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Rockets vs. 76ers game preview: the Daryl Morey Derby

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NBA: Houston Rockets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When Daryl Morey became the general manager of the Houston Rockets, he wanted to tank.

Leslie Alexander wouldn’t let him, and it forced Morey to get creative with asset management and development. Eventually, Morey landed his white whale in James Harden and tried to surround him with complementary players to unlock his game.

You know most of this, but as the last-place Houston Rockets take on the first-place Philadelphia 76ers, we have to look at where these teams are vs. where they were 5 or 10 years ago. The Sixers tanked to land Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. But don’t forget that the Sixers also got Jahlil Okafor and Markelle Fultz with top 3 picks. As we’ve seen over and over in NBA history, getting high picks does not guarantee superstars.

But when those picks are superstars? That’s when a bad team becomes good. Suddenly, you have financial control over a player for 10 years, which basically runs them to the middle of their prime. You still have to work on the margins to get other great players like Tobias Harris, but when you have the stars, the hardest part is done.

The Sixers are a legitimate contender for the NBA title. The lack of fans is obviously a shame for a variety of reasons, but with as open a title chase as we’ve seen in recent years (when was the last time there were more than two real title contenders in a season?), it sucks that fans and homecourt advantage won’t play into the championship like they normally would.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest