De’Anthony Melton becomes a Sixer.
However, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey failed to acknowledge that at his post-NBA draft press conference at the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey. With the Sixers’ exchange for Melton not finalized by the league, Morey made an early attempt to tackle the deal, while also claiming, if anyone wanted to check the tape, that he had nothing specific up his sleeve.
“We’re trying to win now,” Morey said. “We are looking for players who can contribute. Two years ago we were number 1 in the defense. Last year we were good. We want to make sure we improve that. So if we can get a perimeter defender, maybe for a draft pick, we’d feel good about that. I think such a person is someone who can really contribute and be a two-way player. Such a person would be a very nice asset.”
The hypothetical player in question just happens to exist in the form of Melton, who celebrated his 24th birthday last month.
Morey also suggested that the Sixers view Melton’s youth and contract positively. Melton must pay $16.25 million over the next two years (as long as he is not waived by July 3, 2023). With Joel Embiid in his prime, the Sixers are looking to maximize those seasons.
“I like having a mix of vets and young guys pushing the vets,” Morey said. “So I think we value concept picks quite highly. … Look, it’s really valuable when you give up a pick, but we’re kind of in what we think is a really important window.
“Of course we didn’t get as far as we would have liked. So we are looking for more ‘win now’. If we could maybe get someone earlier in their career but who is already contributing (who) could be here a long time ago, that would be great too.
When asked to look ahead, Morey was again cautious about potentially crossing lines. But he remained consistent in his public posts about James Harden’s contractual situation.
The 10-time All-Star has a $47.4 million player option for next season.
“Well, we can’t talk yet,” Morey said. ‘I would expect… actually I don’t know. We’re going to talk to him. As you’ve heard, it’s a mutual love affair, so we feel like we’ll work it out.”
Morey spoke more freely about the approach of the Sixers behind Embiid.
The team added two big men late in the second round of last year’s draft, with Filip Petrušev 50th and Charles Bassey 53rd. Barring theoretical small-ball options like Georges Niang and Tobias Harris, the Sixers now have two centers on their roster behind Embiid. And Paul Reed is the oldest at 23 years old. Petrusev, according to Morey, will play for the Sixers in the summer league after a season with Anadolu Efes in Turkey, but it is clearly not certain that he will have a future in Philadelphia.
“I know (head coach Doc Rivers) is very excited about what Paul Reed has given us,” said Morey. “And in general guys don’t really contribute much in their freshman year. … It’s a long shot at a great, winning team like ours, but the hope is that Bassey can contribute at some point this year. Paul will hopefully build on what he did at the end of last year.
“Again, we’re going to be opportunistic with a bigger spend in free agency. There will be opportunistic looks at minimal spending. But I think the bar will be set high for minimal spending at the backup center site because we feel like we have a few guys who can contribute.”
Though limited in the details he could reveal, perhaps “contribute” was a telling word for Morey.
And while it wouldn’t have made strategic sense to discuss the Sixers’ hopes of free choice with complete candor — aall questions about PJ Tucker would have been immediately distracted, for example – Morey’s present-oriented attitude was undoubtedly sincere.
“Look, (managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer) are going to let us spend everything we need,” he said. “The CBA limits us in certain ways; sometimes you don’t get everyone you want. But we think we can map it out as best we can with quite a few options – maybe eight to 12 that we think can contribute and possibly within the reach of what we get to do – we feel pretty good that we could get someone who will contribute and be in our playoff rotation.”