Jonah Bolden might not play for Sixers this season but has intriguing future

Jonah Bolden might not play for Sixers this season but has intriguing future

Jonah Bolden considered himself to be viewed as “the mystery kid” in this year’s draft. After playing in Serbia last season, he was relatively unknown in comparison to his draft classmates. He wanted to participate in summer league to prove what he could do at the NBA level and he accomplished just that. 

Bolden stood out on the Sixers' roster with his versatility and, most noticeably, his ability to spread the floor with a three-point shot. It was easy to envision how these skills would translate to the NBA, especially on a Sixers team that will have a positionless lineup in many cases. 

A report by David Pick indicated Bolden will remain overseas with Maccabi Tel Aviv for the upcoming season. While a source said no official decision has been made about where Bolden will play, it would make sense for him to spend another season competing internationally because of the crowded Sixers roster.

Regardless of where Bolden is this coming season, there will be a high level of intrigue surrounding the 21-year-old’s game. Before we see what Bolden can do, CSNPhilly.com spoke to one of Bolden’s opponents about what can be expected. 

Hawks 2017 draft pick Alpha Kaba played against Bolden last season in the Adriatic League. Bolden and Kaba, both 6-foot-10, were matched up at times when Bolden’s team, Red Star, faced Mega Leks. 

“First of all, he’s really an athletic player,” Kaba said. “He can put the ball on the floor, he can shoot, he’s a complete guy. It was really amazing playing against him because it’s a kind of a challenge because he’s a great player.”

During summer league, Bolden averaged 8.8 points and shot 31.4 percent from three. There were instances when more traditional big men had trouble chasing Bolden to the arc. Kaba saw glimpses of that last season. 

“He was spreading the floor a lot,” Kaba said. “He likes to take the rebound, bring up the ball and that’s how we played. He was like a stretch-four, even a three. He can bring up the ball, take some screens, set some pick-and-rolls.”

Bolden also grabbed 6.3 rebounds, blocked 1.4 shots and had 1.9 steals per game in summer league. He uses his size to cause problems on the defensive end. 

“Defensively, he’s athletic, he can block some shots, take some rebounds,” Kaba said. “He’s got a pretty long wingspan too so he can cover all of the floor by helping on the opposite side.”

When Bolden does play in the NBA, he will look to pose the same matchup issues Kaba and others already have experienced in Europe.

Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

AP Images

Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

Joel Embiid doesn't want the Sixers to end up like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not the 2017-18 Thunder, but OKC circa 2011-12.

Embiid is convinced that at some point soon, the media will turn on him and the Sixers. 

Speaking specifically about the core trio of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, Embiid told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:

"I think with everything, the main thing we have to do is just stay together because I feel like there's going to be some type of situation where people say who is better between us three. And that's how it splits."

Shelburne, who wrote a long and interesting feature on Embiid this week, told more of the story Wednesday on Zach Lowe's podcast.

She recalled talking to Embiid about his social media presence at All-Star weekend in 2016, when he told her, "I'm just trying to have as much fun before everybody turns on me."

Shelburne pointed out the uniqueness of a then-22-year-old — who had been in the United States just seven years — understanding the "fame cycle" well enough to know that things could soon turn.

"I saw what happened in Oklahoma City with (James) Harden, (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant and I don't want that to happen here," Shelburne recalled Embiid saying.

If the Sixers get to that point ... it'll probably be a good problem to have. Just prior to the 2012-13 season, the Thunder traded Harden to Houston in one of the worst trades in recent NBA history. OKC did it for several reasons — salary cap, personalities, only having enough shots to go around. And really, who knows if Harden would have been able to grow into this superstar had he been sharing the ball the next handful of seasons with two other alphas?

Embiid and Fultz have already grown close, and it's important to Embiid that the three young Sixers don't get caught up in the "Who takes the last shot?" conversations or "Who should be the All-Star" questions that inevitably come up. 

Luckily for the Sixers, Embiid, Simmons and Fultz have different enough skill sets that they should be able to coexist. It's not directly analogous to the OKC situation where all three players needed the ball in their hands. The Sixers were built this way for a reason. 

Right now, it's clear Embiid is the alpha of the group. He's the go-to guy in crunch time and again has a top-five usage rate. When Simmons eventually becomes more comfortable with his jump shot and Fultz finally makes his impact on the court, we'll see whether or not Embiid was prescient.

Joel Embiid puts back pain aside to get Sixers 'needed' OT win

Joel Embiid puts back pain aside to get Sixers 'needed' OT win


MINNEAPOLIS — Joel Embiid's presence was arguably the biggest factor in the Sixers’ snapping their four-game losing streak on Tuesday.

The center was especially key in the final two minutes of regulation and in overtime, as the 76ers defeated the Timberwolves, 118-112 (see observations).

Embiid assisted on Ben Simmons' go-ahead dunk with 1:17 remaining in regulation and hit the game-tying free throws with 14 seconds remaining. He then scored seven points in overtime, including a three-pointer that gave the Sixers a seven-point lead with 1:39 to go.

Embiid finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds in 39 minutes (see highlights), despite missing the two previous games in Cleveland and New Orleans with back tightness.

"I would not have expected him to play as well as he played or as many minutes as he played," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "… He obviously was massive."

Embiid said he didn't feel 100 percent going into Tuesday's game and added that his back was really tight before the game against New Orleans. He said he didn't have the lift during Tuesday's game that he typically does but that he knew his back would get tight while sitting.

"We needed this," he said of the win.

Embiid’s being in the lineup changes how the 76ers' offense operates, rookie Ben Simmons said. Embiid changes the team's spacing but also gives the Sixers an offensive presence in the post.

"You have to find your spot, but it's a big help also," Simmons said.

Simmons finished with just seven points, as Timberwolves wings Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins guarded him most of the night. However, the rookie was key down the stretch as he scored all seven points in the final 6:17 of regulation and overtime (see highlights).

Brown noted how Simmons ended up with a rating of plus-3 despite the below-average point total. He said he loved that Simmons and Embiid were able to connect for big plays late.

"It wasn't statistically one of his best games," Brown said of Simmons, " … [but] for him to help us get that win on the road, that's a good night."

The win also snapped the Sixers’ recent run of fourth-quarter letdowns. The 76ers trailed by nine with six minutes remaining Tuesday, but they went on a 14-4 run to take a 91-90 lead with 2:17 remaining in regulation. Richaun Holmes completed the run with a three-point play.

Brown said he thought JJ Redick, Simmons and Embiid executed well during that stretch and made note of a three-pointer Redick hit to start the run. 

"To me, that was the tipping point when things started to run," Brown said of the shot.

The coach added that the Sixers will need to cut down on turnovers in order to achieve their goals. The Sixers had a season-high 24, though none came in overtime.