Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Sixers’ future is now

Posted by Eric Fisher On February 6

Elton Brand isn’t content to wait for the future.

For the first-year general manager and the 76ers, the future is now.

Brand, who made a major move earlier this season by bringing in Jimmy Butler as a third star, shook up the Sixers and the NBA again late Tuesday night by completing a multi-player deal that brings forward Tobias Harris to the Sixers.

Included in the package the Sixers sent to the Clippers were rookie guard Landry Shamet, whom they selected 26th in the 2018 NBA Draft, two future first-round draft picks and two future second-round draft picks. Meanwhile, Butler and Harris can become unrestricted free agents after this season, as can center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott, who can become unrestricted free agents after this season.

Trading future assets for players who might be gone after one season is the type of move usually made by teams with veteran stars who might not have many more opportunities at a championship. But that’s not the makeup of the Sixers.

The Sixers are built around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, young stars who are still developing their already-impressive games. The fact that Simmons is both an all-star and a participant in the Rising Stars Challenge – and that Embiid achieved the same distinction last season – tells you all you need to know about the combination of youth and talent at the core of the Sixers’ foundation.

Instead of building toward a championship a few years into the future, however, Brand is chasing it now. Butler was the third star the Sixers sought in free agency last summer (and then hoped former No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz would fill that role once the season began). Harris is the reliable shooter the Sixers had hoped to find.

It’s likely that Harris’ scoring average will decline from the 20.9 average he had with the Clippers, but only because the Sixers have more players to share the scoring load. With Harris, JJ Redick and Butler legitimate threats from 3-point range, it should create more space in which Embiid and Simmons can operate. If defenses collapse on Embiid or to cut off Simmons’ driving lanes, the ball can be kicked out to one of the 3-point threats.

There are still questions about the Sixers’ bench. The 7-foot-3-inch, 290-pound Marjanovic could provide Embiid with some relief. Scott may also find a role in the rotation. But the Sixers still don’t have much scoring coming off their bench. On the other hand, the starting five might be the best in the Eastern Conference.

With a starting lineup consisting of Embiid, Simmons, Butler, Harris and Redick, the Sixers are legitimate contenders to reach the NBA Finals. Some might even proclaim them the favorites to reach the finals.

Can the Sixers re-sign both Butler and Harris? That could be difficult. But the offseason isn’t Brand’s primary concern. It’s clear that his chief concern is contending for a championship this season.

Is Brand taking a risk? In some ways, he is. If the Sixers don’t re-sign Butler and Harris, this could be a one-and-done opportunity with this lineup. Redick could also become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

But Brand didn’t give away the farm in a desperate attempt to win this season. Dario Saric and Robert Covington, sent to the Timberwolves in the Butler trade, were valuable players, and the Sixers certainly didn’t want to part with Shamet and the two first-round draft picks. But with Embiid and Simmons as their cornerstones, the Sixers should be contenders for at least the next decade.

While former general manager Sam Hinkie stockpiled assets, it seemed as if the future would never arrive.

With Brand at the helm, it seems as if the future can’t wait – or, more fittingly, the Sixers won’t wait for the future.

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