nik stauskas

Justin Anderson emerges as leader in 'fistfight 'for rotational minutes on wing

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Justin Anderson emerges as leader in 'fistfight 'for rotational minutes on wing

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Sixers head coach Brett Brown didn’t take it easy on the metaphors when he was asked about the state of the battle for minutes between Justin Anderson, Nik Stauskas and Furkan Korkmaz before his team’s 133-114 win over the Nets Wednesday.

Brown likened it to a fistfight and said there would probably be a “sole survivor” of the group that would receive rotational minutes to start the year. He set out clear guidelines for how he plans on evaluating the three players, who all try to add an element of offensive spacing and three-point shooting off the bench.

“It’s really simple,” Brown said. “It’s who can guard, who plays defense? The close, obvious second is: Can you make shots? The blueprint isn’t complicated. It goes in that order.”

Going by those standards, Wednesday’s contest boded well for Anderson’s prospects. The third-year player out of Virginia was the clear leader among the three in terms of meaningful minutes. Anderson spent 15:42 on the floor, much of it alongside players on the Sixers’ roster that, though reserves, have clearly-defined roles on the team, such as T.J. McConnell.

Stauskas received just 12:34 of action and did little to quell concerns about his shooting touch after he missed seven of eight shots against the Celtics on Monday. 

Wednesday, Stauskas missed five of seven shots, including his only three-point attempt. Ostensibly on the roster for his three-point shooting prowess, the fourth-year guard is struggling from distance. He has missed six of his seven shots from long range this preseason. If Stauskas’ shooting form doesn’t recover, he might not have shown enough defensively by the end of the preseason to justify a spot on the Sixers’ roster, let alone a rotational role. The Sixers were minus-12 with Stauskas on the court Wednesday and he picked up three fouls.

Meanwhile, Korkmaz was an afterthought after getting 19 minutes of run Wednesday. He was involved in just 5:10 of game action in the fourth quarter, well after the outcome had been decided. Korkmaz did hit his only shot attempt of the night, a three-pointer from the left wing.

Just a 20-year-old rookie, Korkmaz is not operating under the same kind of pressure to make the roster that Stauskas and Anderson have hanging over their heads. He can spend the bulk of 2017-18 in the G League and use the extended minutes he’d likely receive with the 87ers to tune up his defense without a second thought.

That leaves Anderson, who was probably the most impressive Wednesday night on the defensive end of the floor. The 6-foot-6 Anderson was shuffled through a host of man assignments during his run with the reserves, from 6-foot-11 forward Jarrett Allen to 6-foot-6 point guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

Anderson missed his only three-pointer but looked good contesting threes on his own end of the floor. He looked particularly solid getting a hand in Dinwiddie’s face after the guard had leaked open for a flash in the right corner late in the first quarter. The Sixers were plus-8 with Anderson on the floor.

"You’ve got to want to be a defender,” Anderson said.  "You’ve got to want to take that challenge. I took it personally tonight. I take it personally every night. I understand that I walk a very tight rope. I understand what my job is on this team."

Anderson took a step towards solidifying that job Wednesday night.

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

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Give and Go: Which Sixer has been most disappointing 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 and producer/reporters Matt Haughton Paul Hudrick.

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

Harris
For me, it's Nik Stauskas. And there were others who were close (Kris Humphries comes to mind and it's completely unrelated to the boos). After two seasons with the Sixers, we know what Stauskas is. While his three-point percentage was up from 32.6 to 36.8 last season, his field-goal percentage still has never hit 40 percent in three seasons.

The Sixers signed JJ Redick, drafted Markelle Fultz, and welcomed a healthy Jerryd Bayless back into the fold. Compare Stauskas to those players (understanding that the Sixers traded up to acquire Fultz with the No. 1 pick) and the glaring weaknesses of Stauskas at shooting guard become even more evident.

A roster crunch is coming. Watching Stauskas go 2 for 11 from the field in two preseason games hasn't done anything to lead me to believe he's the answer to rounding out even the bottom of the roster.

Haughton
This is a joke, right? Seriously, this can’t be the real Kris Humphries.

The veteran big man has always been at least a serviceable body off the bench in the NBA, but those days may be over based on his play so far with the Sixers. 

In two preseason games with the team, Humphries has played 15 total minutes. He has managed to grab five rebounds in that time, which would be a solid amount if not for the numerous other boards grabbed as he was pushed aside by opponents. Then there is the offensive end where Humphries is 0 for 4 from the field (0 for 2 from three), has two turnovers and just generally looks lost.

