Give and Go

Give and Go: How will Sixers fare on season-long homestand?

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Give and Go: How will Sixers fare on season-long homestand?

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

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we'll look at whether the Sixers can keep their momentum going during their upcoming six-game homestand.

Harris
At first glance, I thought the Sixers were looking at a winning homestand of 4-2. But with the latest injury to Justin Anderson (out at least three weeks with shin splints), the Sixers’ depth chart at guard could severely cripple those hopes. 

While they start Ben Simmons at point guard and JJ Redick at the shooting guard, the bench is left with only T.J. McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and rookie Furkan Korkmaz.

It’s hard to believe that guard rotation (or even a fully healthy one) would slow down Golden State. That's likely a loss any way you look at it with the Warriors coming off Thursday's loss to Boston.

The Sixers should handle Utah just as they did in Salt Lake City. But after that, the backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will likely be tough to endure.

Orlando should offer a very strong chance at a win. The Magic have cooled off since a 6-2 start. Any team that can lose to the Bulls at home should be beatable by Brett Brown's squad.

The last two games against Cleveland and Washington should be great measuring sticks as top teams in the East. Both the Cavaliers and Wizards have been inconsistent. You'd hope the Sixers would be a little healthier by the last two games on the homestand. It will likely come down to late-game execution and I can see the Sixers earning a split.

So that's a 3-3 homestand from my vantage point with a chance to get a fourth win depending on Joel Embiid's availability. But with six games in 12 days, you have to wonder if "load management" won't play a factor here. So I'll stick with a shorthanded 3-3, accounting for the possibility of a JoJo no-show.​

Haughton
This is tricky because it combines how well the Sixers are currently playing with the level of competition set to enter the Wells Fargo Center.

On the Sixers’ end, things couldn’t be much better. The team capped off the five-game road trip with an exclamation mark as Joel Embiid put on a show for the ages against the Clippers and Lakers in Los Angeles. More importantly, the Sixers finished the trip with a 3-2 mark (should have been 4-1 if not for the “rogue” moment in Sacramento). Either way, the Sixers are in a solid position as they return to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time in just over two weeks.

As for the opponents, there aren’t any real slouches on the slate. The only team the Sixers will face below the .500 mark is the Rudy Gobert-less Utah Jazz, who they already took care of on the road.

Things get started with the champion Golden State Warriors, who had won seven straight prior to Thursday’s loss to Boston. The Sixers will also face Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and the Portland Trail Blazers before a date with the surprising Orlando Magic. They finish off the home stretch with Eastern Conference heavyweights Cleveland and Washington.

I would say a split would be more than acceptable for the Sixers, but I’ll get a bit greedy and say the young squad feeds off the home crowd’s energy to go 4-2 during the stint with losses only to the Warriors and Cavaliers.

Hudrick
Unfortunately, the homestand will likely start with an L to the Warriors. As Marshall alluded to, the Warriors are coming off a loss Thursday. That does not bode well for the Sixers.

The team has been playing at such a high level. Here’s the crazy thing though: they went 3-2 on a West Coast trip where Redick and Dario Saric, two extremely important cogs in the Sixers’ lineup, contributed very little. 

Redick will right the ship. He has the track record. Sometimes, you’re just off. If it’s a mechanical issue, you know Redick will get it figured out. Saric’s struggles are likely the result of a role change and fatigue from playing so much basketball. While he doesn’t have the track record of Redick, I expect Saric to bounce back as well. 

Still, the Sixers are up against a gauntlet. After Saturday’s matchup with Golden State, the team hosts the Jazz, Trail Blazers and Magic before wrapping the homestand against the Wizards and Cavs. In my eyes, that’s three very winnable games and three extremely challenging contests. If they go 3-3, there would be nothing to be upset about.

But I think they pull out one of the games against the Wizards or Cavs and they go 4-2 over the next six games at the Wells Fargo Center.

Give and Go: Who is Sixers' top offensive option?

Give and Go: Who is Sixers' top offensive option?

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

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

This week, we'll take a look at whether Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons is the Sixers’ top offensive option.

Harris
The Sixers’ No. 1 offensive option heading into the season was a no-doubt easy answer of Embiid. But nine games into this season (OK, maybe it didn't take that many), that answer has changed. Kinda. Sorta.

Simmons is the new answer to that question, in large part because it's a trick answer. Simmons only needs to have the ball in his hands to start a play, not necessarily to end it. He doesn't have to be the player taking the shot. He can simply be the conductor of the Sixers’ offensive orchestra on a must-score possession. With all due respect to Embiid, Simmons as a point guard is the easiest way to create plays and points for the Sixers.

Simmons can: create a mismatch against a forward by blowing by him, create a mismatch against a smaller point guard in the post, drive and kick, run pick-and-roll, create space for an elbow jumper, and so on and so forth. 

The possibilities aren't limitless because his range isn't at the moment. Still, Simmons is a point guard in a power forward's body and he doesn't have the same level of turnover problems which have plagued Embiid early on this season. 

Perhaps Embiid will return top billing as the Sixers’ main option. But Simmons is the man for now.

