76ers

6 observations from Sixers-Nets

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6 observations from Sixers-Nets

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Michael Carter-Williams’ return from a seven-game absence helped the Sixers snap a seven-game losing streak with a 121-120 overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). Here are some observations from the matchup:

1. The Nets didn’t have Kevin Garnett (rest) or Joe Johnson (personal matters) for the return match against the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center, two players that had a big impact in Monday’s rout. But it wasn’t like the Nets were at a loss for replacements. Garnett’s replacement was Brook Lopez, the Nets’ leading scorer with 20.6 points per game. Lopez sat out of Monday’s game. Johnson’s sub was Paul Pierce, the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer and a 10-time All-Star.

2. How much of a difference does Carter-Williams make for the Sixers? You know, aside from the obvious things like the team’s record (1-10 without, 7-9 with).

The Sixers are a righter unit offensively and defensively with the rookie point guard. They also move the ball up the court quicker with MCW in a few basic ways. He takes the outlet pass as deep as possible. When the Sixers secure the ball on a rebound or turnover, Carter-Williams is already breaking off and headed up the floor, but not too far that there is a risk of a bad pass.

Carter-Williams also understands the ball moves quicker on a pass than a dribble. So when the point guard gets the ball in transition, his head is up looking for a teammate moving up the floor with him.

Those things didn’t happen often when Carter-Williams was out of the lineup.

3. With four players 6-foot-10 or taller, the Nets should be a force on the boards and in the paint. Yet, through 25 games this season, the Nets rank 25th in offensive rebounding and 20th in defensive. Overall, the Nets are 23rd in the NBA in total rebounding. So how were the Sixers, with just one 7-footer and one player listed at 6-10 getting any playing time able to clean up the boards against the Nets?

Easy, positioning. When the Nets shot the ball from the outside, it wasn’t uncommon to see two Sixers alone in the paint waiting for the rebound. Plus, because the Sixers attack the paint, they often outnumbered the Nets in there.

4. Tony Wroten has no trouble getting to the basket. The Sixers’ backup point guard has a ton of moves that can get him from the three-point line to the paint in a half-second. But Wroten’s outside shooting is still a work in progress.

Wroten went 8 for 17 from the floor, including 2 for 8 from three-point range against the Nets. Take away the 5 for 8 shooting from three on Dec. 12 and Wroten is 18 for 84 (21.4 percent) from long range. If coach Brett Brown is going to play Wroten along side Carter-Williams in the Sixers’ backcourt, Wroten is going to have to improve his shooting.

5. The Sixers held the Nets to just 15 three-pointers Friday night. That’s a big improvement from the 21 the Nets hit Monday night. But the Nets weren’t without a career night or a big third quarter. Alan Anderson scored 16 of his team-high 26 points in the third quarter and hit five threes. Mirza Teletovic shot a career-best 6 of 10 from three-point range.

6. Thad Young is a pro’s pro. After Friday’s shootaround, he cordially and patiently answered questions about trade rumors and if he requested a trade from the Sixers (see story). He did it all over again before the game following his pregame warmup.

It was tiring just watching him go through it.

No worries, though. Young went out and scored 25 points on 11 for 18 shooting with two three-pointers, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

“I am here, ready to give 110 percent each and every game,” Young said after shootaround. “I am ready to just play and try to win basketball games.”

Indeed he is.

Bold predictions as Sixers tip off 2017-18 season

Bold predictions as Sixers tip off 2017-18 season

Each NBA season is filled with unexpected occurrences that change the landscape for a team, division, conference or even the entire league.

The Sixers will need to have a few of their own along the way as they seek their first playoff berth in five years.

With that said, Jessica Camerato, Marshall Harris, Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick each provide a bold prediction for the Sixers’ new season.

Camerato: Embiid gets cleared for back-to-back games
Some people may think this should be a given and not a bold prediction, but given how closely the Sixers are monitoring Joel Embiid's playing time, this isn't a guarantee.

Embiid was not cleared for consecutive games last season as he returned from two years of foot injuries. The Sixers have 14 sets of back-to-backs in 2017-18. Of those, I predict Embiid will play in two pairs of them.

