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The future is now for the Philadelphia 76ers, according to general manager Elton Brand.
After the Sixers jettisoned four players, including 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick Markelle Fultz, in three deals that brought back five players, Brand said Friday Philadelphia is positioned for an opportunity to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since the 2001 season.
“We believe we are in position to contend now,” Brand told reporters. “And our moves reflect that belief.”
Philadelphia acquired forward Tobias Harris, center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott from the Los Angeles Clippers for its own lottery-protected 2020 first-round draft pick, Miami’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick, Detroit’s second-round choices in 2021 and 2023 and forward Wilson Chandler, forward Mike Muscala and rookie guard Landry Shamet.
Harris was the centerpiece of the deal for the Sixers.
“We had to add a player like that when we had the opportunity,” Brand said of forward, who averaged 20.9 points and shot 43.4 percent from 3-point range for the Clippers.
“We had targeted him as a player we would want if he became available, and we coveted him. We know he fits great into our system and he’ll do well.”
The move to acquire Harris followed the decision three months ago to deal for All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, adding them to the young core of All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
“[Simmons and Embiid] rapidly improved over the last season, so the window is now,” Brand said. “The opportunity is now. So, once I saw that, we discussed taking a shot at it now, because who knows how long that window is going to be open?”
Speaking before Friday night’s game against Denver, Sixers coach Brett Brown backed Brand’s assessment that the 76ers are capable of reaching the NBA Finals. Philadelphia ended a five-year playoff drought last season.
“I think it is,” Brown responded when asked if reaching the Finals is a realistic goal.
“It’s different,” he said, laughing. “But I would feel … I would feel borderline cowardly to not look at you and say yeah, that’s what needs to be the goal. That’s what I’m telling the team. That’s what our goal should be.”
The deal that shipped Fultz to the Orlando Magic brought back forward Jonathon Simmons, Oklahoma City’s protected 2020 first-round draft pick and Cleveland’s 2019 second-round choice.
Fultz played in only 33 games for Philadelphia after battling injuries and a broken jumper.
“We expected him to be back some time this season,” Brand said after being asked about the decision to deal Fultz. “That was our hope. But right now we had a chance to add a player, wing depth, and so we had to go do it now.”
Brand added trying to reincorporate Fultz during a playoff run compared to adding some draft choices after spending heavy draft capital to land Harris were the determining factors in the decision to deal Fultz to the Magic.
“Just where we are in the season, integrating him in a month or so when we are hoping he’d come back in two [or] three weeks, whenever that was,” Brand said. “To add a piece now, get ready for the playoffs and add some assets, a first-round pick and a high second-round pick, it just felt like the time to do it now.”