76ers

Sixers test Ben Simmons' defensive versatility in loss to Celtics

Sixers test Ben Simmons' defensive versatility in loss to Celtics

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Ben Simmons is not letting himself off the hook for his mistakes. 

After assessing his performance in the preseason opener a seven out of 10, he cracked down on his errors in the Sixers’ 110-102 loss to the Celtics on Friday (see observations).

“Tonight, six or five,” Simmons graded himself. “Too many turnovers, obviously, too many offensive fouls on (Aron) Baynes.”

Simmons committed a game-high five turnovers, compared to just one against the Grizzlies. He accounted for over 20 percent of the team’s total 24 giveaways. Simmons’ early foul trouble (four total) factored into that. He was whistled for two offensive fouls against Baynes while trying to score on the big man at the basket. 

“We’ve got to continue to grow the jump stop, avoiding the collision and coming into a maybe more controlled environment,” Brett Brown said. 

Simmons scored eight points in 23 minutes (see highlights). He shot 3 for 8 from the field and struggled at the line (2 for 6). Brown is encouraging Simmons to shoot more jumpers throughout the preseason.

The Sixers are learning something new about Simmons each game. On Friday, they studied how he matches up defending smaller players. Simmons started the game on power forward Jayson Tatum. He switched to small forward Gordon Hayward, shooting guard Jaylen Brown and was later tasked with standout point guard Kyrie Irving. 

There was a seven-inch height differential between Irving and Simmons, not to mention six years of experience, four All-Star appearances and an NBA championship. 

“It was good to be matched up against a great point guard like him and get a feel for that,” Simmons said. 

Irving noticed areas of improvement for Simmons in that matchup. The 2011 No. 1 pick also saw potential in his 2016 counterpart. 

“It’s going to be an adjustment [for Simmons],” Irving said. “Understanding that when he’s at the point guard role and he’s there, he’s going to be going against some dynamic players, including myself. 

“He did an incredible job of running the team tonight. He’s a great young player. He’s going to continue to get better. Coach Brown’s putting the ball in his hands, so when you have the ball in your hands, you’re able to make some decisions. But on the defensive end, it’s our job to take advantage of that.” 

Simmons could get another look at these same matchups in a matter of a few days. The Sixers play the Celtics again on Monday in Boston. 

Bold predictions as Sixers tip off 2017-18 season

Bold predictions as Sixers tip off 2017-18 season

Each NBA season is filled with unexpected occurrences that change the landscape for a team, division, conference or even the entire league.

The Sixers will need to have a few of their own along the way as they seek their first playoff berth in five years.

With that said, Jessica Camerato, Marshall Harris, Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick each provide a bold prediction for the Sixers’ new season.

Camerato: Embiid gets cleared for back-to-back games
Some people may think this should be a given and not a bold prediction, but given how closely the Sixers are monitoring Joel Embiid's playing time, this isn't a guarantee.

Embiid was not cleared for consecutive games last season as he returned from two years of foot injuries. The Sixers have 14 sets of back-to-backs in 2017-18. Of those, I predict Embiid will play in two pairs of them.

The Sixers will have to check off a comprehensive medical checklist before Embiid is given the green light to play two nights in a row. I do think at some point in the season, they will take this next step and do so on a minutes restriction.

Harris: Fultz won't start more than half Sixers’ games
Yes, Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 overall pick. The Sixers had to trade up to get him. That's why it pains me to admit this. It's not that I want this to be the case, it's just becoming more and more likely with each passing day. Bringing Fultz off the bench to start his NBA career makes the most sense.
 
Fultz is only 19 years old and going up against grown men in the NBA. He's dealing with a shoulder injury he admits has affected his shot, and he's already missed time in the preseason with knee soreness. The knee issue isn't new, as he's dealt with knee problems dating back to his lone season at Washington. 

Add all that up and it's easy to see how his reserve role could go on longer than just the first few games of the season.
 
For Ben Simmons to be most effective, he needs shooters around him. Jerryd Bayless missed almost all of last season, but in 2015-16 he shot 47.7 percent on catch-and-shoot threes. Alongside JJ Redick, Embiid, Robert Covington (I'd like to think he'll shoot better than 28.7 percent from three before January this season) and Bayless, Simmons will have the full complement of shooters he'll need for the Sixers’ offense to pace and space teams to death. 

Coming off the bench will give Fultz the room to grow comfortably, regardless of shoulder and knee issues. It makes sense now and will probably make sense for at least the first half of the season.

Haughton: Redick, Bayless finish top 10 in 3-point percentage
Let it fly. 

As Marshall mentioned above, with ample attention being paid to Embiid down on the block and Simmons serving up those crisp passes, Redick and Bayless should have plenty of good looks from three-point range.

All that’s left is to make the shots. That shouldn’t be a problem for Redick. The career 41.5 percent three-point shooter has finished among the top five in three of the past five seasons, including the No. 1 spot in 2015-16.

Bayless isn’t the same caliber shooter as Redick, but he has made strides to become a serious threat from long range. The veteran combo guard has shot 36.6 percent from distance for his career. However, Bayless connected on a career-high 43.7 percent in ’15-16 with the Bucks, his second season above 40.0.

Recent numbers suggest it will take around a 41.5 percent average to crack the top 10. I say the sharpshooters make the cut and provide the Sixers with an aspect of today’s NBA the team has been severely lacking for quite some time.

Hudrick: Brown gets named NBA’s top coach
Maybe I'm trying to go all LaVar Ball and will this into existence, but my bold prediction is that Brett Brown will win Coach of the Year.

If my season prediction is correct, the Sixers will make the playoffs with the same coach that's finished with a 75-253 record during his first four seasons. Brown has been through so much during his time here. Don't think that'll get lost on voters.

Think about some of the players Brown has had to trot out there. Tony Wroten. James Anderson. Furkan Aldemir. Isaiah Canaan. The one thing you could always say about the Sixers during the tanking years is the players on the court didn't tank. That's a credit to Brown, who had his team prepared and ready to play.

With actual NBA players, Brown will pull this team together. Nobody in this organization deserves vindication of their efforts more.

Wizards' Bradley Beal aims to quiet his buddy Joel Embiid

Wizards' Bradley Beal aims to quiet his buddy Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid has made noise with his mouth and social media presence.

His trash talk took the NBA by storm after the Sixers' preseason finale last Friday against the Miami Heat in Kansas City.

Embiid went after Heat center Hassan Whiteside (there's some history there) in a hilarious Twitter exchange that caught the eyes of many.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal is one of them.

"JoJo is my boy. I like JoJo. We have the same trainer and work out in the summers," Beal said Monday to NBC Sports Washington. "That was crazy. That was really crazy. He was letting his feelings be known."

The Sixers travel to the Wizards for their season opener Wednesday night. While Beal said he likes Embiid’s trash talking because it "keeps guys competitive," he added that his friend better not try it against his team.

"When he plays us, we're going to try to shut him down as best as we can," Beal said. "We aren't trying to hear none of that talking and I'm gonna let him know about it, too."

Embiid joked that he's the social media king.

"To me," he said, "it’s all fun."

The fun shifts to the court Wednesday night.

We'll have to see if the trash talk follows.