Give and Go: Which Sixer has been most impressive through camp, preseason?

Give and Go: Which Sixer has been most impressive through camp, preseason?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Paul Hudrick.

This week, we'll break down which Sixer has been the most impressive during training camp and preseason so far.

With all of the hype over Markelle Fultz, it's easy to forget about Jerryd Bayless. 

Bayless missed all but three games in 2016-17 with a wrist injury. However, in the preseason he has shown exactly what Brett Brown expected from the guard last season when he signed with the Sixers as free agent. In two preseason contests, Bayless has put up 19 points on 7 for 12 shooting from the field (4 for 8 from three-point range), five rebounds, four assists and just one turnover.

The question becomes now just how large of a role will he have on this team? He's better than Fultz at the moment, but Brown has stressed development and winning as being mutually exclusive. 

With 10 of their first 14 games on the road, playing Bayless more over Fultz makes sense if the Sixers are trying to avoid a 4-10 or 5-9 start. 

Yes, it could be that bad if you're relying on a Fultz-Ben Simmons backcourt defensively with Joel Embiid's availability on a nightly basis a giant question mark.

A wise man named Uncle Drew once said the name of the game is to get buckets.

With all of the trade speculation and health questions surrounding Jahlil Okafor, it was easy to forget that the big man can flat out put the ball in the basket.

Through two preseason games, the slimmed-down Okafor has posted 24 points on a red-hot 10 for 13 shooting (76.9 percent). More importantly, he has shown a willingness to hit the glass with six boards in each game.

While Okafor will never be confused with a good defender, the big man's 20-pound weight loss has at least helped him be a little more active on that end.

You can never have enough scoring, and the Sixers should certainly benefit from bringing a healthy Okafor's offensive punch off the bench behind Embiid.

I'll be the guy who takes the obvious pick and choose Simmons.

That first quarter against Memphis was breathtaking. Sure, the Grizzlies' lineup that night was obviously not loaded with stars, but consider what Simmons has dealt with. He hadn't played an actual basketball game since the 2016 summer league. He finished Wednesday night with nine assists and just one turnover. Damn impressive for an NBA rookie who's never truly played the point guard position.

Friday night's loss to the Celtics was certainly a little disappointing, but these are the lumps Simmons will have to take. Especially when facing quality opponents like Boston. Then there's the obvious: the shot has to get better. I'm not talking threes. If he can learn to hit 12-foot pull ups, he could be unstoppable. 

Simmons is an example of why fans focused on the playoffs need to pump the brakes just a tad. Simmons will have plenty of games like Wednesday's but will also have a few like Friday's. Just enjoy the ride.

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

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NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say forward Nikola Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.

The team says Mirotic will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely. They say they are "evaluating disciplinary action" after Tuesday's incident.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulls open at Toronto on Thursday. Chicago is rebuilding after trading Jimmy Butler and parting with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (see full story).

Nuggets: Jefferson reportedly agrees to deal
DENVER -- Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word.

"Who's Jefferson?" the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice.

Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million.

After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster (see full story).

Jazz: Timeline unknown for injured Exum
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dante Exum knew he had a significant injury the moment he awkwardly hit the floor during a preseason game against the Suns on Oct. 6. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the Jazz guard and the team took the next 10 days to decide what to do.

Exum saw three doctors and spoke to several more before deciding to have a surgery on Oct. 24 that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

"Even just walking back (to the locker room), obviously I was frustrated," Exum said. "Everything was going through my head. I remember just looking up at everybody and they were just speechless. Didn't know what to say. A lot of people within the Jazz organization know how hard I've worked to get to the point I was. To get an injury like that and the way it took place just sucked."

There were non-surgical options for Exum, but the decision was made in his long-term interest after talking to family, his agent and the organization. That, however, complicates things in the short term financially. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick was hoping to have a breakout year as a restricted free agent.

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid will be restricted to less than 20 minutes per game early in the season, that much is known (see story). How Brett Brown fills the remainder of the minutes at the center position remains to be seen.

Brown has three healthy big men he can play behind Embiid: Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Richaun Holmes, an early candidate for backup minutes, is sidelined by a fractured wrist.

“Even without Richaun, you like the depth and versatility, the variety that is available to me at the five,” Brown said Tuesday. 

Each player is unique in their skill sets and experience levels. There’s the proven veteran in Johnson, the undersized center in Saric, and the sometime-starter-sometime-reserve-sometime-DNP in Okafor. 

Let’s take a look at Brown’s options and why he may lean toward one player over another. 

Okafor finds himself in another season of uncertainty. The third-year Sixer still doesn’t have a consistent role in the rotation. In the past, his biggest opportunity for minutes has come when Embiid is out for the entire game. Could the slimmed-down Okafor return to the starting lineup when Embiid doesn’t play? The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games of the season on Saturday. 

Brown on Okafor 
“[His role is] evolving … it’s always fluid. There are times we’ll assess Joel, say, in a back-to-back situation that might free something up. We have one in Toronto coming up. … We all respect his attitude and we respect his body. I think he’s had a good preseason.”

The 30-year-old Johnson gives the Sixers a veteran presence and assuring presence on the court. He started in 77 of his 80 games for the Celtics last season and will be an in-game leader for younger players like Markelle Fultz in the second unit. 

Brown on Johnson
“He started for a really good team last year. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s a great pickup. Bryan (Colangelo) did a really great job of signing him. He’s good people.” 

At 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, Saric is the most unlikely candidate of the three backups. Brown has seen enough from Saric in the NBA and internationally, though, to feel confident in shifting him from the four to the five. Saric showed he can hold his own against traditional bigs when he shot 5 for 8 against the Nets in the preseason. 

Brown on Saric
“He’s stronger than you think. He’s been used to guarding behind people over in Europe on switch outs with four-five pick-and-rolls. … He gives up some weight, he gives up some height. But the trade-off might be he pulls them out and makes threes like he did against (Timofey) Mozgov. You weigh it all up. It’s a little bit unconventional but it is there in our arsenal if we choose to go there.”