76ers

Sixers have reached 'a fork in the road' with multitude of options this offseason

Sixers have reached 'a fork in the road' with multitude of options this offseason

Options. The Sixers have plenty of options when they look to build their roster this offseason.

With the third overall pick, four second rounders and an abundance of cap space, the Sixers have the flexibility to take several different avenues to constructing the 2017-18 team.

“We have a few paths to go here,” Colangelo said. “It's a little bit of a fork in the road, if you will. We can speed things up by signing a key free agent, we'll see how that plays out … As we approach trades, free agency, we're going to be looking at everything and all those options.

"It's not that we're choosing a path, we haven't signed anyone yet. There are no agreements in place. There are no decisions in that regard. We're evaluating the free-agent class right now. We're evaluating the draft class right now. We're just excited that we're in a position to add talent one way or the other. With cap space, with the draft, with all the things that we have in front of us, we have good tools. We have good developing talent behind us.”

Possible draft picks
Backcourt or wing? There is a variety of players projected at the third spot. 

The Sixers need depth on the perimeter. Kansas’ Josh Jackson and Duke’s Jayson Tatum would fill that role. Both are athletic two-way players, the multi-faceted skillset Brett Brown emphasizes. They had nearly identical scoring and rebounding averages their freshman seasons, with Jackson getting the edge on shooting percentage. Jackson posted 16.3 points (51.3 percent from the field) and 7.4 rebounds compared to Tatum’s 16.8 points (45.2 percent from the field) and 7.3 rebounds (see Kane's mock draft).

Should the Sixers go with a guard, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox has said he would feel comfortable playing off the ball. Fox already interviewed with the Sixers at the draft combine in Chicago, where he explained how he would be a fit with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid (see story).  Fox averaged 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists this past season.

Fox, however, isn't known for his shooting, and that's a clear need for the Sixers. If they went that route, Fox's Kentucky teammate Malik Monk is an obvious choice (see story)

Possible trade pieces
The Sixers remain open to trading Jahlil Okafor after coming close to making a deal at the deadline. Colangelo has said a trade would have to work for all parties involved, and if they didn’t find one, the Sixers will welcome Okafor back for his third season. With all their draft picks, the Sixers have assets they could use in a package deal involving Okafor.

Nik Stauskas stands out for a different reason. Expiring contracts are appealing to teams on the other end. Stauskas is entering the final year of his deal worth $3.8 million. (He has a qualifying offer of $5.1 million for 2018-19). He boosted his trade value this past season by averaging career-highs in three-point shooting (36.8 percent), scoring (9.5 points), rebounding (2.8) and assists (2.4). 

Possible key free-agent targets
JJ Redick is exactly what the Sixers need moving forward: a knockdown shooter who can provide veteran, playoff-tested leadership (see story). Redick, who turns 33 in June, will be entering his 12th season, which is not a concern when looking at the lengthy careers of shooters such as Jamal Crawford and Ray Allen. He shot 42.9 percent from three, 44.5 percent from the field and 89.1 percent from the line this past season while averaging 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists. Redick would fill that glaring offensive void at the two spot. 

Looking at another guard, we discussed Kyle Lowry a few weeks back when he opted out of his contract with the Raptors (see story). While I don’t see Lowry as the best fit for the Sixers given where he is at in his career and where the Sixers are in their development, I do expect the Sixers to explore this option. Lowry is a reliable team leader with All-Star and postseason experience on his 11-year resume. Last season he averaged 22.4 points (41.2 percent from three), 7.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds. 

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid didn’t take home MVP honors as planned, but he leaves All-Star Weekend having made his mark on the NBA. 

While Embiid had a strong performance, he and Team Stephen fell to Team LeBron, 148-145, Sunday night.

Here are three things to know about Embiid’s first experience as an All-Star:

Hungry to make an impact
Embiid kicked off the game with a driving dunk. He drew a foul on Anthony Davis to complete the three-point play. Less than a minute later, he knocked down a jumper to score Team Stephen’s first five points.

Embiid finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.

While he was eager to score, he also recognized the talent of his squad. So when had the ball with just seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, he passed it off instead of trying to be the hero (even if the shot didn’t go in).

"I wanted to shoot it but I felt like I had Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) on my team and (Paul George) was really pressuring me,” Embiid said. “But I felt like I had Steph and Klay on my team, so I felt like it was a better idea to pass them the ball because they’ve been doing that for years and I have a lot of respect for them, and that’s what I did.”

Embiid vs. Westbrook: Round 3
Just when it seemed like the next matchup between Embiid and Russell Westbrook would have to wait until next season, the two were crossed paths in the All-Star Game. Embiid hit a three over Westbrook and then swatted his shot (see video).

