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. 

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers received a crash course in top-caliber NBA basketball from the Warriors with two games in eight nights against the defending champions. 

Both were winnable games for the Sixers in the first half. Both were blown open by the Warriors in the third quarter. Both resulted in a Sixers loss.

This time, it was a 124-116 loss Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

Instead of taking silver linings and pats on the back, the Sixers are absorbing lessons, tried-and-true experience-based lessons from competing against the best in the league and watching it slip away. 

“They didn’t flip a switch,” Joel Embiid said Saturday. “We were just bad in the third quarter. But you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They were aggressive and they were physical with us, especially in the second half. They did what they had to do, and they got a win.”

Protect the third quarter
On Saturday, the Sixers scored a scorching 47 points in the first quarter and led the Warriors 74-52 at halftime. That edge far surpassed their one-point deficit in last weekend’s game and put them on a commanding path at home.

The Warriors quickly dashed any hopes of an upset by outscoring the Sixers, 47-15, in the third. Steph Curry scored 20 of those points. That quarter set the tone for a Warriors' comeback win. Similarly, the Warriors outscored the Sixers by 15 points in the third during their 135-114 victory on Nov. 11.

“After coming out of halftime, we knew what we were getting into,” Embiid said. “We knew that the first game, we knew that tonight, that needed to stay locked in. We didn’t do a good job the first time and then the second time we definitely didn’t do a good job.”

Play aggressive and smart at same time
The Sixers committed seven of their 12 turnovers in the third, which led to 14 of the Warriors’ 47 points. Ben Simmons echoed Embiid’s opinion of needing to be more focused. The rookie point guard also noted the Sixers should have been better with defensive assignments and played more aggressively. The Sixers shot 1 for 7 from long-range and didn’t get to the foul line once in the third.

Simmons only attempted one field goal in the quarter. Brett Brown noted he played Simmons the entire second quarter and the first eight minutes in the third. The combination of a shorthanded eight-man rotation and the effects of coming off a West Coast road trip factored in. 

The Warriors, meanwhile, stayed cool and collected in the face of a 22-point halftime deficit. They bounced back to shoot 62.2 percent from the field in the second half. The Sixers noticed the Warriors’ unwavering self-assurance even as they fell further and further behind in the first half.

“There’s a confidence that they have in what they do and who they are that over the course of a full game," JJ Redick said, "if they play the right way, they’re going to have a chance to win."

Breaking the double team
The Warriors stifled Embiid in their first matchup (12 points). After watching his 46-point performance against the Lakers, which head coach Steve Kerr deemed “terrifying,” the Warriors knew they had to be extra cognizant of the big man, especially on his home court.

They once again swarmed Embiid with a double team, a defensive look he’s still adjusting to. Embiid felt the pressure. He committed three turnovers in the game-changing third quarter (five on the night). 

“I’m more impressed by what they do defensively,” Embiid said. “Especially for me, they really had me guessing. They double-teamed me the whole night, from the top, from the baseline, from the post fader. They really had me guessing.”

Remember what caused the loss
The Sixers had chances to hand the Warriors a loss, both at home and on the road. When they plan for the rest of the season, the months and months ahead, they can point to what they did right and just as importantly what went wrong in competing against a team as dangerous as the Warriors. 

"We feel good about how we played for large majorities of the game and then you just blink and you get hit in the mouth," Brown said. "The repetition of playing the NBA champs and feeling like you're there and then all of a sudden to zoom in and say why aren't we? Why weren't we? Where did the game change? And understand that better and try to fix it, try to arrest it. That's the benefit to playing them in close proximity."

Sixers-Warriors observations: 22-point halftime lead evaporates against defending champs

Sixers-Warriors observations: 22-point halftime lead evaporates against defending champs

BOX SCORE

The excitement of a monster first half and the letdown of a lackluster second.

The Sixers went through dramatic ups and downs Saturday night in a 124-116 loss to the Warriors that seemed like an upset early on but turned into a disappointment for them.

• The Sixers scored … ready for this? You sure? Forty-seven points in the first quarter. They led the defending champions by 21 during a quarter that prompted double takes at the scoreboard.

The Sixers put together enough noteworthy plays in the first 12 minutes for a highlight reel: one-handed dunks and three-pointers by Joel Embiid, slams by Ben Simmons and a steal followed by a trey by Robert Covington to name a few.

The team shot a monster 73.1 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from three, led by 4 for 4 from Covington in the first game since signing his contract extension.

• You didn’t expect the Warriors would be quiet out of halftime, did you? Veteran teams — championship-winning veteran teams — make adjustments. They outscored the Sixers, 47-15, in the third and took a 10-point lead heading into the fourth. Steph Curry netted 20 points in the quarter. The Sixers shot 1 for 7 from three during the third and did not hit a basket in the final 2:20 of the quarter.

• Where did the third shut down on the Sixers end? Simmons attempted just one field goal in the third (0 for 1) compared to eight attempts in the first half. JJ Redick (0 for 3 from the field) was scoreless, too. Adding to that, Embiid had two points and did not pull down a rebound in the quarter. (Saric had six.) 

• The problem with playing the Warriors is, give them an inch — in many cases, all they need is a deficit less than 20 points — and they will take advantage. Even though they looked completely out of the game in the first half, they have been there, done that and know how to flip the switch. 

• Twenty-plus point performances by Simmons (23 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists), Embiid (21 points, eight rebounds), Covington (20 points, six rebounds) and Redick (20 points) were not enough to overcome 35 points by Curry and 27 from Kevin Durant. 

• The Sixers and Warriors flip-flopped shooting halves: 59 percent by the Sixers compared to 47 percent by the Warriors in the first half. In the second, the Sixers shot just 38 percent while the Warriors knocked down 62 percent.

• Simmons did whatever he wanted early on.

There was this …

… and this

… to name a few.

• Injury update: Markelle Fultz (right shoulder), Justin Anderson (left leg), Nik Stauskas (right ankle), Jerryd Bayless (left wrist) and Jahlil Okafor (personal) were out for the Sixers. 

• In years past, the seats would have been occupied by those wearing Warriors jerseys for a must-see opponent in town. On Saturday, it was clear the fans came to the Wells Fargo Center to watch the home team. 

• The early matchup between Saric and Zaza Pachulia was intriguing to watch. They both bring international experience to the court and had been familiar with each other’s game before Saric got to Philadelphia: Saric following Pachulia in the NBA and Pachulia learning about Saric’s play in Turkey. Pachulia referred to the Sixers forward as a  “young, talented kid” and “smart” last season.

• Notes and Numbers: The Sixers tied the record for most points scored in a half (74) by either team at the Wells Fargo Center. … Redick netted career three-pointer No. 1,300. He currently ranks 15th among active players. … The Warriors improved to 4-0 in the next game following a loss. They were defeated by the Celtics on Thursday. … The Sixers have lost 10 straight against the Warriors. Their last win was on March 2, 2013.