James Harden? Jrue Holiday? What Daryl Morey will have to weigh if he hunts for stars

Noah Levick
·3 min read

Harden? Holiday? What Morey will have to weigh if he hunts for stars originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Over two turbulent years later, it’s difficult to forget Brett Brown’s explanation for the Sixers’ draft-night trade to give away Mikal Bridges and acquire Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first-round pick.

“We are star hunting, or we are star developing,” Brown said. “That’s how you win a championship.”

Brown is no longer the Sixers’ interim GM, as he was that evening, and he’s not the head coach either. Doc Rivers is now charged with coaching whatever talent the Sixers’ new president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, puts on his roster. And Morey is known to share Brown’s view about hunting stars. 

Already, just days after his introductory press conference, it’s natural to see a report or a rumor involving a big name and figure there’s a chance Morey is in the picture, or at least sniffing around. Is the James Harden buzz realistic, despite multiple reports indicating the Rockets have no interest in trading the NBA’s top scorer? Might the Sixers make a play for Jrue Holiday, whom Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reports “several contending teams are pursuing”? Could they be in the mix for Victor Oladipo? Chris Paul?

Many of these hypotheticals sound like fantasy, and some of them surely are. The Sixers don’t have a sparkling supply of potential trade assets besides Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Tobias Harris and Al Horford’s hefty contracts are unattractive, especially in the wake of a season in which neither could help the Sixers manage a single playoff win. 

There are, however, plenty of possibilities for Morey. Josh Richardson, a solid 27-year-old player who can help a team on both ends of the floor, could bolster a trade package. Matisse Thybulle and Shake Milton are promising young players. And, with the Sixers owning five draft picks, the most in the NBA, perhaps a high second-round selection or two could seal a trade. 

Especially for a player of Harden’s caliber, it’s difficult to envision a feasible trade that wouldn’t require the Sixers to part with a star. If the Sixers were to trade away Simmons and additional pieces for Harden, as an example, both their options and their window would narrow. If you trade a 24-year-old All-Star for a 31-year-old, you can ill afford to lose the deal. 

Morey’s private actions will generally matter more than his public remarks, but it was interesting to hear how positive he was about the Sixers’ roster on Monday. If he’d chosen to praise Embiid and Simmons a bit, laud Rivers and admit that the Sixers are a project, it wouldn’t have been scandalous or inaccurate. 

“I think we all feel very good about the roster and the fact that, with a healthy Joel and a Ben Simmons and a group that Doc is coaching, we feel people are underrating the Sixers right now,” he said. “But we need to go out there and prove it.” 

Since the Sixers are a flawed team, a lot of these star names will make sense as players who could address weaknesses. Holiday hasn’t made an All-Star team since his last year with the Sixers, but he’s a strong two-way player who could facilitate easier half-court offense and smother opposing lead guards. Paul is masterful in the pick-and-roll and a well-respected leader. Harden is excellent at drawing free throws, taking and making threes and most other things offensively. 

Morey will hunt for stars — or at least probe — and he’s more qualified than a coach thrust into an interim GM role after a surreal scandal to acquire them. That doesn’t mean this offseason will necessarily be the right time to pounce. 

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