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. 

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

BOX SCORE

Ben Simmons scored a career-high, Joel Embiid recorded a double-double, and still, the highest praise was directed to an unlikely player after the Sixers’ 107-86 win over the Jazz: Amir Johnson.

“He was the MVP of tonight,” Embiid said. 

Johnson embraced the ultimate role player mentality. He didn’t know until shortly before the game if he was going to start in place of Embiid or come off the bench. Embiid, who had been dealing with left knee soreness, ended up playing. So Johnson waited for his name to be called and stepped right into action. 

Johnson began the game with five rebounds in four first-quarter minutes. He finished with 13 boards, eight points and four blocks in 21 minutes. Johnson pulled down 10-plus rebounds for the 98th time in his career (see observations)

“I feel like my job is just to find ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “Knowing Joel, Ben and those guys are going to get the majority minutes, but when I come in I want to be effective at the same time.”

The 13-year veteran has been studying game film. Even though he didn’t get on the court in either of the Sixers’ matchups against the Warriors and played a combined 28 minutes in three road games in California, Johnson has been staying ready. 

“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said of Johnson’s defense. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”

The Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year, $11 million contract this summer. He proved what he could do on the court since entering the league out of high school in 2005, but the even bigger draw was what he could add to the locker room. Brett Brown reached out to some of Johnson’s former teammates and the assessments echoed one another. Now the Sixers are seeing what those who played with Johnson were talking about. 

“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. 

“To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

Redick bounces back in 2nd half
JJ Redick is at a point in his career where he isn’t worried about a slow start. He went scoreless in the first half and still ended up with 20 points. 

“Maybe five or six years ago I probably would have been a little more stressed at halftime,” Redick said. “But I just knew there would be some opportunities and stayed patient.”

Brown noticed Redick getting better looks after halftime. He evenly distributed his scoring with 10 points in both the third and the fourth quarters. He shot a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the third. 

“I’m always going to be aggressive. There just weren’t opportunities to get shots off in the first half,” Redick said. “I scored 20 in the second half, but didn’t feel like I was forcing anything. The opportunities were there. Sometimes that happens within a game.”

Simmons, too
Simmons showed the same kind of poise, even more notable because he is a rookie. Simmons shot 2 for 9 in the first half, shook off the early struggles, and scored a career-high 27 points. He scored half of the Sixers’ 28 points in the third quarter off an efficient 7 for 9 shooting stretch. 

“I thought I was going to have more, honestly,” Simmons said. 

Simmons took advantage of the Jazz missing center Rudy Gobert in the middle. He became the only Sixer since 1963-64 to score in double digits in each of his first 16 games. Simmons is averaging 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving helps Celtics rally for 16th straight win

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Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving helps Celtics rally for 16th straight win

DALLAS  -- Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team's first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters (see full recap).

Cavs rout Pistons for 5th straight win
DETROIT -- LeBron James scored 16 of his 18 points in the first quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers made 11 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a 116-88 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Cleveland led 73-46 at halftime thanks to an overwhelming shooting performance, an indication that Detroit's stay atop the Central Division might not last much longer. The Pistons still lead the Cavs by a game, but Cleveland has won five straight and scored at least 110 points in eight of its last nine.

The Cavaliers led 27-22 when James went to the bench late in the first quarter. By the time he came back in, it was 50-30. Cleveland's reserves ended up outscoring Detroit's 26-8 in the first half.

The Cavs shot 62 percent from the field in the first two quarters and 11 of 17 from 3-point range. They finished the game 16 of 33 from beyond the arc. Cleveland led 101-62 after three, and the top players for both teams had plenty of time to rest in the final period (see full recap).

Knicks push Clippers' skid to 9 straight
NEW YORK -- Kristaps Porzingis scored 25 points and the New York Knicks extended the Los Angeles Clippers' losing streak to nine games with a 107-85 victory Monday night.

Porzingis outplayed a frustrated Blake Griffin and helped the Knicks snap a 10-game skid in the series with their first victory over the Clippers in five years.

Doug McDermott added 16 points for the Knicks, including a 3-pointer that swung the momentum for good midway through the third quarter.

Griffin scored 21 points but shot just 6 for 17, picked up a technical foul and fouled out with 4:46 remaining. The Clippers (5-11) still haven't won since Nov. 1 at Dallas, when they improved to 5-2.

Patrick Beverley returned after missing five games with a sore right knee and had nine points and six rebounds. But the Clippers are still without fellow guard Milos Teodosic and the rest of their backcourt play was mostly dismal (see full recap).

Oladipo's 29 leads Pacers over Magic for 4th straight win
ORLANDO, Fla.  -- Victor Oladipo had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven steals to lead the Indiana Pacers to their fourth straight win, 105-97 over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.

Oladipo, who played his first three NBA seasons in Orlando, and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for 40 points in the second half, 14 of them during a 16-3 third-quarter run that put the Pacers in command.

Bogdanovic scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half.

Nikola Vucevic had 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Magic, who lost their fifth straight. Aaron Gordon had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Magic finished with 22 turnovers and shot 33 percent in the second half to fall below .500 for the first time this season (see full recap).