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Sixers Mailbag: A suddenly crowded backcourt and what's Jahlil Okafor's future?

Sixers Mailbag: A suddenly crowded backcourt and what's Jahlil Okafor's future?

It’s August so you know what that means: less than two months until the start of NBA training camp. For as many questions as the Sixers addressed in free agency and the draft, there are a lot that still remain. In this mailbag, I'll take a look at a few of those topics. If you don’t see your tweet here, I will be answering more next week. (On that note, big thanks for the huge response to mailbag questions!) 

In the past (as recent as last season), the Sixers had players on the roster who were waived and then, just as quickly, were out of the NBA. That’s not the case with the current team. Each player on the roster has value. If the Sixers were to part ways, it most likely would be done through a trade or, if they were unable to find a trade partner, a buyout. 

Let’s take a look at the two players Nick asked about here (@MWright1313 inquired about Bayless as well). Jerryd Bayless is a solid fit for the second unit. He can play both point and shooting guard, providing versatility off the bench. Bayless, who turns 29 this month, brings veteran experience that will be needed with a backcourt of two rookies in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. He already formed a mentor-type relationship with Simmons last season while they both were rehabbing from injuries.

When it comes to Stauskas, I have said numerous times he boosted his trade value last season. He averaged career-highs in scoring (9.5 points), three-point percentage (36.8), field goal percentage (39.6), rebounds (2.6), and assists (2.4). Stauskas showed he can run the floor as well and he focused on improving his defense. The Sixers are crowded at the two-guard and Stauskas could be sought after by other teams in a trade. 

The Sixers, like every NBA team, look for moves to improve their rosters year-round. That could involve being an additional team to complete a multi-team trade or simply making a small move based on cap space (like last summer when they traded the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum to the Cavaliers in exchange for cash considerations and Sasha Kaun, who they waived days later). 

Whether it is the preseason, regular season or offseason, trade questions seem to go back to Jahlil Okafor, as seen here in this tweet. Okafor has been working out this summer and was noticeably slimmer when he attended summer league games in Las Vegas last month. The Sixers’ main goal for Okafor this offseason is improving his health, notably his right knee. 

The team has been transparent about the possibility of trading the big man, which they attempted to do this past February. Since it already is August, the Sixers could benefit from Okafor having a successful training camp to give other teams another look at his improvements. One trade scenario could be trading Okafor early in the regular season like they did with Jerami Grant after two games last October. 

Why do I have the feeling this question isn’t going away anytime soon? 

Sixers-Raptors thoughts: Embiid to sit, Okafor to take his place

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Sixers-Raptors thoughts: Embiid to sit, Okafor to take his place

Sixers (0-2) at Raptors (1-0)
7:30 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app. Pregame Live at 7.

The Sixers enter their first back-to-back set of the season when they tip off against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.

Hope you didn’t think the Sixers would flip the switch overnight. Oh yeah, it’s a process.

The Sixers found that out again when they stalled during the second half of Friday night’s 102-92 loss to the Boston Celtics in their home opener.

“We didn’t hold everything together like we should have,” Jerryd Bayless said.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

• Joel Embiid won’t suit up against the Raptors because the center still isn’t cleared for back-to-backs yet. His stamina is not where it needs to be at the moment and it showed vs. the Celtics.

Embiid looked lethargic as he struggled through a 4-for-16 performance for just 11 points. That included the big man going 0 for 6 from three-point range.

After the game, the big man expressed that he wants more touches in the paint. That will certainly happen, but it will have to wait until the next game.

• So who will take Embiid’s playing time in Toronto? If only the Sixers had another center on their roster also taken No. 3 overall in a recent NBA draft.

Wait, they do? Hello, Jahlil Okafor.

Since slimming down in the offseason and performing well during the preseason, Okafor has been glued to the bench during the Sixers’ first two games of 2017-18.

That is likely to change against the Raptors. With both Embiid and Richaun Holmes out, Okafor could share the center duties with veteran Amir Johnson.

That wouldn’t be a bad idea based on the numbers. In five career games against the Raptors, Okafor has averaged 20.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 31.3 minutes.

