76ers

'Elite scorer' Carsen Edwards reminded of dominant performance vs. Villanova before pre-draft workout with Sixers

'Elite scorer' Carsen Edwards reminded of dominant performance vs. Villanova before pre-draft workout with Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. — Carsen Edwards had a day to kill before his pre-draft workout Wednesday with the Sixers. The avid basketball fans of Philadelphia made sure one of his finest performances at Purdue, his 42-point game against Villanova this March in the NCAA Tournament, was fresh in his mind.

“I went into Chipotle and two people mentioned it to me,” he said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ It’s cool, though. It was a blessing to be able to play that way and be on that stage doing the things I did. And I’m just continuing to work to be the best player I can be.”

Edwards averaged 24.3 points per game as a junior and nearly 35 in the NCAA Tournament during Purdue’s run to the Elite Eight. His scoring credentials are such that his height, or lack thereof, doesn’t dull the excitement about his NBA prospects. Edwards measured in at 6-foot and a quarter inch at the NBA Draft Combine — with shoes on. From a physical standpoint, Edwards’ height is mitigated by his strong 200-pound frame, with his massive quads a feature that stand out in person, and his 6-foot-6 wingspan.

Senior vice president of personnel Marc Eversley called Edwards an "elite scorer" and emphasized that the Sixers see Edwards as more than his physical traits.

“His height is not as much of a deterrent in terms of potentially fitting with us.” Eversely said. “I wouldn’t get caught up on the height thing. He’s got a big heart, plays hard, competes. And again, he can really, really shoot the ball. I think that’s going to be kind of his pathway into the league.”

Edwards agreed with Eversley’s assessment when looking specifically at how he’d fit with the Sixers. He shot 35.5 percent from three-point range on 10.6 attempts per game last season, many of them with a very high degree of difficulty.

“I feel like I can fit well with just being off the ball. Being able to shoot. Like I said, getting back to defense, defending the opposing team’s guard  — which is easier said than done  — but just making an impact on that," Edwards said. "Running the floor, getting to the corner, being ready to shoot.”

While most of the focus naturally falls on Edwards’ scoring, he said after the workout that he wasn’t satisfied with his defensive play.

“Just in my opinion, I’m honest with myself and I feel I could’ve defended a little better, made shots tougher for people I was guarding,” he said. “But for the most part, I gave everything, I competed, and I appreciate them bringing me in and having this opportunity.”

After workouts with Indiana, Utah, Brooklyn and the Sixers, Edwards said he has several more to come before the draft, including with Milwaukee, Boston and Oklahoma City. All the teams he listed have selections between No. 22 and No. 30.

Local ties 

The other five participants in Wednesday’s workout were Jonathan Kasibabu from Fairfield, Quinndary Weatherspoon from Mississippi State, Charles Matthews from Michigan, CJ Massinburg from Buffalo and Eric Carter from Delaware. 

Carter, a native of Jackson, New Jersey, averaged 15.8 points and 9.7 rebounds as a redshirt senior for the Blue Hens. He said he could envision himself as an “energy guy” and stretch four with the Sixers. Although the 6-foot-9 Carter took only seven threes in his college career, his free-throw percentage and overall production improved each season at Delaware. If the Sixers believe he can keep growing, Carter might be a candidate to continue his career in Delaware, with the Blue Coats. 

As you might expect, Carter was a fan of the Sixers growing up … and the Knicks. 

“No, I’m not a bandwagoner,” he said. “I mean, I like both. A.I. was my favorite growing up, so I was always on the Sixers. It’s just exciting.”

Another local player will work out for the Sixers on Thursday in Temple’s Shizz Alston Jr., with Harry Froling, Donta Hall, Jaylen Hoard, Josh Perkins and Dylan Windler the other participants. Windler, who shot 42.9 percent from three on 7.1 attempts per game as a senior at Belmont, could interest the Sixers at No. 24, or with one of their two early second-round picks (33 and 34). 

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Will Kyle Korver return to Sixers? Elton Brand drops an interesting hint

Will Kyle Korver return to Sixers? Elton Brand drops an interesting hint

Elton Brand’s busy offseason is not over.

The Sixers’ general manager acknowledged Tuesday morning in an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic’s “Farzetta and Tra in the Morning” show that he’s still working to fill out the Sixers’ roster. The team currently has 13 players on the roster and could add two more. 

When Marc Farzetta asked Brand about adding a player with similar shooting abilities to the departed JJ Redick, Brand dropped an interesting hint.

