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Sixers Mailbag: Pressure on Joel Embiid, Brett Brown?

Training camp begins this month, so you know what that means … another edition of the #CSNSixersMailbag. From playoff expectations to Embiid’s back-to-backs to the guards’ roles, these are the questions on your mind about the Sixers.

All three could be on the court at the end of a game. Of course, that depends on matchups and if the Sixers are going big. In this scenario, Simmons could be at the one, Covington at the three, and Saric at the four. The Sixers will have the flexibility to experiment with numerous lineups throughout the season. Because so many players can play different positions, they won't have to rely on just one unit in tight games.

Confidence always has been key to Nik Stauskas' game. He should enter this season carrying it over from the previous one. Stauskas shot career-bests with 39.6 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range in his third year, ran the point in a pinch and also focused on improving his defense. He will have the invaluable opportunity of picking the brain of one of the best shooters in the league, JJ Redick.

I am interested to see what the Sixers end up doing with Stauskas this season. He is in the final year of his contract, which automatically puts him on my trade watch list. Stauskas boosted his value last season and the Sixers are overcrowded at the two spot. Will he play the entire season in Philadelphia? That is an uncertainty worth keeping an eye on.

The Sixers signed Jerryd Bayless last season for reasons that still are applicable on this revamped roster. Let's start with on the court. Bayless has combo guard skills that allow Brett Brown to play him at the point and shooting guard. Originally, the plan was for him to complement Ben Simmons while Simmons ran the floor. That changed when both players missed last season because of injuries. This season, Bayless can either be the point guard or play off the ball at the two. 

Off the court — and this cannot be overlooked on a young team — Bayless was brought in to be a leader. The Sixers will be relying on two rookies, Simmons and Markelle Fultz, who have never played an NBA game to take on starting roles. Players like Bayless and Redick will be instrumental in their development. Bayless already formed a mentor-like relationship with Simmons last season while both were rehabbing.

If it were up to Joel Embiid, he would play 48 minutes in 82 games. But it's not. Embiid's playing time will be determined, once again, by the team. He has the pressure to stay in shape and well-conditioned, especially with the possibility of a contract extension. Beyond that, the Sixers will map out how frequently he's on the court.

More pressure will be on Brett Brown as long as the Sixers are healthy. If he has a fully available roster, this will be the first time he will actually be able to coach for a whole season. Brown had a brief window of opportunity last January when the team went 10-5 before Embiid was sidelined.

Back-to-backs will be a storyline all season. The Sixers held Embiid out of consecutive games after he missed his first two seasons because of injuries. He is entering his second season, coming off knee surgery in March and has not played in a game since Jan. 27. In June, Brett Brown said the idea of Embiid and Ben Simmons playing without minute restrictions is "ambitious."

I would expect the Sixers to proceed with caution and hold him out of the majority of back-to-backs. With 14 back-to-back series, my prediction is he plays in two sets of consecutive games. The Sixers' priority is keeping Embiid healthy for the long-term and playing two straight nights in December, let's say, isn't worth the risk.