NBA rumors: Does interest in Mike D’Antoni signal blockbuster trade for 76ers?

By Vincent Frank
Sep 8, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni reacts during the first half of game three in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers at AdventHealth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sport

When the Philadelphia 76ers moved on from head coach Brett Brown last month following a disastrous playoff performance, certain candidates were bandied about as a potential replacement.

One of those candidates, now-former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, just didn’t seem to be a great fit.

Despite D’Antoni’s success in Houston, his seven-seconds or less offense doesn’t seem to be great fit in Philadelphia given the core group of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The lack of three-point shooting on the current iteration of these Sixers adds to that.

That’s why the following news is pretty darn surprising.

Mike D’Antoni front runner to be Sixers next head coach

“Sources have confirmed the team will interview the former Houston Rockets coach in the coming days. One source said the interview could come as early Wednesday. However, Sixers sources denied D’Antoni would interview that day,” Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “Asked if he would interview Thursday, sources said the dates of interviews have yet to be determined.”

It’s not a surprise that Philadelphia is going after the big-name on the coaching circuit. General manager Elton Brand seems to be seeking out experienced candidates. D’Antoni, 69, has 17 seasons of head-coaching experience in the NBA.

Instead, it’s all about the fit. Heck, D’Antoni didn’t even utilize a true center last season after Houston traded Clint Capela in February. The head coach’s two seasons as the Los Angeles Lakers front man included Dwight Howard’s forgettable 2012-13 campaign.

The one exception here is the success Amar’e Stoudemire enjoyed with D’Antoni as his head coach in Phoenix. Even then, there has to be a concern over the fit with Joel Embiid. That leads me to the overriding point of this column.

Does the Sixers’ interest in Mike D’Antoni suggest a blockbuster trade could be coming?

  • Reports following Philadelphia’s down 2019-20 season concluded that the team was not going to move on from either Embiid or Ben Simmons. That might now be thrown out the window.
  • I previously suggested that trading Ben Simmons made more sense than moving on from Embiid. That’s primarily because Simmons could net more in a trade.
  • If D’Antoni is hired, this would no longer be the case. Moving Embiid for a perimeter piece and other chips would make the most sense.
  • While Embiid is a better player than Clint Capela, the latter’s struggles under D’Antoni can’t be lost in this. Neither can the isuses we saw with Dwight Howard under the head coach.

Potential Joel Embiid blockbuster trade

  • One potential trade stands out the most. It’s also been bandied about a lot. Philadelphia sends Embiid to the Golden State Warriors for Andrew Wiggins, their first-round pick in 2020 (No. 2 overall) and a future first-round pick. Wiggins is the type of wing D’Antoni has had success with in the past.
  • If not Golden State, a potential trade of Embiid to the Portland Trail Blazers makes sense. C.J. McCollum would come to the City of Brotherly Love and play the James Harden role.
  • Speaking of Harden, there’s a decent chance Houston looks to blow things up after its struggles in the playoffs. What about flipping Embiid for Harden? The former MVP might be a better fit next to Ben Simmons than Russell Westbrook.

Either way we spin it, Philadelphia’s interest in Mike D’Antoni as its next head coach could very well signal dramatic changes are coming on the team’s roster.