76ers

Sixers Mailbag: Playoffs, winning records and restrictions

Sixers Mailbag: Playoffs, winning records and restrictions

Guess what time it is … just over a week until the start of training camp. Playoffs, winning records and restrictions are on the minds of a lot of Sixers fans. Thanks to everyone who submitted their questions with #CSNSixersMailbag. 

My prediction for this season is 43 wins. That being said, the win total has so much to do with health and restrictions.

The Sixers finished 28-54 last season. Reaching 43 wins would be a significant jump. I heavily considered their 10-5 month of January for this projection. That was the small window last season when the Sixers (finally) had a healthy group to work with and Brett Brown could coach a team, not just a revolving door of players. Based on the potential they showed during that month, a 15-win improvement is not out of the question.

I did factor in the fact the Sixers have 14 sets of back-to-backs. It remains to be seen in how many of those Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be cleared to compete. I would expect restrictions to be heavier at the start of the season, when the Sixers’ schedule is stacked with playoff-contending opponents. Even if the team starts out below .500, they will have the opportunity to catch up in the standings in the second half of the season when their schedule is much more Eastern Conference-heavy. 

And if you’re thinking playoffs, the Bulls grabbed the eighth seed last season with a 41-41 record. The competition in the conference has lessened and teams may be able to get into the postseason under .500. 

Good question, and one that will be a hot topic for Simmons and Embiid this season.

The team has not announced minute restrictions for Simmons, who has yet to play in an NBA game because of a right Jones fracture. That will be further evaluated during training camp and into the season. 

I would expect the Sixers to place some type of restriction on Simmons and monitor him carefully as they did with Embiid. Whether that is a limitation on minutes or consecutive games is to be determined. 

Simmons is a key piece for the Sixers’ future, not just the 2017-18 season. They will not rush into playing time just because he is cleared for game action. 

From lottery picks to postseason seedings, yes, we are talking about the playoffs before the season even begins.

The Eastern Conference is wide open for teams to move up in the standings. Trades by the Pacers, Bulls and Hawks have created the opportunity to shake up last season’s top eight. 

I made this prediction earlier in the summer and I’ll stick with it in mid-September: I am projecting the Sixers as the seventh seed in the East. That’s behind the usual five, the Cavaliers, Celtics, Wizards, Raptors and Bucks and … the Hornets jumping back into the playoffs at six. 

Of course, playoff predictions for any team, especially the Sixers, depends on health, player availability and future trades. 

Feels like a while since last season ended, right? Here are some dates to look forward to before Opening Night on Oct. 18 against the Wizards in Washington, D.C.:

Sept. 25 - Media Day

Sept. 26 - Start of training camp

Oct. 4 - First preseason home game against the Grizzlies

Is Joel Embiid's trash talking starting to get old?

Is Joel Embiid's trash talking starting to get old?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go this edition are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we examine whether Joel Embiid’s trash talking is starting to get old.

Haughton
Absolutely not.

First, look at it from a team perspective. The Sixers thrive off of Embiid’s emotion. Look no further than Friday night’s triple-overtime thriller against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Sixers were sleepwalking through that game for much of the night until Embiid mixed it up with Carmelo Anthony following an and-one with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter. Embiid got the crowd juiced up and his teammates fed off that energy during the critical 11-0 run to close out regulation.

When Embiid’s trash talk spills over to social media, he does try to keep things light and playful. That’s his personality and that’s his realm, so none of what he’s doing really comes from a position of genuine malice.

On the bigger scale, this is what the NBA has been about long before Embiid came along. From Larry Bird’s bravado to Michael Jordan’s ruthlessness to Shaquille O’Neal’s blatant disrespect of opponents, the league has a long list of trash talkers.

As LeBron James said when the Cavaliers came through the Wells Fargo Center right after Thanksgiving, players today are just too sensitive.

Hudrick
Let’s just let Joel be Joel.

The guy came over from Cameroon, knowing very little about the game and getting teased by his teammates in high school. After overcoming that and landing at Kansas, injuries took away the end of his only season there and then his first two NBA seasons. He was the brunt of jokes as the Sixers continued to lose and he had to watch from afar. He’s earned the right to feel himself a little bit.

What I see is a kid having fun. I have to give Philly fans credit. Flamboyant characters don’t usually do well here. In a city that (still) obsesses over the play of a quiet, hard-nosed guy like Chase Utley and has fallen head over heels for the humbleness of Carson Wentz, Embiid doesn't fit the mold. But he's been embraced and beloved.

Here’s the other thing: he’s backing it up. If he was out there talking trash but shooting 30 percent from the field and not running down the reigning MVP for a blocked shot in a triple-OT game, that would be a different story. He’s put this team on his back and has them poised for a playoff berth.

Let the man live.

'Dots don't connect' for Sixers on inbound confusion

'Dots don't connect' for Sixers on inbound confusion

Of all the scenarios that transpired over the Sixers’ triple-overtime loss to the Thunder on Friday, there is one moment that stands out.

Fast-forward to the end of the second overtime. The Sixers had the opportunity to take the final shot after Dario Saric grabbed a defensive rebound. Joel Embiid motioned for a timeout before Saric put the ball on the floor. 

The Sixers huddled and prepared for a half-court play they had practiced before, confident they could execute it with 1.2 seconds on the game clock.

However, as they went to set up, the officials told them the inbound was actually full court. Saric had dribbled the ball before the timeout was called, they were told. That change wiped out the play they had initially planned. 

“They asked us what side of the floor did we want to advance it to, and so we told them,” Brett Brown said. “We drew up a play to try to score. Then we walked out and they said no you can’t advance it, it goes full court. When you look at the tape, you can see Joel and myself calling a timeout with 1.2 seconds. They said Dario dribbled, yet there were still 1.2 seconds. The dots don’t connect.”

The last-second shift in inbound position left the Sixers scrambling. Embiid said the team was “caught off guard.” Ben Simmons considered the call to be “huge.” 

“We weren’t told that we couldn’t progress the ball up the floor until we actually had to run the play,” Simmons said. “That kind of messed us up. We got into a late play, which didn’t convert.” 

The Sixers didn’t connect on their final possession. There’s no guarantee the shot would have gone in, but they would have been prepared to get a good look. 

“[It changed] everything,” Robert Covington said. 

Instead of pulling off a last-second game-winner, the Sixers went into triple overtime. They were edged out by two points, 119-117 (see game recap)

"That kind of like messed up in our minds, but that’s not an excuse," Embiid said. "We shouldn’t have an excuse for losing that game."