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Philadelphia 76ers bubble exit interview: Much to ponder after sweep

The Sixers leave the NBA bubble in Orlando after an upsetting, but not surprising, sweep by the Celtics. We look ahead to some offseason decisions Philly must make.

Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers look on during a game against the Indiana Pacers on August 1, 2020 at Visa Athletic Center at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida.  Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers wave goodbye to the NBA bubble in Orlando after being swept by the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon. It was a disappointing finish to a season that will be shrouded by “What ifs” for a Sixers team once thought of as a title contender. The Sixers entered the bubble with high hopes and will exit with hope that maybe things will turn around this offseason. Let’s take a look at why things ended and what can be done.

Philadelphia 76ers exit interview

Who is to blame for the no-show vs. the Celtics?

At first, you’d point the finger at head coach Brett Brown for making some questionable decisions in Round 1. The first game of the series, the Sixers couldn’t get the ball to Joel Embiid enough. The second game Brown tried to fix that by playing Raul Neto 15 more playoff minutes than he should have. After going down in a 2-0 hole, there wasn’t much Brown could do to fix things. He wasn’t exactly working with much but also didn’t help himself. The Sixers weren’t expected to win but also weren’t expected to get swept this easily.

Many will say, “Oh, well if the Sixers had Ben Simmons, the series would be different ...” Yeah, no shit. Of course it would have been. That’s a cop out in my eyes, though. The Sixers had enough to at least take a game or two from Boston. They just limped through the seeding round after losing Simmons early and never recovered. Again, this should land on Embiid and Brown as leaders of the team. I’m not going to sit here and call Embiid a bad leader. Philly also has seasoned veterans in Al Horford and Tobias Harris who didn’t do much to win basketball games in July and August. In short, blame everybody.

What’s the first move of the offseason?

Find a point guard or some shooting, please. The Sixers have the No. 21 pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. They desperately need to find a guard who can A) run an offense or B) shoot the lights out from 3. It isn’t a deep draft, but there are guards who will be available in this range.

Perhaps if Josh Green or Nico Mannion are around, either Arizona guard could help Philly. The best case would be landing Cole Anthony or RJ Hampton if they happen to fall down the board. If the Sixers don’t do something drastic this offseason, their front court is pretty solidified. You can’t go into next season with Josh Richardson, Ben Simmons, Shake Milton and Zhaire Smith as the back court rotation. But let’s address the elephant in the room now.

Should the Sixers trade either Simmons or Embiid?

My answer is a resounding yes. I don’t know how much value either of them will have on the open market. You’d think the Sixers could get a pretty decent package for either player. Simmons is 24 and is signed on the max through 2025. Embiid is also on a max deal through 2023 and is only 26. Both have injury concerns. Both are All-Stars. Both can’t seem to co-exist on a contending team. Or can they? Is that even the problem? It might not be but we’ll get to that later.

So let’s say you keep the franchise center because those don’t grow on trees. You try and ship Simmons off to a team on the cusp of contending with cap space. Or maybe a contender can already make some things work and strike a deal for Simmons. Embiid may be easier to move with fewer years on his deal, however.

Honestly, now that I think about it, would the Spurs make a run for Simmons? They’ve got a breadth of guards in Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson. The Spurs have cap space and flexibility with DeMar DeRozan sporting a player option for next season. LaMarcus Aldridge will be an expiring one the calendar flips. I feel like the Spurs wouldn’t mind taking on Horford or Harris if it means adding Simmons or Embiid. Gregg Popovich can get the most out of Simmons ideally. We saw the type of transformation DeRozan had under Pop — going from a volume shooter to a unselfish player. Just a thought.

Do you fire Brett Brown?

Update: The Sixers are expected to part ways with Brown, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Ahhhh, duh. Let’s move on. No, but really, Brown needs to go. He’s the reason the Sixers didn’t keep Jimmy Butler, apparently. The Harris and Horford contracts are miserable. I think the Sixers hit the reset, try and recoup some assets for either Embiid or Simmons and bring in a new coach to start fresh. Your title window was never really open if you’re the Sixers. You were never going to beat the Lakers, the Clippers, the Bucks, the Raptors, I mean, you can’t even beat the Celtics (nothing against Boston).

Brown is more of a sacrificial lamb for the Sixers to move on. Sort of like how Sam Hinkie died for their sins (he didn’t actually die, he got fired before anyone could realize how much of a genius he is). I don’t think Brown deserves to be fired, honestly, but he can’t stay after all this. Philly just can’t ride out this roster for the next like 4-5 seasons and perpetually lose in the first or second round. You always gotta take a step back or to the side before moving forward in the NBA.