“I have to keep my focus on the playoff team now”: Daryl Morey speaks on trade deadline moves
The Sixers' moves ahead of Thursday afternoon's trade deadline spoke muffledly, so president of basketball operations Daryl Morey did the talking ahead of Friday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
"We're focused on upgrading this year. We feel like we got the best player at the trade deadline that was traded. We felt like he gave us exactly what we were looking for, which is he's one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history," Morey said of the team's acquisition of sharpshooter Buddy Hield.
"We really like what he adds to the team. We feel like our healthy group, our playoff rotation with Buddy Hield, is right there with everyone in the entire league. Focused on this year, that was the main focus of the deadline. Really, acquiring him was the focus."
The Sixers are very aware that opposing defenses are making life hell for Maxey and the entire offense. They feel that Hield helps in the here and now, but, more importantly, they're very confident Hield will play significant minutes in the games that really count in the spring months.
"When you have Joel Embiid and you have Tyrese Maxey, someone who can put that threat on the defense - both in making threes, but also his spacing that he provides - we feel very good about," Morey said.
"With Joel and Tyrese, he puts the fear of God in the other teams. The shots are coming, they're coming in transition, they're coming deep, they're coming off actions. You need to pay a lot of attention to Buddy Hield on the court. We know that's super valuable with Joel and Tyrese and opening things up for them."
Hield wasn't the only shooting boost the Sixers added, though.
"Cam Payne, we feel like can really give us good minutes. Another guy who can shoot, another guy who will give us solid minutes...some really good playoff minutes in the past. Coach has experience with him - not a lot, but some. He's given positive minutes to a lot of really good teams," Morey said.
"And the shooting, again, is something that's welcomed on this team. It's something that both myself and Coach Nurse - Coach Nurse was using the roster in the optimal way of what he had, but he knew that shooting would actually open up even more. Cam will fit into that."
While fans weren't exactly wiping away tears when the Sixers traded Marcus Morris Sr, Furkan Korkmaz, and three second-round picks to acquire Hield, there was outrage when the team sent veteran guard Patrick Beverley to the Milwaukee Bucks for Cameron Payne and a second-round pick.
The disapproval was exacerbated by footage from Beverley's podcast, The Pat Bev Podcast with Rone, posted on Twitter/X shortly after the trade was announced. Beverley claimed that Morey told him he would not be traded when the guard broached the topic during the team's recent trip to Denver.
"So, we're playing in Denver and I hit Daryl Morey with the, 'Ay, I'm getting trade?'," Beverley says in the footage. "'You? No, no, not you, no. Of course not'," Beverley claims Morey said.
Not only is that one instance simply poor optics, but it's not the first time a player has claimed to have had such an experience with Morey.
Add in James Harden calling Morey a liar during his China tour this past summer, and those examples paint the lead executive as someone who should not be trusted.
"I think my relationship with players and player agents and people around the league is as high as any in the league. I think Pat, and I got a great relationship with him, he clarified what he said after he said it. I think if I was up here with Pat, it would be a very positive conversation," Morey explained when asked about Beverley's account of the situation.
"Obviously, what he's referring to was, 'Yeah, for sure there were no plans at that point'. It didn't even seem like on the radar. But, we thought this was the best way to build a team. We saw his minutes going down, and we thought it was best for him to be in a place where he was going to play a big role on a team. Here, we saw that role diminishing."
As for why Beverley's minutes would be diminishing, the Sixers seem poised to sign veteran guard Kyle Lowry once he's bought out by the Charlotte Hornets.
Your eyes told you that the Sixers desperately needed to fortify their ball-handling depth and add shooting. It seems likely that they will have checked off both boxes in the near future.
But, the need for another big grew apparent when Joel Embiid went down with his meniscus injury.
The Sixers fell short of addressing that ahead of the deadline, although sources indicate it wasn't for a lack of trying. Chicago's Andre Drummond was a top target for Philadelphia.
"We did go in saying, 'Hey, let's see if we can shore that up depth wise'. Especially with we got some period with Joel out where, depth wise, we're a little short," Morey explained on Friday.
"There really were no bigs traded. I was shocked by that. We were aggressive to do that. But, they just weren't available. So, it didn't happen. We're going to have to continue to be creative."
Perhaps the Sixers were focused on other objectives or couldn't meet respective asking prices, but it should be noted that big men Kelly Olynyk, Daniel Gafford, and Xavier Tillman were all traded ahead of the deadline. So, the suggestion that there were no big men moved does not track.
Morey didn't rule out the possibility of adding a big via the buyout market, though. But, it wouldn't be one who he envisions playing a significant role on the team.
Morey made it clear that the Sixers are focused on building a roster that can help them in this season's playoffs and stick in the playing rotation over the next few years of playoff runs.
That thinking is why Jaden Springer was a casualty at the deadline.
"That one's pretty straight forward in that, again, we're focused on winning the title. We had to look at what are the odds Jaden Springer, who I think has a great future, helps our playoff rotation in the one-two-year, three-year-maybe horizon? And what are the odds a second-round pick helps us. We thought the second-round pick helps us more. And that's just the reality. Allows us to go get maybe a veteran at next year's deadline. Things like that," Morey told reporters of the decision to trade Springer.
"We liked the net of Jaden, Pat - who was going to play less here - and one second-round pick for the best player traded. We thought that was the right move. So, we did it. It sucks; Jaden is going to be really good, I think. I think his timetable is a little pushed out, though. Our evaluation - and if we're wrong, we're wrong; you guys can all write it, it's fine - was that his timetable to help a playoff team is farther out than what the second-round pick could do for us."
Of course, whether we're talking about Beverley, Hield, Springer, or someone else, none of it really matters if Embiid can't play.
But, the Sixers are hopeful that the big fella will take the court again this season. Not certain, but hopeful.
"We're hopeful. Feedback has been more good than bad since the first we heard about what led to his procedure. So, we're hopeful, and we're building the team to make it better this year. Obviously, it's not 100 percent. But, we felt like with Joel playing at an MVP level, we're hopeful he can get back to that, that this is a year that we got a real shot," Morey said.
He wouldn't comment on exactly what the procedure on Embiid's knee was, instead deferring to what has already been said publicly.
Regardless, in Morey's mind, the Sixers managed to balance addressing the current struggles in Embiid's absence with fortifying themselves for the games that define legacies.
"We weren't as focused on this period. We need to win games, and that's going to be a battle. But, we were focused on, 'Playoffs are here. We have a rotation we know can win at a super high level'."
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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig