The Philadelphia 76ers have ended their coaching search, swiftly hiring Doc Rivers, just three days after he parted ways with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Several big-name coaches were on the 76ers radar, including Mike D'Antoni, Billy Donovan, and Ty Lue, Rivers' assistant in LA, but the 76ers didn't waste any time signing Rivers once he became available.
Rivers enters Philadelphia with a roster that while talented on paper, has struggled to live up to their promise, however with two franchise cornerstones in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, 76ers fans have every reason to be optimistic about Rivers' ability to get the best out of the young dynamic duo.
General Manager Elton Brand is committed to making moves around the pair, and with Embiid (26 years old) and Simmons (24) both under contract long-term, the organisation rightfully wants to see what a new head coach can do with the All-Star combo.
"I'm not looking to trade Ben or Joel," Brand said following their first round playoff exit at the hands of the Boston Celtics. "I'm looking to complement them better. They are 24 and 26 years old, respectively. You try to make that fit as long as you can. They want to be here, they want to be with our organization and I see them here for a long, long time."
Rivers is widely regarded as a favourite among players and brings championship experience to a locker room looking to assert themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference - arguably most importantly, he's a big fan of the foundation of Simmons and Embiid.
Earlier this season in February, the 76ers beat Rivers' Clippers 110-103 in a game where the duo led the way. Simmons posted a triple-double of 26 points, 10 assists, and 12 rebounds, while Embiid added 26 points and nine rebounds, leading to some glowing praise from Rivers post-game.
"Embiid is a better scorer obviously, but Simmons has the ball," Rivers said.
"He's more like Magic, I guess, Magic and Kareem in some ways. Where Magic had the ball and he was creating and getting everybody involved and then you get the ball to Kareem and he scores. Embiid is tough because he can do both, stretch 5's are very difficult, he's a post 5 that can stretch 5. Those guys are tough as well."
Hear from new @sixers Coach Doc Rivers comparing Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to Magic Johnson and Kareem!#Sixers pic.twitter.com/FbQ0evLhMQ- CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) October 1, 2020
Sure, the Magic-Kareem comparison is lofty praise, but Rivers will largely be judged on his success in getting the two talented players to perform in unison.
Will that mean more threes for Embiid, a career 31.9% shooter from deep?
Former 76ers coach Brett Brown previously spoke of wanting to use Simmons in a similar vein to Blake Griffin on the Clippers, getting him to operate more out of the post or as a screener in the pick-and-roll and now with Rivers on deck, who better to try and help Simmons replicate that style of play in stretches, which coincided with some of Griffin's best basketball of his career.
Their fortunes won't just lay in the hands of Simmons and Embiid, given a lot of the team's issues stem from a lack of perimeter shooting, which will go a long way to opening up the court for two players who like to operate in similar areas.
Just take a look at how things have changed for the duo over the past three seasons (via ESPN's The Jump):
The 2017-18 roster, which saw the 76ers go 52-30 in the regular season, good for third in the Eastern Conference, was rich with shooting talent, including Robert Covington, Dario Saric, JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova and T.J. McConnell, each of whom shot at least 36% from the 3-point line.
Rivers' best bet is surrounding the pair with replicate shooting talent, but he also brings with him something the 76ers have been searching for - finding the best way to utilise Tobias Harris, who the organisation has also committed to long-term.
Rivers coached Harris for 87 games between 2017-2019 as a member of the Clippers, the most productive stretch of his career, which saw him average 20.3 points and 7.2 rebounds on 42.6% from the 3-point line.
It's unclear where Al Horford fits into all of this, but a trio of Simmons-Embiid-Harris, surrounded by shooters is a great place to start.
Rivers is by no means going to revolutionise the 76ers offence in a way that a coach like Mike D'Antoni would, but he brings with him a calm that the 76ers have been searching for. Between an injury-disrupted season, constant trade rumours and a first round playoff exit, Rivers' penchant for getting through to players and playing to their strengths, might well be just what Philly needs right now.
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