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? 

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

USA Today Images

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

This week’s serving of Rob Rants focuses on the dichotomy of the 2018 NBA All-star Game and the show that comes with it. On the court, the game was a highly entertaining, competitive, tightly fought contest that incorporated a new concept that's a winner. The league also attempted something new prior to the game. That idea did not quite work as well. 

All-Star Games 
I generally am not a fan of All-Star Games. I haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in years. Same goes for the NHL All-Star Game. I find the MLB's midsummer classic to be the most watchable of the four. Plus, they have a captive audience as there are no other options that time of year. In recent years, I’ve taken more to the NBA three-point contest and skills competition rather than the dunk contest or the game itself. Full disclosure: I watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night for a few reasons. I wanted to see Joel Embiid’s first All-Star Game. I was curious about the new draft format of player selection. And my 16-year-old son who I was watching it with is a die-hard Sixers and NBA fan. So I watched all the way through. What I found were two polar-opposite productions. 

Along with ESPN’s College Gameday. I find TNT's Inside the NBA to be as good as it gets in terms of pregame shows. Ernie, Charles, Kenny, Shaq and crew were excellent as always. It’s what happened after they signed off that was a sight to be hold. 

Pregame show?
Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart performed some type of musical/broadway play/comedy/is this really happening? Somehow Rob Riggle, the least funny man in the world, was involved. As were Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and Ludacris. And there were cheerleaders and wild west folk. There may have been others but at that point, I began slipping into some kind of hypnotic coma. It went on interminably long. It was the kind of thing that, if Hart was not so popular and talented, can kill a career. It was that bad. But I strangely could not pull myself away. It was car crash, rubber-necking kind of bad. 

That mercifully ended and you thought it was game time. But we still had the anthems. First, the Canadian anthem, which was followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Fergie decided that she would turn Francis Scott Key’s composition into a steamy, sultry, lounge act from back in the day. To put it kindly, she missed the mark. Charles Barkley said at halftime that he needed a cigarette after her performance. It wasn’t quite Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr-level of terrible, but it just capped a half hour-plus of strangeness that anyone who watched was never getting back. All of this just reaffirmed why I don’t generally indulge in these exhibitions. But then something funny happened. 

The game
The NBA smartly changed formats for All-Star selection this year. The league went playground style, having two captains choose their teams. LeBron James and Steph Curry were the two captains in charge of selecting from the voted-in All-Stars. The game, unlike recent years, had a different kind of competitive feel from the jump. Yes, it had the usual array of dunks and incredible passes, which the game should have. But there was defense played and fouls taken. Strategy was employed. To the players and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s credit, the changes were a home run. The game came down to the last possession with Team Steph having a chance to tie with a three. Team LeBron played great defense and Curry could not get a shot off, giving Team LeBron the 148-145 victory. The game had the best of both worlds — incredible athletes showing off their skills and a level of care and compete not seen in a long time. And Embiid had an excellent All-Star debut with 19 points, eight boards and a great sequence where he nailed a rainbow three-pointer and then swatted Russell Westbrook at the other end of the floor.

Lesson here: tune in at tip-off. And no more Rob Riggle. Ever.