76ers president Daryl Morey has big plans to build NBA title team around Embiid and Maxey

Mon, May 6, 2024
NBA News (AP)

76ers president Daryl Morey has big plans to build NBA title team around Embiid and Maxey

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) - Say goodbye to the 76ers.

No, not Joel Embiid. Tyrese Maxey is sticking around, too. Nick Nurse seems like a perfect long-term fit as coach.

But for the rest of the Sixers? It's time to pretty much wish them well, with just about the entire team - players such as Kelly Oubre Jr., Kyle Lowry and Nic Batum - ending the season with an expired contract.

Team president Daryl Morey this summer has about $65 million in salary cap space, a first-round draft pick, a max contract to offer to Maxey and plenty of questions to solve on how to finally, truly build an NBA championship contender around Embiid.

"We're not going to have continuity," Morey said Monday at the 76ers' headquarters in New Jersey. "We'll have continuity with our stars and our head coach but we're going to have a lot of changes this season."

The Sixers first-round exit against the Knicks made it 41 years since their last NBA championship. The Sixers haven't even advanced out of the second round since 2001. It's time to start over - this time with a championship chase, not a Process.

"We're focused on Joel and Tyrese and we're focused on now," Morey said.

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FREE AGENCY

The 76ers have money to spend. But will they aim high for an aging player such as Paul George? What about a wild-card play at LeBron James?

James and George would have to decline player options to hit the market. Nurse won a championship in Toronto with Pascal Siakam and was an assistant coach with the Raptors when DeMar DeRozan was on the team. Both players are free agents and could be a nice fit in Philly.

"You have to factor in the age," Morey said. "We feel like we're in the window where we have to win now. We're mostly focused on getting the best players that fit with Joel and Tyrese."

THE NEED FOR EMBIID

Embiid will be an old 30 next season and expecting the All-Star center to miss a significant chunk of playing time because of injuries is an unfortunate rite of the season for the Sixers.

Embiid has never played more than 68 games in a season and was limited to only 39 this season in large part because of knee surgery. The 76ers finished 31-8 in the regular season with Embiid - about a 65-win pace - and a woeful 16-27 without him.

"I feel like I could have done a better job with the players so that we were in a better spot to win without him," Morey said. "That said, we do spend 90% of the time figuring out how to win the title with him. It can't be a big focus, how we play without him. We know that team can't win a championship. It's really, how do we manage through it better? I felt like, on me, the depth wasn't quite there when he was out to win at the level we wanted to win at."

While the Sixers and their fans might wish Embiid would take a summer off to rest up, he is set to play for USA Basketball at the Paris Olympics. The 76ers won't stand in Embiid's way.

"It's a dream of his to represent the United State in the Olympics," Morey said. "I think it's important to support the dreams of your best player."

DRAFT SUCCESS

With the Sixers in win-now mode, a string of solid seasons usually has them drafting toward the mid to late first round. Maxey in 2020 was the last draft pick who made any kind of impact. The 76ers are scheduled to pick 16th overall and hold the 41st overall pick in the second round. While the draft quality has been knocked for having little depth, Morey said he's fine with staying at 16.

Well, if he stays at 16.

"We don't really focus on the draft for help now," Morey said. "I do really love 16. The storylines have been that the draft is worse. I don't see that at all. I'm very excited at who's at 16. That said, as you might expect, we have all options on the table. Trade into the future so we keep more picks available for future trades."

MAX-EY CONTRACT

Maxey's career skyrocketed this season with his first All-Star berth, the NBA's Most Improved Player award, and a season-extending 46-point effort in a Game 5 win in New York.

"We should all learn not to bet against Tyrese," Morey said.

He is a restricted free agent, meaning the 76ers could match any offer extended to the personable guard. Maxey is eligible to get a five-year, $205 million contract.

"A year ago, if we had polled everyone in the media or the GMs, it wouldn't have been unanimous that Tyrese could take that step forward that we hoped he could," Morey said.

FINAL WORD

"This offseason's a big one," Morey said. "I owe it to the fans, to ownership, to everybody, to get this team in a place where we're competing for championships. We obviously didn't achieve it this year."

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

DAN GELSTON Gelston is an an Associated Press sports writer covering major college and pro sports in Philadelphia, including the 76ers, Flyers, Eagles, Phillies and Villanova. twitter mailto "
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