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October 01, 2023

Sixers miss out on Jrue Holiday as uninspiring offseason continues

The Sixers' competition in the Eastern Conference continues to improve around them.

Days after watching a fellow Eastern Conference contender in the Milwaukee Bucks nail the home run swing for Damian Lillard, the Boston Celtics made their own big splash by acquiring Jrue Holiday from the Portland Trail Blazers. In exchange for Holiday, Portland received Robert Williams III, Malcolm Brogdon, the Golden State Warriors’ 2024 first-round pick and Boston’s 2029 first, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

From the moment Holiday was involved in the move that sent Lillard to Milwaukee, it was clear he wouldn’t stay put, with numerous contenders interested in trading for the veteran All-Star. Among those teams were the Philadelphia 76ers, which have now sat idle as both the Celtics and Bucks negotiated major upgrades this week.

Philadelphia only holsters one future first to deal. The cleanest path to landing the means to send out two, which the Blazers garnered from Boston, was to facilitate a three-team deal involving James Harden and the Los Angeles Clippers -- something Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports reported was unlikely to transpire.

The Clippers were also a suitor in the Holiday sweepstakes, so their absence narrows the options for an alternative to Harden that satiates their desire for a guard. But they’ve been linked to Brogdon previously and can easily match his $22.5 million salary with the likes of Marcus Morris Sr., Amir Coffey and Brandon Boston Jr. Toss in a first-round pick and that’s probably enough to entice Portland, while putting Philadelphia and Harden in a rather difficult position moving forward. If that occurs, I’d wager the Miami Heat emerge as the spot for Harden after their summer-long pursuit of Lillard went awry.

More obviously, the Sixers continue to fall further behind in the race to the top of the East. Boston rearranged its roster by bringing in Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis. Milwaukee went from Holiday to Lillard. The biggest arrival for the Sixers is either Patrick Beverley or Kelly Oubre Jr. The gap in quality is immense. 

Philadelphia’s summer of stagnation (or regression) ties back to Daryl Morey’s decision to trade for Harden 1.5 years ago. It’s a primary component driving their dearth of moveable first-round picks and hamstringing their ability to be vocal players in deals like the ones the Celtics and Bucks recently completed. 

Morey bet on Harden to guide the Sixers over the hump. It’s had the opposite effect. Holiday to Boston is simply another example of that fact.

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