved over the past season. The window is now. Our opportunity is now. So once I saw that window, we discussed taking a shot at it now, because who knows how long this window is going to be open.”

Before early Wednesday morning, the Sixers wanted to fight for a championship this season — any team in the NBA with three star players would. But Brand’s trade for Harris clarified the path forward, at least until this summer. Now Brett Brown has, as he put it, “a college season” to coach his new team and prepare them for playoff basketball.

A lot of good problems

Brown faces an abundance of challenges — how does he incorporate Harris into the offense, find optimal rotations for different situations, continue to ensure Joel Embiid is the “crown jewel,” as he said Friday, and maintain a cohesive culture?

These are all good problems to have. And, like Harris said Thursday at the introductory press conference for himself, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott, the Sixers “have a lot of smart basketball players.”

In their first game together, we also saw their unselfish instincts. We’ve seen the same thing with Jimmy Butler — he regularly passes up open shots and has to be told by Brown and his teammates that the Sixers are best when he’s less deferential offensively.

Good problems are still problems, it must be said. If the Sixers are still overpassing in late-March, and Brown still hasn’t figured out which players work best together, or when Marjanovic should play over Jonah Bolden and vice versa, that will be concerning.

'I'd be lying if I didn't feel sad'

The concept of a team trying to shape its roster for title contention by trading away a 20-year-old former No. 1 overall pick for anything less than a star is, out of context, baffling.

But Markelle Fultz’s tenure in Philadelphia was, if it was anything, very, very strange.

Less than a year ago, an emotional Brown announced Fultz would play vs. the Nuggets after a 68-game absence (see video).

“I get goosebumps telling you that,” he said. “I’m so proud of him.”

And on Friday night, before the Sixers’ game against the Nuggets, Brown reflected on Fultz being traded to the Magic in exchange for Jonathon Simmons and two draft picks. 

I’d be lying if I didn’t feel sad. It was two emotions I had. Sad personally, selfishly I suppose. And that I never really felt like I got a chance to coach him. I never really feel like this city got a chance to see him. I felt sad for that. And I was pleased for him that he had a new start, a fresh start, another opportunity.

Given the win-now mentality of the Harris trade, and given the uncertainty about Fultz’s future, Brand was smart to deal Fultz to the Magic (see story). But the human side of the Fultz saga can sometimes go overlooked, and perhaps nobody captures its emotions better than Brown.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers