February 10, 2023
Without throwing Matisse Thybulle completely under the bus, Daryl Morey indicated on Friday that trading him in a deal that returned Jalen McDaniels was about a simple thought process.
"We wanted to make sure we gave Doc [Rivers] as many two-way players as possible," Morey said Friday, "and we think Jalen is one of the up-and-coming solid defenders and gives [us] somebody that's a little easier to keep on the floor in a lot of matchups."
"Just easier to keep him on the floor. I think it's pretty straightforward. If you're making it harder for the team on offense, I think it makes it harder to keep you on the floor defensively."
This was the crux of the debate over Thybulle during most of his last two seasons in Philadelphia. As an organization, the Sixers had a much higher profile version of the same problem with Ben Simmons, attempting to figure out a path to a title with a point guard who refused to shoot beyond the paint. For Thybulle, the stakes were lower, but many of the side effects were the same.
Internally, Philadelphia was happy to see Thybulle go through positive shooting stretches but remained skeptical of the idea that teams would care about that in the playoffs, or that Thybulle would remain a willing shooter when it mattered. The distrust in his shooting was juxtaposed with lineup numbers that suggested Thybulle was one of their most impactful players on a per-minute basis. Ultimately, the debate tilted in favor of the shooting skepticism.
It's fair to point out that McDaniels has not had a great year shooting the basketball in Charlotte, though his overall skill set on offense is superior, and the Sixers believe that there are enough positive indicators (including good shooting years in the past) to bet on him to improve while in Philadelphia.
"We spend a lot of time figuring out which players will in a different environment shoot better, we feel comfortable," Morey said. "We don't really stress about high 30s, low 30s, stuff like that. We look at their mix of shots, how open they are, and how well they do if an average player got that same mix of shots. And Jalen looks like, especially given his defensive prowess, he'll be a solid shooter in this league."
The McDaniels trade is easy enough to justify on paper, with Philadelphia getting an extra pick and a bigger, ever-so-slightly younger player in exchange for Thybulle, one they trust more to hold up when it matters. There are certainly drawbacks — McDaniels is an unrestricted free agent this summer, for example, and while the Sixers have his Bird rights because of the deal, they don't have the matching capability as they would have for Thybulle. If McDaniels doesn't like it here for whatever reason, he's capable of walking right out the door.
There are other, more pressing concerns lingering for Philadelphia. The Sixers were interested in picking up another big man at the deadline and kicked the tires on multiple options, but couldn't (or wouldn't) get a deal done for a center ahead of Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline.
"We looked at all our needs and tried to look for upgrades wherever we could," Morey said. "We made the move that we thought was the best available. We looked at everything, this was the best move."
"I think we have a lot of versatility with the lineup. Doc does a very good job figuring it out, I think people just to be frank, I think what most people worry about is when Joel is off, how are we going to play when Joel is off? I think we're going to improve that, that hasn't been as good as we want it to be."
Swapping Thybulle for McDaniels was noteworthy in that it moved Philadelphia under the luxury tax line, which had been a big point of discussion in the month leading to the deadline. Morey was asked directly whether the trade was more about an attempt to get under the tax vs. upgrading the team, and he seemed to split the difference.
"The focus was just make the team better, we feel like we did that," Morey said. "I think as part of my job, I have to look at the bigger picture, and we have a lot of guys we're going to re-sign. The moves we did both improve the team now and make it easier to keep this team together going forward."
Morey did go on to mention that the change in salary provides them with an opportunity to pursue "multiple buyouts" if they're able to lure players to join Embiid and Harden. Signing two different players would require cutting someone on the current roster, however, which doesn't feel especially likely.
Down multiple picks due to tampering charges last offseason, and light on other assets as a result of wheeling and dealing that brought them to this point, the Sixers had a relatively quiet deadline during a week where a lot of contenders continued to tweak the roster. This had been the expectation coming into this week, and Philadelphia fans find themselves in a familiar position, monitoring the buyout market in the hope that someone good will join the roster before the season's end.
As that market takes shape, McDaniels is the piece of hope they'll have to hold onto. Whenever he finally suits up for the Sixers, Morey believes he can be an impact player.
"I think he's got starter potential. We'd like to obviously have him have a great run, help us win a championship this year, and then re-sign him," Morey said Friday. "I think he's someone, given his size, athleticism, he has everything we need, someone we can build around going forward."
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