Haughton
While the Sixers are clear they want to funnel everything through their $146.5 million man, Simmons has made it hard for that to be the team’s top option.

Embiid still has the upper hand in raw numbers that would give him the appearance of the Sixers’ go-to guy. The center tops Simmons in points per game, usage rate and PER.

However, the eye test says it’s already Simmons just nine games into his NBA career. The point guard has proven to be a better scorer than was to be expected so soon with an average of 18.0 points a night. 

More importantly, he has been able to smoothly set up the offense like a natural PG. Simmons’s 8.2 assists a night are good enough to have the rookie among the top five in the league.

Every “process” needs a conductor.

Hudrick
This is a total cop-out, but it depends on the time of the game and the type of game the Sixers are in.

In an up-and-down game played at a breakneck pace, it's Simmons. His ability to pull down rebounds and take them the other way in a flash is breathtaking. For the bulk of most games, the ball has to be in Simmons' hands for the offense to go.

In a grind-it-out, half-court game, it's Embiid. Look at the two wins in Texas. Embiid helped salt those games away with elite low post scoring. 

With all that said, with the way the NBA is trending, the breakneck pace is what's in right now. But still, having the ability to also just throw it down low to a beast on the block is something a lot of the teams that play at a high pace don't have.

So 1A and 1B? Sure.

Give and Go: Biggest takeaway from Sixers season so far

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Give and Go: Biggest takeaway from Sixers season so far

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

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Paul Hudrick and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton.

In this edition, we'll take look at the biggest takeaways from the Sixers’ first five games of the season.

Harris
Through five games, it’s clear that the Sixers are a young team with plenty of talent, plenty of work to do and plenty of room to grow. 

My biggest takeaway is that Dario Saric is going to have to get back to at least last year’s level of performance if the Sixers are going to maximize their potential in terms of wins and losses.
 
Saric is clearly still finding his way through five games. He has shot a paltry 33.3 percent from the floor (41.1 last season) and 21.4 percent from three (31.1 last season) so far. He has also posted a true shooting percentage of 39.8 (50.8 percent last season).
 
Saric has to get going, and it’s on Brett Brown to figure out how to get it done. The 23-year-old has yet to hit double figures in a game in points despite two contests in which he’s taken double-digit shots. Against Houston on Wednesday, he took a single shot (a three-pointer) and went scoreless. Saric wasn’t held scoreless a single time in 81 games last season. 

The second unit needs his scoring, rebounding and playmaking. Don’t expect this Sixers team to make a playoff push without way more offensive output from last year’s Rookie of the Year runner-up. It’s simply not going to happen.

Hudrick
There were — and still are — many questions surrounding the Sixers. One of the biggest: can Ben Simmons play point guard at the NBA level?

So far, the answer is a resounding yes. Just five games into his rookie season, Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 7.4 assists. The only players to average those numbers through their first five games are Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Connie Hawkins. Pretty solid company.

Another aspect of Simmons' game that has been a pleasant surprise is his defense. There were times against Houston when he was matched up against superstar guard James Harden and held his own. Simmons is an obvious nightmare matchup offensively with his ability to handle and create at 6-foot-10. Defensively, he's just as nightmarish, flashing the ability to guard one through five and using his length to disrupt passing lanes.

There are still plenty of things for Simmons to work on. He has to able to shoot from 12 feet from the basket. He has to finish around the rim. He has to make free throws. He's still just 21. Robertson and Hawkins weren't even in the league until 22.

It's a long season, but the early returns on Ben Simmons as a point guard look extremely promising.

Haughton
Everyone say it with me now: relax.

It’s not even officially Halloween yet and a certain segment of fans are ready to run players — and even the coach — out of town?

You’ve certainly heard some of the criticism. Perhaps it’s even been uttered by you.

Markelle Fultz is a bust. The Sixers should have drafted Jayson Tatum. 

Really? Are you giving up on Fultz after four NBA games? It’s obvious he was playing hurt and trying to tough it out with a shoulder injury, which comes to find out, doesn’t lend itself well to shooting a basketball. What we have also seen is a 19-year-old with a strong ability to get to the basket and a willingness to do whatever is asked of him for the team. 

As for the Tatum chatter, it was pretty well known that he was coming into the league as a more finished product than Fultz but that the guard holds more upside. Still, none of that would even matter on this team with the current construction. Marshall pointed out above how Saric is struggling to find a role with Simmons running the show, so what do you think would be different with Tatum?

Hmmm, what other critiques have we heard? Oh, that Jerryd Bayless needs to go.

This one baffles me the most. The Sixers have had exactly one player in the past five seasons shoot above 40.0 percent from three-point range (Hollis Thompson shot 40.1 percent in 2013-14 and 2014-15). Yet, Bayless is off to 50.0 percent clip from beyond the arc and 46.8 percent from the field, but people want him out.

And we all know about the Amir Johnson opinions. He’s old. He’s slow. Why is he playing over Jahlil Okafor?

Brown made Okafor’s situation quite clear Friday (see story). And when Richaun Holmes returns from his injury, we’ll see Johnson in even smaller doses on the court.

Early performances and games certainly matter just as much as any other time during the season. However, it’s a long season. Let it play out a little bit more before making judgments.