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July 02, 2024

What they're saying: Paul George is a perfect fit, but is it enough?

The Sixers made the boldest of moves to start their offseason. Will Paul George be the missing piece for playoff success?

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Paul-George-Sixers_070224_USAT Kiyoshi Mio/USA Today Sports

Paul George's era in Philly has begun.

There doesn't seem to be much disagreement over whether the Sixers did the right thing very late Sunday night, when they inked nine-time All-Star Paul George to a rich four-year max contract.

But there is some serious context for the signing: The Sixers have Joel Embiid as one of the NBA's best players in his prime and another ascending star in Tyrese Maxey. Neither has ever sniffed a playoff game past the second round. 

George brings with him a unique talent and also three conference finals appearances (all losses). Will this finally be the iteration of the Sixers to help Embiid reach the promised land? Here's a look at what some of the NBA's leading outlets are saying about the signing, and the potential for the Sixers in 2024-25:

The sales pitch

Ramona Shelburne | ESPN

The Sixers, when they were negotiating trade terms for James Harden at the NBA trade deadline last year, asked the Clippers for Paul George and were denied. They settled for a package of role players centered on Nic Batum, Robert Covington and others. Obviously, the team's front office had some sort of belief that George might still become available this offseason — and he did — and instead of being able to force his hand via a trade, Philly would need to make a convincing argument to George to leave his hometown, and his buddy Kawhi Leonard, to play for the Sixers. 

According to Ramona Shelburne, it was the star of the last team to win a title with the 76ers who may have made the argument that got George to sign.

Now it's George's turn to try to help the Sixers and Embiid win. And the Sixers' turn to help George win, after he didn't in Indiana, Oklahoma City and LA.

In Philly, they like to say "Trust the Process," a nickname Embiid has fully embraced, too. But when they met with George on Sunday night -- just a few weeks after Embiid gave George a side-eyed smile on "NBA Countdown" before Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Dallas -- the Sixers said something else.

They told him they believed in him and what he could do for their team.

Dr. J told George how much he enjoyed playing in Philly, and how important it was for him when the team traded for Moses Malone, a move that led to a championship in 1983. The franchise has been waiting for another one ever since.

Then, they all thanked Paul George, again, for waiting. [ESPN]

Plan 'A'

Michael Pina | The Ringer

It's no secret that Sixers' GM Daryl Morey is a planner — and he likely had a ton of ideas on how to attack this critical offseason. But he didn't really need to progress past his first option, bringing George to Philly. The fit couldn't be better for Embiid and Maxey, and that's something to truly be excited about for Sixers fans.

Wrote Michael Pina:

Not to bury the lede, but George will be the most compatible teammate Embiid has ever had. And no disrespect to Jimmy Butler, but George might also be the most talented. There’s no style of play that can make him look awkward. He’s offensively versatile, defends multiple positions without help, and, when not asked to do everything at all times—which won’t happen in the playoffs if/when Embiid is healthy enough to play—has no relevant weakness to his skill set.

George is a go-to crunch-time option who can create shots for himself and others, too, whether demanding double-teams in the post or drilling pull-up 3s on an island. His true shooting in the clutch last season was 71.6 percent, one of the highest marks with a legitimate volume in the league. [The Ringer]

Perfectly imperfect

Sam Amick | The Athletic

The perfect fit is great, but for the Sixers to win in this new era, the chemistry has to work. It's interesting to note that Philly really had no choice but to go all in for George, and perhaps it was luck and not some masterplan from Morey that led to them having one last chance for Embiid to make a championship run. 

Wrote Sam Amick:

It’s imperfect, to be sure. But unless they were going to put Embiid on the market, it was the best move available on the board. The Celtics had proved their worth on the NBA Finals stage. The Knicks made their move by adding Mikal Bridges. The Cavs are expected to re-sign Donovan Mitchell and keep building. The Bucks should be better in Year 2 with Damian Lillard. The Magic are coming. The list goes on, and Philly simply had to find a way to respond.

But with George in tow, Embiid and his Sixers are “Still Up” after all. And still alive in the Eastern Conference race. [The Athletic]

Big 3s are dead

Tom Haberstroh | Yahoo!

The Sixers have their trio, and the team immediately vaulted up toward the top of the NBA title odds, behind the Celtics and Nuggets, after they solidified their core. But are the Sixers team building in an era from the past? 

Tom Haberstroh wonders:

But the last two teams to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy — the 2022-23 Denver Nuggets and the 2023-24 Boston Celtics — were built upon the belief that the Big 3 era is dead. Welcome to the era of the Big 5.

More so than ever, the NBA has become a war of attrition, with injuries dictating postseason outcomes. And to survive it, you can’t have all of the team’s hopes hinging on just three players. [Yahoo!

The idea of the Sixers keeping two superstars with huge injury charts healthy in their 30s could be a pipe dream.

What's next?

Gina Mizell | Philadelphia Inquirer

The Sixers don't have a full roster yet — not even close. And so their next priority will probably be moving Paul Reed to bring in some sort of role player or fringe starter with the $15 million they can acquire for him. After that, well, they will need a few things on the open market. 

Like a power forward and a reserve point guard, as Gina Mizell points out:

These are the clear positional priorities that need to be accounted for somehow, following the departures of Harris, Batum, and Melton and with uncertainty remaining about Lowry’s and Payne’s futures. Rebounding, along with complementary ballhandling and playmaking, are skills the Sixers still need.

If not satisfied through the above categories, some cheaper options at both spots are, coincidentally, familiar names.

At forward, what about Dario Saric, Marcus Morris Sr., or Haywood Highsmith? (One name without Sixers ties: Kyle Anderson.)

And at guard, what about Seth Curry? [Inquirer]

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