Daryl Morey Provides Sixers ‘Optionality,’ Now and in the Future
Sixers fans hyperventilated over every Kyle Lowry trade rumor Thursday. With every nugget that came out, a feverish reaction on social media took place.
Ultimately, the Raptors decided to keep the 35-year-old Philly native for at least the rest of this season. While Toronto appeared to hold the trade deadline hostage for a while, Daryl Morey and the Sixers decided to strike on a different point guard, acquiring veteran George Hill.
No, the Sixers did not make a deal for a six-time All-Star, but they still managed to get better — and keep all their premium assets along the way. That’s no small feat for a team that already possesses the best record in its conference and has a trio of All-Star-level talent signed for multiple years.
“We took an option that really upgraded our team on both ends this year,” Morey said, “and at the same time kept all our optionality alive in the future.”
“Optionality,” something uttered often by Morey protégé Sam Hinkie, appeared to be the word of the day. “Optionality” for head coach Doc Rivers in the postseason was a big factor in Thursday’s trade.
Hill isn’t a former All-Star, but he still boasts an impressive resume. The 34-year-old has played in 799 regular-season games and 127 playoff games. He’s played under Gregg Popovich and with LeBron James. In the last two seasons, he’s played a significant role for the Bucks in their playoff runs. In fact, it’s probably fair to say Milwaukee would like to have Hill — whose salary was used as part of the Jrue Holiday deal — for the postseason this year.
On top of that experience, Hill checks a couple of big boxes for the Sixers. He is incredibly efficient. Over his last five seasons, he’s shooting 47.7/40/81. He’s an analytics darling. Last season, Hill scored 132 points per 100 shot attempts, No. 1 among players classified as combo guards, per Cleaning the Glass (h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick for that nugget).
He also just doesn’t turn the ball over. In 14 games this season, he wasn’t even averaging a full turnover (0.9). For his career, he’s averaged just 1.2 turnovers a game. That’s ideal for a team that features two talented but turnover-prone players in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and has a bench that could use a stabilizing force.
Oh, and he can also play defense, one of the biggest factors in Morey wanting to acquire a player he admittedly coveted in the past.
“We feel like if we’re going to win a title we have to be the best defensive team in the league,” Morey said. “We felt like George solidified that. Teams will often attack your weakest defender on the floor, and we had quite a few lineups where there was an option for the other team to attack.
“In terms of relative to our team, I’d say defense was probably No. 1, but it’s very important that, especially with Joel and Ben, that that player can shoot, that player can be safe with the ball.”
Morey will also have “optionality” this offseason. Hill is under contract for 2021-22, but it’s only partially guaranteed. Danny Green, Mike Scott, Dwight Howard, and Furkan Korkmaz will all be free agents. They didn’t surrender any premium assets for Hill, so they have most of their future first-round picks and cheap, talented, young players in Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, and Paul Reed (two-way).
There’s a chance Morey could regret not pulling the trigger on a deal for Lowry or James Harden earlier this year — though it’s fair to point out we don’t know exactly how close a deal was or how much was in Morey's control. The Sixers are talented and have the best record in the Eastern Conference. They also happen to be playing outstanding basketball recently, winning 10 out of their last 11, the bulk of which without Embiid.
That’s not to say they don’t have flaws and question marks. Will Embiid be healthy and carry his MVP-caliber play into the postseason? Can Tobias Harris continue to provide excellent complementary scoring and maintain his role as closer? Has Ben Simmons improved enough offensively to make an impact on that end in the postseason?
A player like Lowry or Harden would’ve done an awful lot to quell those concerns. While the Sixers’ talented triumvirate could wind up answering those questions with yeses, acquiring the aforementioned stars could’ve potentially made those questions moot.
It appears that Morey will listen to what his team is telling him. Right now, they’re telling him they’re the top team in the East and that they could be title contenders.
Can they beat the Nets’ firepower or the Bucks’ suffocating defense in a best-of-seven series? Or will Morey be forced to reassess things this offseason and use the premium assets he was able to preserve?
They’ll tell him that soon enough — and he’ll have the “optionality” to act accordingly.