• For years, the Raptors have been fueled by their All-Star backcourt tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. That won’t change this season, but the team is intent on spreading the ball around more.

Toronto had six players score in double figures during its season opener. That included a team-high 23 points from center Jonas Valanciunas and 22 off the bench from veteran C.J. Miles.

Speaking of Miles, the Sixers will have to keep a close eye on the Raps’ new-look bench that accounted for 48 points in the team’s season-opening win over the Chicago Bulls.

• Ben Simmons has been as advertised. He’s big, strong, athletic and plays with poise.

The point guard put up 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in Friday’s loss to the Celtics. That made him the first rookie in Sixers history to start his career with back-to-back double-doubles and just the 11th in NBA history.

Simmons also became just the fifth player ever to have at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in their first two games, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The other four: Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, Connie Hawkins and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Yeah, he’s off to a pretty good start.

• The Sixers haven’t exactly had much success against the Raptors in recent years. They’ve lost 15 of their last 16 to their division foe, including nine straight at Air Canada Centre. Their last victory north of the border came on Nov. 10, 2012.

• Embiid (rest) and Holmes (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Fred VanVleet (head) is a game-time decision for the Raptors. Malcolm Miller (ankle) is out.

Home Opening, Home Closing: Sixers lose brutal game to Celtics in home opener

Home Opening, Home Closing: Sixers lose brutal game to Celtics in home opener

At least the national anthem was awesome. After that, some good things must have happened to the Sixers last night, but it's hard to remember what they are. Instead, there were a lot of turnovers, a lot of misses, and enough fouls to inspire a Flyers month's worth of "REF YOU SUCK" chants. The Sixers lost, 102-92. That score feels neither accurate nor inaccurate. It's hard to remember anyone scoring anything last night, to be honest.

Watching this game felt like getting stuck in traffic for two and a half hours. Just a lot of stop-starts, a lot of honking, and endless amounts of frustration. Joel Embiid went 4 of 16. Dario Saric turned the ball over six times, including twice on consecutive offensive foul clear-outs. Ben Simmons — well, he had 11 and 11, making him the only Sixers rookie start off his career with two double-doubles. Cool, but not enough to provide the team any sort of fluidity or consistency on offense. This one got nasty early and stayed that way, as unpleasurable a contest as the Sixers are likely to ever play at (close to) full health.

Hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, either. The spacing seemed cramped all night, and far too often, JoJo was getting the ball behind the three-point line. His pump-fake wasn't fooling the Celtics' bigs, and his shot from range has eluded him thus far this season (0-6 last night, now 0-15 total since his preseason debut). Jerryd Bayless, J.J. Redick and Robert Covington did their part — 10 combined threes on 19 attempts — but the Sixers just didn't seem to get many clean looks, especially around the basket. And the bench, a combined 8 of 27 (0 of 7 from deep), was no help.

But the story from this one was the refs. I'm not sure if I'd even say how poorly the game was officiated, the more striking thing was just how relentlessly the game was officiated. The Sixers got whistled for 30 fouls — 24 for Boston — and the stoppages made the game so choppy that the game flowed about as well as a 23-track DJ Khaled album. A sellout home crowd was absolutely raring to go all night, but never got to build up any kind of momentum (except against the refs), with their only opportunities for extended cheering coming at the free-throw line. The Cetlics' didn't fare much better flow-wise, with only 16 assists on the night — fewer than they had in any game last year — but they had Kyrie Irving, and that was enough to make the difference down the stretch.

The Sixers will continue looking for their first win tonight, in Toronto. Doesn't seem likely they'll find it, with JoJo sitting and the Raps returning most of their playoff core, but hopefully they can at least wash the taste of this one out a little, and get some of their guys — Dario especially, who's now 5 for 15 (0 for 6 from three) for the season — into a little bit of a groove. We should also be seeing Vegan Jah for the first time this season, so hopefully he can provide a little of the offensive spark off the bench we were missing in this one. In any event, 40 home games to go this season – there'll be losses worth than this, but hopefully none quite so uniquely frustrating.