Jerryd Bayless

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 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 made the most sense.
 
Fultz is only 19 years old, going up against grown men in the NBA. He's dealing with a shoulder injury that he admits has affected his shot, and has 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 may have 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 Ben 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 of 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 a severe aspect of today’s NBA the team has been 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 that 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.

Give and Go: Which Sixer has been most impressive through camp, preseason?

Give and Go: Which Sixer has been most impressive through camp, preseason?

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 Matt Haughton and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Paul Hudrick.

This week, we'll break down which Sixer has been the most impressive during training camp and preseason so far.

Harris
With all of the hype over Markelle Fultz, it's easy to forget about Jerryd Bayless. 

Bayless missed all but three games in 2016-17 with a wrist injury. However, in the preseason he has shown exactly what Brett Brown expected from the guard last season when he signed with the Sixers as free agent. In two preseason contests, Bayless has put up 19 points on 7 for 12 shooting from the field (4 for 8 from three-point range), five rebounds, four assists and just one turnover.

The question becomes now just how large of a role will he have on this team? He's better than Fultz at the moment, but Brown has stressed development and winning as being mutually exclusive. 

With 10 of their first 14 games on the road, playing Bayless more over Fultz makes sense if the Sixers are trying to avoid a 4-10 or 5-9 start. 

Yes, it could be that bad if you're relying on a Fultz-Ben Simmons backcourt defensively with Joel Embiid's availability on a nightly basis a giant question mark.

Haughton
A wise man named Uncle Drew once said the name of the game is to get buckets.

With all of the trade speculation and health questions surrounding Jahlil Okafor, it was easy to forget that the big man can flat out put the ball in the basket.

Through two preseason games, the slimmed-down Okafor has posted 24 points on a red-hot 10 for 13 shooting (76.9 percent). More importantly, he has shown a willingness to hit the glass with six boards in each game.

While Okafor will never be confused with a good defender, the big man's 20-pound weight loss has at least helped him be a little more active on that end.

You can never have enough scoring, and the Sixers should certainly benefit from bringing a healthy Okafor's offensive punch off the bench behind Embiid.

Hudrick
I'll be the guy who takes the obvious pick and choose Simmons.

That first quarter against Memphis was breathtaking. Sure, the Grizzlies' lineup that night was obviously not loaded with stars, but consider what Simmons has dealt with. He hadn't played an actual basketball game since the 2016 summer league. He finished Wednesday night with nine assists and just one turnover. Damn impressive for an NBA rookie who's never truly played the point guard position.

Friday night's loss to the Celtics was certainly a little disappointing, but these are the lumps Simmons will have to take. Especially when facing quality opponents like Boston. Then there's the obvious: the shot has to get better. I'm not talking threes. If he can learn to hit 12-foot pull ups, he could be unstoppable. 

Simmons is an example of why fans focused on the playoffs need to pump the brakes just a tad. Simmons will have plenty of games like Wednesday's but will also have a few like Friday's. Just enjoy the ride.

Sixers hold another team-building event with ping pong tournament

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Photo courtesy of the Sixers

Sixers hold another team-building event with ping pong tournament

CAMDEN, N.J. — First a surprise visit from Charles Barkley at Brett Brown’s house, then a spirited ping pong tournament in the city. 

The Sixers held another training camp team-building event Thursday night at Spin Philadelphia. Players and staff took part in a field-of-64 competition in which Jerryd Bayless topped Brett Brown for the title. 

"Any time somebody brings their own ping pong paddle, you know you're in trouble,” Brown said at practice Friday. 

Bayless delivered his A-game. He credited his skills to playing in matches at Boys and Girls Clubs growing up. The veteran guard wasn’t that concerned about his competition, anyway.

“It’s not that hard,” Bayless said of beating Brown. 

When asked about knocking out his teammates en route to the finals, he laughed, “Yeah, they’re not that good either.” 

Bayless ultimately met his match when he faced off against a 14-time ping-pong champion from Sweden. 

“Any pros, they can beat me,” he said. “But if you’re not a pro, you’re probably not going to beat me.” 

Brown took his loss in stride. Not surprisingly, he used a basketball reference to accept the defeat.

“I said to Ben (Simmons) and Markelle (Fultz), ‘If Washington and LSU could’ve got to the finals of the NCAA Tournament and you would’ve just got crushed, you would’ve been embarrassed on national TV vs. not making it, which one would you choose?’” Brown said. “They said, I’d rather go to the Finals and be crushed. 

“I said, ‘Well, that’s what happened to me. I was crushed in front of the team.’”

That’s not to say Brown’s appearance in the title round should be discounted. He beat strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Simmons along the way. 

“Coach Brown beat me, I’ll give him that,” Simmons said. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to be quite the player, but I was a little rusty.” 

Brown has incorporated non-basketball activities throughout training camp. Earlier in the week, the team got together at his house where the Sixers arranged for Barkley to speak with the players. 

“Everybody had a really good time,” Bayless said of ping pong. “We’ve had four really good days here. Trying to get away from this for a night and then pick it back up today I think was a good idea. It was really a lot of fun.” 

(Photos courtesy of the Sixers)