We’d love to have that. Spacing is key. We’re going to hang our hats on defense, but when it’s crunch time you’re going to need spacing to operate. So we are looking for players that can space the court. We are in talks with a few of them, so we’ll see how that goes. Hopefully the city will have someone that they know and can receive them well. 

He didn’t use his name, but Brand sure seemed to be talking about former Sixer Kyle Korver. Some Sixers fans might be familiar with available free agents like Thabo Sefolosha and Jose Calderon, but Brand has to be aware that fans know all about Korver.

The Sixers are reportedly a frontrunner to land the 38-year-old, who’s an unrestricted free agent after being waived by the Phoenix Suns. Korver is a career 42.9 percent shooter from three-point range and has made the fourth most threes in NBA history. 

Given the Sixers’ salary cap situation, Korver would need to be willing to accept a veteran minimum deal to come back to Philadelphia. 

A return to the city where he started his professional career would make a lot of sense for both parties. As Brand said, the Sixers could use some outside shooting. And for Korver, you’d think the chance to play for a team that looks poised to contend for a championship would be appealing. 

You can listen to the full interview with Brand here

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What Al Horford’s unique development as a shooter can tell us about Ben Simmons

What Al Horford’s unique development as a shooter can tell us about Ben Simmons

Al Horford hasn’t always been good at everything.

As a 33-year-old with 12 seasons of NBA experience and five All-Star appearances, Horford is skilled in most aspects of the game. Interior defense? He’s excellent at it and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2017-18. Passing? The big man averaged 4.6 assists per game in his three seasons with the Celtics. Setting good screens, marshalling the defense and generally making smart, winning plays? It’s his trademark.

But it took a while before Horford added outside shooting to his long list of tools. Looking back at the early history of Horford’s career, his stats give you no indication that he’d eventually be a “stretch five” type of player, someone who’s shot 37.1 percent from three-point range on 927 attempts over the last four years.

He made no three-point shots in his three college seasons at Florida and was 0 for 6 from long range in his first two NBA seasons. Horford was named to his first All-Star Game in 2009-10, a season in which he made his one and only three-point shot, and he hit 9 of 22 over the next four years. He took a small step forward in 2014-15 for the 60-win Atlanta Hawks, converting 11 of 36 threes.

It wasn’t until the 2015-16 season, at 29 years old, when Horford started to let it fly with regularity, attempting 256 threes — 220 more than the season prior — and making 88.

Ben Simmons, like Horford, had no three-point makes in his first two professional seasons. According to Tobias Harris — a player who also has improved remarkably as a shooter over his career — Simmons was knocking them down from the perimeter during a recent workout in Los Angeles. 

 … He's in the gym religiously every day — grinding, getting better," Harris said at a press conference Friday. "He's in great shape. Everyone was trying to figure out why I was guarding him at the three-point line. It was really because he hit two of them. I dared him to hit two of them and he hit two in a row — that's why I was there. He's made big improvements on his game. His jump shot is looking really good. He has confidence to shoot it. I just kept telling him there, even in these workouts when you’re playing, have the confidence to shoot them and don't get discouraged when you miss …

The Sixers have committed $170 million to Simmons over the next five years in spite of his lack of a reliable shot and because, as was the case with Horford, he didn’t need one to be a deserving All-Star. Horford’s development as a jump shooter is unique, but it helps provides context for Simmons’ situation.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that there’s no shared path — jump shots don’t all evolve at the same pace. Improvement is contingent on factors like fixing flawed form, natural touch and, as Harris alluded to, the confidence to take jumpers in games and the go-ahead to do so from teammates and coaches.

It’s also not blindly optimistic to review Horford’s past, consider Simmons’ future and conclude that the 22-year-old All-Star is likely only going to get better as a shooter. After hitting 25 of 99 shots from 10 feet and out last season (25.3 percent), it would be very surprising to see Simmons regress.

It would be stunning if Simmons followed Horford’s trajectory, too. You’d imagine his form will have to undergo significant remediation before he’s a good three-point shooter — players with flared elbows and inconsistent mechanics don’t typically fit that description.

However, two seasons is far too small of a sample size to judge Simmons’ shot a lost cause.

As we noted on the night he agreed to join the Sixers, Horford shared that same opinion a little over a year ago. 

“He’s already difficult to guard,” Horford told NBC Sports Philadelphia during the Sixers’ 2018 playoff series against the Celtics. “Like all players, we all make progressions. When I came in the league, I wasn’t shooting much outside the paint. And over the years, I’ve expanded my game — you can say that about a lot of guys. And I feel like with him, it’ll just be another weapon in his arsenal, that he will continue to develop that [jumper].”

His perspective is one worth listening to. 

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