Embiid insisted it was all in good nature: “I kind of thought about staring at him and I kind of did. But you know it's all fun. I don't have anything against him. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a great competitor and I love to compete too. So I have a lot of fun playing against him.”

Westbrook, on the other hand, said he didn’t pay much mind to Embiid.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked his opinion of Embiid’s first All-Star performance. “I wasn’t really paying attention, honestly. I was paying attention to our team.”  

Let’s get the 2018-19 NBA schedule now to circle the calendars for their next meeting.

From trash talker to student
Embiid said from the time he was named a starter that he wanted to use this weekend as an opportunity to learn from his experienced teammates. And that he did. 

Check out this rundown of players on Team Stephen whose basketball know-how Embiid sought after.

“Steph, on the bench or during the game, I kind of asked him a couple questions,” Embiid said. “All the guys. (Karl-Anthony Towns) we talk a lot. Draymond (Green), of course, we talked a lot about him not being able to guard me. Of course he mentioned when we blew the lead against them, of course he had to mention that … Kyle (Lowry) was amazing. DeMar (DeRozan), always amazing. James (Harden), amazing. Al (Horford) was great; I love spending time with him. All those guys, they were great.”

Lowry was among many fellow All-Stars to appreciate Embiid’s talent so early in his career.

“(My advice is) continue to be him, and I think that’s his best trait,” Lowry said. “He’s a very hungry, humble guy, super talented, He’s just trying to figure it out and learn the game.”

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Embiid will return to Philadelphia from Los Angeles where he has one big to-do list after participating in the Rising Stars game, Skills Challenge and All-Star Game. Embiid plans to sleep.

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

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AP Images

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

LOS ANGELES — Rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz put on a show in the slam dunk contest to cap off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Mitchell edged Larry Nance Jr. by two points, sealing his victory with a close approximation of the 360-degree spin dunk that Vince Carter used to win the 2000 contest.

"I wanted this so badly," Mitchell said. "This is one of my favorite events of All-Star weekend. To not only be in it, but to win it, it's crazy."

Before making his winning dunk, Mitchell peeled off his Jazz jersey and wore a vintage Carter jersey from the Toronto Raptors.

Mitchell -- three inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Carter -- needed a score of 47 to beat Nance, and he got a 48 from the five judges: DJ Khaled, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Lisa Leslie.

Nance, who was trying to win the contest 34 years after his father won it, had earned a perfect 50 with a dunk off a double alley-oop off the glass.

Mitchell advanced to the finals with a creative dunk in the first round that used his sister, Jordan, as well as Kevin Hart and the comedian's son as props. For that dunk, Mitchell wore a Darrell Griffith Jazz jersey. Griffith participated in the first slam dunk contest in 1984.

"I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there and helping me out," Mitchell said. "He's my favorite comedian."

Booker wins 3-point contest with record final round
Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns won the 3-point contest with a record 28 points in the final round. He beat 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers.

"It feels really good," Booker said. "I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself."

Did he ever. He was sensational in the final round on Saturday, when he missed only five of 25 shots.

Each player shot five five-ball racks with a one-minute time limit. The final ball of each one was a "money ball" worth two points, and one of the racks, usually the last one, was all money balls. Booker made the money ball shot on his first four racks, and then made four of the five balls on the money ball rack.

Harris, Booker and Thompson advanced from the eight-man field to the finals. Harris scored 17 points before Booker scorched the nets for 28 points. Thompson followed and scored 25 points.

The previous record was 27 points, set by Stephen Curry in 2015 and matched by Thompson the following year.

Booker, the 21-year-old sharpshooter in his third season with Phoenix, is averaging 24.2 points per game this season as the NBA's 12th-leading scorer. Eleven months after the shooting guard dropped 70 points against Boston to become the youngest player in NBA history to score even 60 in a game, Booker added another accolade to his promising career with the 3-Point title.

Thompson beat the buzzer with his final shot of the first round to reach the finals with 19 points. Booker also scored 19 and Harris had 18.

Dinwiddie tops Markkanen in Skills Challenge final 
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets won the skills challenge to kick off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Dinwiddie, who played at Taft High in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, beat Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls in the final round.

The skills competition consisted of two players going head to head. They dribbled around pylons, passed the ball into a net, dribbled to the other end of the floor for a layup and then dribbled back to the other end to take a pull-up 3-pointer.

Eight players started the competition, with Dinwiddie and Markkanen advancing to the final.

Markkanen struggled passing the ball into the net, giving Dinwiddie a big lead. Dinwiddie dribbled down the floor and missed his first 3, but drained the next one to win.