It’s hard to explain when you think back that Humphries was just a contributor for a playoff team in the Atlanta Hawks, a squad that runs the same system as Brett Brown with fellow former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer as head coach.

Perhaps at 32 years old and 13 years into his NBA career, time has simply caught up with Humphries. If that’s the case, he will continue to hear boo birds from fans until he receives his pink slip.

Hudrick
Marshall and Matt sort of nailed it, so my pick is Fultz. I know, I know. It's really not fair after one preseason game, but that one game was a microcosm of Fultz's issues.

Fultz has always played the point and is used to having the ball in his hands. He has a long ways to go to learn the nuances of playing off the ball with Ben Simmons running the show. 

Defense. It was a concern at Washington. It's a concern after the first preseason game. 

The shot will come, but he's obviously reworking it. I trust Brown, who's helped several players improve their jumper, but it will certainly be a work in progress.

With all that said, he was the No. 1 overall pick for a reason. He's 19 years old. He showed flashes during the summer league and even against Memphis last week. I still believe Fultz becomes an elite offensive player in the NBA.

So don't panic, Sixers fans. All of this is to be expected for Fultz. It's a process.

You just have to trust it.

Sixers have questions with possible extensions looming for Embiid, Covington

Sixers have questions with possible extensions looming for Embiid, Covington

CAMDEN, N.J. — The front offices of professional sports teams are always dealing with a delicate balance of competing in the present and positioning for a successful future.

The Sixers are no different.

As the team officially tips off training camp on Tuesday for what it hopes to be its most successful season in years, there are still some serious question marks about the future of the roster.

The biggest one surrounds center Joel Embiid. Embiid is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. Embiid and the Sixers have until Oct. 16 to reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension. If the two sides can’t strike a deal, the big man will become a restricted free agent next summer.

Embiid, who is currently still rehabbing from surgery for a torn meniscus, finally burst onto the scene last season by averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. However, he knows that by being limited to just 31 games during his career and with the team holding all the cards regarding his immediate future, he isn’t in a position of power during any contract negotiations.

“At the end of the day, I don’t have the leverage," Embiid said. "I’m going into my fourth season and I’m going to be a restricted free agent, so there’s no leverage, they can do whatever they want. There’s been discussions about it. Hopefully, something does work out” (see story).

Embiid isn’t alone. Robert Covington, also coming off both a breakout season and meniscus surgery, is in a similar situation.

The Sixers picked up the fourth-year, $1.57 million option on Covington’s contract in June. That’s a steal considering Covington finished fourth in the NBA in Defensive Player of the Year voting while scoring 12.9 points a night.

The Sixers can't sign Covington to an extension until Nov. 15, the three-year anniversary of when they originally signed him.

“We’ve definitely been in talks and everything,” said Covington, who this offseason reportedly switched agents to the powerful CAA Sports. “Both sides are very open to what is going on. It’s just a matter of the right move that’s to be made. Bryan is playing chess right now with the pieces that he’s adding. Now it’s just making sure that everything stays the way that he pictures.”

Then there’s the curious case of Jahlil Okafor. In just two seasons with the team, the center has witnessed his name in just about every trade rumor imaginable. Okafor, who recorded 11.8 points and 4.8 boards a game in a reserve role a season ago, was apparently so close to being dealt at last February’s deadline that he was held out of two games only to rejoin the Sixers.

Team president Bryan Colangelo would never rule anything out in regards to shipping Okafor, but at the moment all plans are for the big man to remain a Sixer.

“There’s no problem between us and Jahlil right now,” Colangelo said. “If he had his druthers would he be with another club? I can’t answer that question, but I think that he’s happy being here. He’s been treated well. The coaches coach him like they coach every other athlete. 

“Again, any discussion about things that are out there — whether or not he’s been traded or not, whether or not he’s being shopped or not — I can say I have not actively been shopping Jahlil Okafor. … But the narrative is he’s here, he’s going to be an active participant in the things that we’re doing preparing for this season and he’s a part of this basketball team until he’s not.”

While things are a very murky with Okafor, the writing appears to be on the wall for Nik Stauskas as he enters the fourth year of his rookie deal. 

The team specifically targeted scoring from the off-guard position over the summer (drafting Markelle Fultz to play alongside Ben Simmons in the backcourt, signing JJ Redick in free agency and bringing Furkan Korkmaz from overseas). With Justin Anderson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also expected to vie for time at shooting guard, Stauskas’ future in Philadelphia doesn’t exactly seem bright.

“Not at all, no,” Stauskas sternly responded when asked whether his contract status was on his mind heading into the new season.