Where is Daryl Morey’s Position on the Hierarchy of Sixers Blame?

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a guy who is always in my Twitter DMs asking why we don’t criticize Daryl Morey the same way we criticize Doc Rivers and the Sixers players who went out again in the second round of the playoffs.

The answer is that Morey deserves blame, for sure, but he’s just lower on the totem pole of finger pointing. It’s an arbitrary pole of native wood carvings, but if we’re putting together a list of who deserves the most shit for the Sixers consecutive Morey-era playoff stumbles, it goes like this for me:

  1. Ben Simmons holding out in 2021/2022 + disappearing in Atlanta series
  2. Pascal Siakam’s elbow / Embiid injuries
  3. 2021 and 2022 teams just not having enough killer instinct/dog mentality overall
  4. Doc Rivers
  5. James Harden no-show Miami games 5 and 6
  6. Daryl Morey / poor bench / roster build
  7. ownership

Let’s start with #7 first. I can’t blame ownership for the Sixers’ on-court struggles. I see people on Twitter blaming Josh Harris for the second round exits. Seriously? Josh Harris? He hasn’t made a player decision or taken a single shot since buying the Sixers back in the day. When Brett Brown was fired, ownership stumbled into Morey and Rivers. Everyone was ecstatic about the fact that the Sixers failed upwards into a veteran GM and coach, both of whom carry a lot of respect in NBA circles. I’m not blaming ownership one iota for the inability to get out of the second round.

The reason I have Morey so low on the list is that you have to remember what the Sixers were when he inherited the team. They were swept out of the first round with an injured Ben Simmons and mismatched roster that needed a lot of work. Morey came in and immediately moved Al Horford and Josh Richardson, brought in Danny Green and Seth Curry, and built the roster that earned the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference that first season. He gave Joel Embiid a capable backup in Dwight Howard and his only real misstep of the year was whiffing on the George Hill acquisition, which would have given the Sixers that two-way bench player they really needed in the playoffs. And to be fair, most people were on board with the Hill move at the time, so either his thumb was really bothering him or just didn’t find his footing in Philadelphia.

Fast forward to year two and you had the Andre Drummond and Georges Niang signings, which were very good. Niang was hurt in the playoffs and had a brutal run, which was ultimately disappointing. But you have to remember that without Simmons until the trade deadline, Morey created and Doc coached a short-handed team that really played their asses off and stayed near the top of the Eastern Conference.

Which brings us to the Harden trade. We don’t have a tally written down anywhere, but MOST people seemed to be very happy with the Harden move. The prevailing narrative at the time was that the Sixers got rid of a guy who wasn’t playing, brought back a former MVP in return, and kept both young players in Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey. We know now, looking back in hindsight, that it would have been better to move Thybulle and keep one of Curry or Drummond, but it is what it is and you can’t reverse the move now.

Morey was asked about Harden at Friday’s postmortem press conference and didn’t have much to say:

“We’re excited about what he can bring. Obviously, a lot of this came together pretty late. A full offseason, a full training camp, a full time where everyone can learn to unlock how good everyone can be together (would be beneficial). That said I don’t want to minimize, there was a lot of good. Joel and James, Tobias and Maxey that group played very well together. They can play even better. We’re excited about what that can look like in the future.”

At the risk of kicking the can down the road, the Harden move has to be labeled N/A right now, if we’re making a final judgment. We can’t do that on 5/16/22. We have to see what Harden has left in the tank moving forward and if a full offseason and some hamstring healing changes things. Then we hand down our final ruling.

What you can slam Morey for this season is the DeAndre Jordan signing and lack of a big coming in to replace Drummond. It was the second-consecutive mid-season where the team went into the playoffs without something they needed. The lack of being able to find value down the depth chart in the winter has been a thing for both seasons of Morey’s tenure. When other teams were able to go out and find value in the buyout market and/or make those smaller mid-season transactions, Morey has come up short there.

Beyond the big trades and signings, how much credit does Morey get for drafting Tyrese Maxey and Paul Reed? He’s given credit to the rest of the player personnel staff when it comes to scouting and drafting, and these are always tough topics to write about because we never know who truly advocated for what player. It’s like a Howie Roseman and Tom Donahoe thing. Did one guy give player X an A- and the other gave player X a C+? Who was the most vocal and least vocal about a certain person? –

You also have to factor in that Morey did not sign Tobias Harris to a five year deal worth $180 million. Harris has been an above-average player who might have been a 2021 All Star snub, but one of the Sixers’ main salary slots is populated by a hold over. I have no doubt that if Harris wasn’t here, or is moved this summer, that Morey goes out and finds an athletic wing who can really fill a void, and in turn gets more value for the money Tobias is currently making.

If we’re asking ourselves if this roster is perfect, the answer, of course, is no. It’s a slow roster chock full of bench players who can only catch and shoot, which isn’t a bad skill to have, but they were very limited athletically. This team played through the post with Embiid and/or let Harden pick mismatches. Tyrese Maxey really is the only versatile backcourt player on the roster, and Morey knows that. But this roster was also good enough to make the conference finals this year and last year. They were good enough to beat both the Hawks and the Heat, and if we’re assigning blame, Morey gets his share, but he’s just lower on the list.

Oh yeah, one final thing –

There’s this narrative going around that Morey doesn’t get a lot of blame from the Rights to Ricky Sanchez crowd because he was Sam Hinkie’s mentor and benefits from the same sycophantic absolution as the guy who hasn’t been here since 2016. I have no idea if that’s true or not. I do not personally sense that the Hinkie portion of the fanbase creates extra excuses for Morey, though I’m not sure it’s something we’d ever be able to qualify or quantify anyway. If you look at Morey as a forward-thinking guy who is active on Twitter and does NFTs and all of that shit, then maybe the younger portion of Sixers fans have a soft spot for him, but again, gathering hard evidence on that front seems like a feckless exercise. I know on the other end of the spectrum there’s the crotchety WIP crowd that says “I wish Morey would stop fucking around with memes and sign a wing,” but we’re not trying to go to either extreme here. Pragmatism rules the day, or so it should.

 

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