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Sixers Mailbag: Who plays point guard when Markelle Fultz returns?

This edition of the Sixers Mailbag prompted so many questions I couldn't fit them all in one article. So stay tuned for more Thursday and thanks to all who participated with #SixersMailbag.

Ben Simmons is the Sixers' starting point guard. As for the bench, T.J. McConnell — once again — has settled into that reliable backup role. His minutes nearly have doubled since Markelle Fultz was ruled out (shoulder). He is averaging 6.8 assists and, notably, only 2.2 turnovers in 27.8 minutes over the past six games. Brett Brown knows what he’s getting out of McConnell and teammates like Simmons have been jelling with him on the court. 

The Sixers drafted Fultz because he can play off the ball, but he’s struggled with his shot because of his injury. The team will wait for his shoulder to get healthy before he returns. If he’s back to “the old” Fultz when he does, he can complement McConnell in the second unit just as the original plan was for him to be paired at the two spot with Simmons in the starting lineup.

This season is all about growth for 20-year-old Furkan Korkmaz. Even though the G League no longer has the word “development” in its name, that’s what Korkmaz is spending time with the Delaware 87ers to do. Having an affiliate so close to Philadelphia provides the Sixers with the opportunity to send players there for short stints. They previously assigned Korkmaz to the 87ers for a practice when they had an off day, a car ride back and forth. 

Or, the Sixers can have him log minutes in a G League game (as they did Tuesday) if they know he wouldn’t get playing time for them. Korkmaz averaged 13.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals (30.4 minutes) in two games while the Sixers were in Salt Lake City. 

Korkmaz came to the NBA to play this season, but he also came here to adjust to the league and progress as a player and he will get more of a chance to do that with the Sevens.

Jerryd Bayless has been the subject of a lot of scrutinies this season, but I don’t agree. Bayless is not going to score 25 points per game. He’s not on the team to be a knockdown shooter like JJ Redick. Bayless’ role is not one of Simmons or Joel Embiid where he is looked to as the main scoring option. And that’s OK. 

The Sixers signed Bayless last summer for a few reasons, experience and backcourt versatility among the top. He brings intangibles to the team, like having a veteran presence alongside Simmons as he got adjusted to the NBA starting lineup or sliding into the second unit as an offensive boost off the bench. Bayless can step in where (point guard or shooting guard) and when needed. 

His performance isn’t tied to the Sixers’ future with Redick. They are two different players with different roles in this system.

Some coworker participation in the mailbag today.

The Celtics, Pistons, Magic, Raptors, Sixers, Knicks, Wizards and Pacers are the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference standings today. Wow. Who thought we’d be saying that? 

The Sixers are only 10 games into the season and it’s too soon at this point to know how other teams will look after the trade deadline and closer to the playoffs. What I do know is the Sixers have jelled a lot quicker than expected. They got through challenging matchups like the Rockets and are rolling on a five-game winning streak in an early-season schedule that initially seemed rocky. Finishing above .500 is not a stretch. 

Before the season started, I predicted the Sixers would finish seventh in the East behind the Cavaliers, Celtics, Raptors, Wizards, Bucks and Hornets. At this point early on, I would bump the Sixers ahead of the Bucks and Hornets. When it comes to making a playoff push, I don’t rule out veteran teams that have been there, done that. That’s why I’m not wrapped up in the Cavaliers' early struggles. I’m also not ready to write off the Wizards after last season’s playoff run. I’d look for them to make moves to enhance their roster. 

The Sixers certainly have the talent to make the playoffs this season. Their postseason expectations have been heightened by their early success.

Thinking ahead to playoff ceilings, that depends on matchups and health. It’s a topic we’ll be revisiting many times, and we'll have a clearer picture once the standings start to take shape later in the season.