The Sixers will have to check off a comprehensive medical checklist before Embiid is given the green light to play two nights in a row. I do think at some point in the season, they will take this next step and do so on a minutes restriction.

Harris: Fultz won't start more than half Sixers’ games
Yes, Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 overall pick. The Sixers had to trade up to get him. That's why it pains me to admit this. It's not that I want this to be the case, it's just becoming more and more likely with each passing day. Bringing Fultz off the bench to start his NBA career makes the most sense.
 
Fultz is only 19 years old and going up against grown men in the NBA. He's dealing with a shoulder injury he admits has affected his shot, and he's already missed time in the preseason with knee soreness. The knee issue isn't new, as he's dealt with knee problems dating back to his lone season at Washington. 

Add all that up and it's easy to see how his reserve role could go on longer than just the first few games of the season.
 
For Ben Simmons to be most effective, he needs shooters around him. Jerryd Bayless missed almost all of last season, but in 2015-16 he shot 47.7 percent on catch-and-shoot threes. Alongside JJ Redick, Embiid, Robert Covington (I'd like to think he'll shoot better than 28.7 percent from three before January this season) and Bayless, Simmons will have the full complement of shooters he'll need for the Sixers’ offense to pace and space teams to death. 

Coming off the bench will give Fultz the room to grow comfortably, regardless of shoulder and knee issues. It makes sense now and will probably make sense for at least the first half of the season.

Haughton: Redick, Bayless finish top 10 in 3-point percentage
Let it fly. 

As Marshall mentioned above, with ample attention being paid to Embiid down on the block and Simmons serving up those crisp passes, Redick and Bayless should have plenty of good looks from three-point range.

All that’s left is to make the shots. That shouldn’t be a problem for Redick. The career 41.5 percent three-point shooter has finished among the top five in three of the past five seasons, including the No. 1 spot in 2015-16.

Bayless isn’t the same caliber shooter as Redick, but he has made strides to become a serious threat from long range. The veteran combo guard has shot 36.6 percent from distance for his career. However, Bayless connected on a career-high 43.7 percent in ’15-16 with the Bucks, his second season above 40.0.

Recent numbers suggest it will take around a 41.5 percent average to crack the top 10. I say the sharpshooters make the cut and provide the Sixers with an aspect of today’s NBA the team has been severely lacking for quite some time.

Hudrick: Brown gets named NBA’s top coach
Maybe I'm trying to go all LaVar Ball and will this into existence, but my bold prediction is that Brett Brown will win Coach of the Year.

If my season prediction is correct, the Sixers will make the playoffs with the same coach that's finished with a 75-253 record during his first four seasons. Brown has been through so much during his time here. Don't think that'll get lost on voters.

Think about some of the players Brown has had to trot out there. Tony Wroten. James Anderson. Furkan Aldemir. Isaiah Canaan. The one thing you could always say about the Sixers during the tanking years is the players on the court didn't tank. That's a credit to Brown, who had his team prepared and ready to play.

With actual NBA players, Brown will pull this team together. Nobody in this organization deserves vindication of their efforts more.

Wizards' Bradley Beal aims to quiet his buddy Joel Embiid

Wizards' Bradley Beal aims to quiet his buddy Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid has made noise with his mouth and social media presence.

His trash talk took the NBA by storm after the Sixers' preseason finale last Friday against the Miami Heat in Kansas City.

Embiid went after Heat center Hassan Whiteside (there's some history there) in a hilarious Twitter exchange that caught the eyes of many.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal is one of them.

"JoJo is my boy. I like JoJo. We have the same trainer and work out in the summers," Beal said Monday to NBC Sports Washington. "That was crazy. That was really crazy. He was letting his feelings be known."

The Sixers travel to the Wizards for their season opener Wednesday night. While Beal said he likes Embiid’s trash talking because it "keeps guys competitive," he added that his friend better not try it against his team.

"When he plays us, we're going to try to shut him down as best as we can," Beal said. "We aren't trying to hear none of that talking and I'm gonna let him know about it, too."

Embiid joked that he's the social media king.

"To me," he said, "it’s all fun."

The fun shifts to the court Wednesday night.

We'll have to see if the trash talk follows.