Three months after Bryan Colangelo resigned amidst one of the strangest scandals in recent NBA history, the Sixers have finally named a formal replacement. Elton Brand, just two years removed from retiring as a player for the Sixers, will be named the team’s General Manager on Thursday afternoon.
Brand is a bit of an outside-the-box candidate, mostly because of how recently he was on the court. After retiring as a player in 2016, he returned the to 76ers as a player development consultant. Less than a year later, he was named GM of the Delaware Blue Coats, the team’s G-League Affiliate. Now, he’s been promoted to the big club.
Brand’s playing career, unlike his front office resume, was much longer. In 17 seasons, he averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.7 blocks. Coming off four straight seasons in which he scored 20+ points per game, the Sixers made him their prized free agent acquisition in 2008. Injuries and age began to catch up with Brand, and he wasn’t able to replicate the individual success that he enjoyed in Los Angeles (but in 2012, he did make it the 2nd round of the playoffs).
Brand now has a legitimate challenge in front of him. Last season, the Sixers made a huge leap from the depths of the league to the edge of the very best. They are now tasked with becoming even better, a task made harder after missing out on a third star in free agency this summer. The team’s growth will depend on a lot of variables; Markelle Fultz’s jumpshot, Embiid and Simmons’ improvment as players, and Brett Brown’s growth as an in-game coach.
However, many of those are pre-determined hurdles. Embiid and Brown recently signed extensions, and parting ways with a number one overall pick hardly seems wise. For better or worse, the Sixers are stuck with those variables. Brand’s job, at least in the short term, is to manage the less certain; handing out extensions, drafting well, and attracting outside talent to supplement the team’s foundation. Is TJ McConnell worth re-signing? Is Robert Covington a long term part of this roster, or a valuable trade chip? When Dario Saric’s pay day comes (and believe me, it will) can the team afford to keep him? Brand’s ability as a GM will be judged by how he navigates these crucial next few years.