WILMINGTON, Del. — The Sixers played their annual Blue x White Scrimmage at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware, Saturday afternoon.
The scrimmage started out with the starting five (Blue Team) going up against Trey Burke, Matisse Thybulle, Mike Scott, James Ennis and Kyle O’Quinn (White Team).
The Blue Team beat the White Team, 88-66, but who cares?
Here are observations from the intersquad scrimmage.
• Yeah, this starting five is going to be a problem defensively.
On the first possession you got a feel for how scary versatile this unit can be. Al Horford had a nice deflection which led to a turnover. On the next possession, Horford switched onto Burke. Horford baited Burke to drive to the basket where Joel Embiid was waiting to block his floater attempt. It led to a Ben Simmons’ fast break layup.
You get the feeling this Sixers’ starting unit will be turning defense into offense an awful lot. And good luck stopping Simmons and company in the open floor.
• Matisse Thybulle showed why GM Elton Brand traded up in the first round to go get him.
In the first quarter, he stripped Horford but missed the dunk on the fast break.
But the second quarter was the Matisse Thybulle Show. It started with an impressive strip on Ben Simmons on a fast break. The next possession, Raul Neto and Simmons were on a 2-on-1 break with only Thybulle in their way and the rookie broke it up. The play of the day came when Josh Richardson had what looked like a wide-open transition three on the wing. Thybulle came out of absolutely nowhere to send it into the seats. If I had to guess, Thybulle got his hands on the ball 10 times defensively in the second quarter alone … and that feels conservative. The crowd showed their appreciation for the ballhawk mentality.
At times, you could see the rawness of his offensive game, though he hit a three off the dribble early in the third and a nice spinning floater in the fourth. He looks like a guy ready to play NBA minutes.
• You definitely got the sense Saturday that Tobias Harris knows the Sixers need more from him offensively this season. He was aggressive in attacking mismatches against smaller players and looking to get to the line. He ran a pick-and-roll with Embiid in the first quarter, something Brett Brown will likely run more of with Harris as the ball handler. It led to an offensive foul on Harris, but you can see the potential bind it could put opposing defenses in. He ran a couple more as the game went on and looked plenty comfortable doing so.
• There is nothing flashy about Horford but man, he is just good. You can see how his versatility will help this team on both ends. Defensively, he’s an excellent communicator and is so cerebral, as evidenced by the way he handled getting switched onto Burke. On offense, his ability to stretch the floor (he hit a three at the top of the key after a Simmons’ drive and kick) and to cut and pass are huge assets.
• Josh Richardson had a few nice moments Saturday. He hit a nice foul line jumper in a pick-and-roll. On defense he got a nice deflection that led to a Simmons’ steal. That triggered a fast break. Simmons pulled it out after the initial break was slowed but he passed it off to Richardson on the wing who took advantage of the defense napping with a smooth drive and finish. He also took Zhaire Smith off the dribble for a layup with the shot clock winding down in the middle of the third. Smooth may be the best word to describe Richardson. He’s a terrific athlete and it makes his movements look effortless.
• Embiid and Simmons didn’t really stand out offensively — though it's fair to say not many did — but as mentioned, the entire starting unit looked scary at times defensively. Embiid played just the first half, which we were told would be the case pregame.
Simmons airballed his only jumper — a midrange fadeaway in the fourth — but did fire up a bunch of threes during warmups. His form does look better. He looks more balanced and there isn’t as much wasted motion.
Ben Simmons getting some threes up. pic.twitter.com/WxaEoshocE— Paul Hudrick (@PaulHudrick) October 5, 2019
Yes, I know, he needs to hit one in a game to impress you, but it's encouraging.
• The veteran big O’Quinn was looking awfully spry. James Ennis raved about his passing ability in practice on Friday and he showed that off with a nice backdoor pass to Ennis and a strong outlet pass to Thybulle. He also hit a three, which is notable since he hit just 1 of 12 for Indiana last season and has shot just 20.9 percent from three for his career. When the White squad took the lead late in the first half, O’Quinn was clapping and encouraging his teammates loudly. It was cool to see a veteran being so competitive in a scrimmage situation. There were a lot of young guys on the White team and O’Quinn took the leadership role seriously.
• Burke and Raul Neto, both fighting for the backup point guard role, were going at each other. Neto was all over Burke on a possession late in the first quarter. With the shot clock winding down, Burke couldn’t break away and wound up taking a contested layup that he missed.
Still, you could see why teammates have been buzzing about Burke early in camp. He was able to knife through the defense a couple of times for shots around the rim in the second quarter. His ball handling drew some ooh and ahs from the crowd. That shot creation could be useful off the Sixers’ bench.
Neto showed what he brings to the table as well. He was a pest defensively and really does have a floor general mentality and a craftiness to his game. It’ll be interesting to see how that battle plays out during the preseason.
• Shake Milton had a couple “don’t forget about me” moments in the second quarter. He hit a couple threes on the wing and had a nice give-and-go with O’Quinn. Embiid switched onto Milton, Milton then pumped faked a corner three and then finished at the rim with a nice reverse layup with Simmons defending. Milton, in his second season with the Sixers, is sort of the forgotten man among the Sixers’ young players, but he stood out offensively.
• The 76ers Fieldhouse, which is the home of the Sixers' G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats, has an interesting vibe to it. It's a cool and intimate setting to catch a game.
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