Say this for the Philadelphia 76ers: They love big names. In trying to build a championship roster around its two All-Stars, Philly has chased the splashy acquisition at every turn. Jimmy Butler. Tobias Harris. Al Horford. And now, Doc Rivers, who was reportedly hired Thursday to replace the fired Brett Brown as Philadelphia's new coach.
The hope is the same as it has been with every other Philly move: Throw enough big names into the pot, no matter how well they mix, close your eyes, rub your hands, and hope a championship stew gets cooked up.
The Sixers just can't help themselves. They are stuck on star power. Before Rivers, they were reportedly smitten with Mike D'Antoni. If you're looking for an organization open to going young and fresh, new ideas for a new era, you've come to the wrong place. Philly lives in the past, where bully ball, traditional big men, non-shooting point guards and fancy coaching hires rule the day.
Rivers loves to play pick and roll. The Sixers have nobody who can effectively run that set. The Sixers need somebody to hold their stars accountable, something Rivers reportedly failed to do with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Sixers need better late-game options and someone who will unlock their stagnant offense, but Rivers just got slammed for his lack of fourth-quarter adjustments in a second-round loss to the Nuggets. The Sixers need everyone to start getting along, particularly Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but Rivers is the coach who presided over the constant bickering of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
This sounds like I'm ripping Rivers or saying he was the wrong choice, but I'm not. I'm simply saying the Sixers didn't look past his name, just as they didn't look past Harris' or Horford's name. They didn't look at their team and make a decision as to what fit their personnel best; they just added another big name to the stew.
Maybe it will work, but if ever there were a case to be made that coaches don't really matter in the NBA, that they are all ultimately bound by the players at their disposal, to me, Philadelphia is that case. There's just only so much you can do with this roster. Brett Brown knows this all too well. If Embiid won't fight to establish consistently low post position, if Simmons can't -- or won't -- shoot, well, good luck. Brown had an up-and-coming team with shooters all around Simmons and Embiid in 2018, and Elton Brand gutted the periphery of that roster.
Now the Sixers have no cap space, and no realistically tradable assets anyone wants outside of perhaps Matisse Thybulle. They have arguably the two worst contracts in the league in Horford and Harris on their books for the next three years. They don't have one single knock-down shooter on their team, let alone a stable of them, which is what Simmons and Embiid so obviously need to have even a chance of coexisting anywhere near their respective individual potential.
These are major problems. You can point to the Lakers as an example that a team can still win at the highest level in today's NBA while playing big and without elite shooting anywhere on their roster, but talk to me when LeBron James and Anthony Davis show up in Philly. Simmons and Embiid aren't good enough to overcome these obstacles. Turning them into a championship core is starting to feel like a fool's errand. I don't think there's a coach in the world who can change that right now.
Perhaps either Simmons or Embiid will eventually be traded. Rivers reportedly signed a five-year deal, and my guess is if the Sixers have another disappointing season in 2020-21, he won't be the one to go. Simmons and Embiid are the only two places the Sixers can start to build in a new, more modern direction, because they're the only two Philly assets anyone else wants. It's a lot like James Harden in Houston. Until the Rockets finally give in to trading the one asset they have that anyone else wants, they are left to run it back with a clearly flawed roster.
Rivers is an unquestionably great coach, and I wouldn't say he's as glued to his style as some other older coaches. He's flexible, and in the immediate glow of the latest shiny hire there is the optimism that comes with every "fresh start." It's just, this isn't really a fresh start. I'm just not sure what Rivers can change about the fact that nothing has actually changed in Philadelphia.