The 76ers are sitting at fourth in the Eastern Conference and questions are swirling about their roster makeup. Big moves to bring in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris brought in star power, but did Philadelphia lose too much in the process? Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post‘s Ben Golliver discuss the merits of the Sixers’ two big deals, the players they gave up along the way and where they go from here on the latest edition of the Open Floor podcast.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: Our listener Elliot says, ‘Are the Sixers the East favorites if they never did the Jimmy Butler trade but did do the Tobias Harris trade? That would leave them with a starting lineup of Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid.’ I don’t know why he’s not including J.J. Redick there. I’d probably put Redick in at the two and then you bring Dario off the bench. That does seem like a team I like a little bit more. I’m just not sure how playable Dario is in the playoffs against a Raptors or against a Celtics team or Bucks team. What do you think?
Ben Golliver: I think it’s a really smart question. I agree with your rotation decisions over what Elliot said, but it kind of goes back to what my analysis was of the Tobias trade. If the Tobias trade is going to wind up costing you Jimmy, you try to look at either one of those moves in a vacuum. But you also have to look at them together because they’re part of the same decision-making process.
And if you wind up losing Jimmy for nothing, and it does seem like a lot of people are on board with your Day 1 theory that they traded for Tobias and basically are going to let Jimmy walk. If that’s how it goes down and you gave up all those pieces just to get Tobias—and by the way Landry Shamet is a freaking baller, man. I put up a little picture of him because I was at the Clippers facility today. I got so many sad, mournful Sixers fans just like, ‘Oh, man.’ That was sort of like them getting voted off The Bachelor and looking back with lust at their former conquest or something. They really miss this guy.
Sharp: We really know nothing about how The Bachelor even works.
Golliver: Who cares? But they lost Shamet, the picks, Dario, Covington and if they lose Jimmy for nothing and all they’ve got is Tobias Harris to show for it. And like I said at the time, Tobias is a nice third wheel but he’s not really that special. That’s rough, man. That is not a good management of assets, and I do think that if the Sixers are out before the conference finals people are going to be coming hard for Elton Brand. There’s going to be a lot of criticism going that direction.
Sharp: You know what really hurts with the Shamet trade? Knowing that J.J. is going to be bad deal on whatever contract he signs this summer, and he’s so important to the Sixers. If you ask me to pick a Sixers playoff series, the only way they succeed is when J.J. plays well. I guess I have faith, but they’re a total wildcard going into the playoffs and they have this high ceiling.
Golliver: That’s a great point. Throw him onto my asset thing too, because if they have to re-sign him and pay him a lot to keep him so that they still have some lineup integrity. They only have to do that because they lost Shamet, right? He could have been that guy. If they lose him for nothing and somebody else pays him, you’ve already lost Shamet so that’s another loss. That just makes the asset equation that I’m describing that much worse.
Sharp: It’s tough and when you talk about asset management… It’s funny. My first reaction to this question was if they had never done the Butler trade and did the Tobias trade, I could see them potentially giving up even more to get Tobias Harris and that’s kind of depressing to think about.
Look, I do think that Jimmy’s value in the playoffs is being underplayed a little bit. I understand he’s been underwhelming, but Philly, if they want to go anywhere that matters, is going to need somebody who can close and Embiid can’t really be that guy.
Simmons definitely can’t be that guy. Nobody else they have is going to be able to really fill that role, and Jimmy might be able to do it. He’s been able to do it at various points this year, and so there’s upside that wasn’t going to be there if they didn’t have that guy. What they really need—and what’s really unfortunate—is they need a Kemba Walker, they need a Jrue Holiday, they need a Mike Conley more than Jimmy Butler. And unfortunately that’s not the direction they went. But Jimmy at least will give them a chance.
Golliver: That’s a great point. I got sidetracked halfway through because I was trying to do the mental image of Ben Simmons closing games, and I was just picturing him uncorking those leaning, running turnarounds that he just kind of flips up at the rim with everyone on the court being in horror, aghast at his shooting motions. There’s like six seconds left on the clock and that’s the shot you got? All the announcers panicking and the other team clapping over the top because they were able to force the stop. That’s a pretty hideous mental image and I like Ben Simmons, but that’s not great. That’s a lot of pressure on Jimmy.