Daryl Morey set to join Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Doc Rivers

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The Philadelphia 76ers soap opera is set for an entirely new cast this season after the news of long-time Houston executive Daryl Morey’s impending signing.

According to ESPN, Morey is expected to be ushered in as the Sixers’ new president of basketball operations in the coming days, with current GM Elton Brand expected to remain in his position.

Morey’s reported arrival comes after the Sixers signed former Clippers and Celtics coach Doc Rivers following Brett Brown’s seemingly unavoidable sacking this summer.

Under Morey and Rivers, the Sixers are likely to look nothing like the version we’ve known over the last few years, but it begs the question: just what do the moves mean for the future of the Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid duo?

After capturing the hearts of the NBA world in a fairytale run to their first Playoffs in 2018, it is fair to say the Simmons-Embiid Sixers have failed to flatter.

Embiid has looked out of shape and disinterested at different points, while Simmons’ game seems to have plateaued after a sensational rookie season.

Naturally, news of Morey’s arrival in Philadelphia was met with memes and jokes about Simmons being offloaded due to his flat out refusal to shoot three pointers.

Conversations surrounding Simmons and the three-ball have become tiresome over the course of his career and detracted from the obvious: Simmons is still one of the most impressive young players in the NBA.

While it is startling that he has attempted just 24 triples in three seasons at a time where players are shooting the three more than ever, he still remains an incredibly efficient player in an era where efficiency is paramount.

That’s where the union between Simmons and Morey could prove to be more fruitful than initially meets the eye.

Morey’s last three seasons in Houston, which saw the team go all in on smallball as they prioritised three-point shots and layups almost exclusively, have coloured what his basketball ethos is all about: efficiency.

Yes, we all know the math surrounding the three ball, but Morey’s Rockets teams were built in that way to cater to the skillset of its one transcendent star: James Harden.

Harden’s ability to shoot from deep, score at the rim, and to facilitate for his teammates made him the perfect hub to build the entire team around. Even if it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing style, no one could argue its effectiveness.

Morey’s legacy as an executive is moulding his teams in ways which accentuate the strengths of its star players. Early on in his tenure, when Houston had Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, the Rockets would play inside-out based on Yao’s post prowess.

Similarly, when Dwight Howard signed with Houston in 2013, the big man and Harden combined for a pick-and-roll heavy offence that thrived in the pair’s first season together even if the break-up was ultimately messy.

Morey understands that the NBA is an asset-based league, and he’s not going to drive one of his two most important assets out the door because of their skillsets.

While Simmons and Embiid both have very obvious warts in their games, history has shown that a dangerous offence can be built around the talented duo.

Despite the train-wreck that was the 2019-20 season, Philly still outscored opponents by two points per 100 possessions any time the pair shared the court during the regular season. That number soared to an impressive 4.4 points per 100 possessions when the duo played without Al Horford on the floor.

It is no secret why the best Sixers offensive years came when Embiid and Simmons were flanked by capable outside shooters such as JJ Redick, Dario Saric and Robert Covington in their initial Playoff campaign.

Rather than simply offloading Simmons or Embiid, Morey is going to find a way to get the right pieces around them in order to put them in their most effective spots.

Yes, Simmons is allergic to shooting from deep, but his ability to create outside shots for others is nothing to be laughed at: no player has assisted teammates on more three-point shots than Simmons since the 2017-18 season.

Simmons created 20.8 points off assists last season, ranking fifth in the NBA behind LeBron James, Trae Young, Luka Doncic and Ricky Rubio, per Second Spectrum.

Morey is likely to find pieces that also fit around Embiid, who is still one of the best two-way bigs in the game today.

No player posted up more than Embiid last season, with Philly’s No.21 averaging a whopping 8.3 post-up possessions per game.

What was impressive was how Embiid remained incredibly efficient despite the volume of such shots, scoring 1.1 points per every post-up possession, ranking in the 90th percentile, per NBA.com stats.

Morey will also see potential in using Simmons more regularly as a cutter, with such possessions yielding 1.34 points per 100 possessions for Philadelphia last season.

To do this more effectively, the Sixers’ front-office will be tasked with finding a capable secondary ball-handler to allow Simmons to use his size and athleticism as an off-ball threat.

It is no secret why the Sixers’ most memorable post-season run came when Jimmy Butler was able to assume some ball-handling duties, allowing Simmons to roam freely.

Names such as Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry have been mentioned and both would fit the Sixers like a glove, particularly Lowry who is a Philadelphia native and has very real Playoff experience.

Expect Morey and the Sixers’ brass to undertake some thorough due diligence on the options available in the coming weeks as we head towards free agency.

Daryl Morey won’t sit on his thumbs as an executive, we have seen that throughout his Rockets tenure. He will push the envelope in the name of winning.

Just don’t count on him trading Ben Simmons on the cheap in order to do so.