76ers

Despite report, Sixers have not inquired about Hawks guard Jeremy Lin, per team source

Despite report, Sixers have not inquired about Hawks guard Jeremy Lin, per team source

With the trade deadline fast approaching and the Sixers in desperate need of bench help, the rumors are bound to start flying.

On Saturday, a report surfaced that the Sixers have “inquired” about Hawks guard Jeremy Lin. While Lin makes sense as a player that can create off the dribble and make shots, the report is not true, a team source tells NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Though Lin would provide an immediate scoring punch to the team’s bench, the defensive end of the floor is where the Sixers have had their biggest issues. A large part of that is having to rely on young players like Furkan Korkmaz and Landry Shamet to guard elite perimeter scorers.

Brett Brown has openly acknowledged this to be the team’s most glaring need.

“A perimeter defensive player interests me the most,” Brown said back on Dec. 21. “If you box me in, I’ll give you that answer.”

Lin, 30, would offer more in the way of NBA experience, but defense is certainly not his strength. 

Another issue could be Lin’s contract. He arrived in Atlanta via trade this offseason from Brooklyn. The Nets inked Lin to a three-year, $36 million deal back in 2016. While it’s an expiring contract, his cap number is $12,516,746 for the 2018-19 season. 

That would be tough for the Sixers to make the salaries match unless they give up on a struggling Wilson Chandler or an ailing Markelle Fultz. Neither of those deals likely helps the Sixers in the short or long term because of Chandler's defensive versatility and Fultz being just 20 years old.

The team will certainly look at internal options for its bench like Fultz and 2018 first-round pick Zhaire Smith, but it’s doubtful that GM Elton Brand will sit on his hands. With an open roster spot as a result of the Jimmy Butler deal, Brand has mentioned he’ll be patient in filling it.

“Despite what's been reported, we're going to take our time and evaluate the landscape,” he said following Butler’s introductory press conference. “We feel like we can actually add an important piece with that roster spot, so we're not in a rush. Nothing is imminent right now, but we think we can use that to do some real damage and help our team.”

So definitely look for Brand and company to be active before the Feb. 7 trade deadline and ensuing buyout market. Just don’t expect Linsanity to be coming to Philadelphia — at least not as of now.

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NBA All-Stars rave about new-look 76ers

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USA Today Images

NBA All-Stars rave about new-look 76ers

It’s All-Star Weekend, so we thought we would find out about what fellow All-Stars and other players think about your new-look Philadelphia 76ers!

And let’s just say, this should make Sixers fans feel pretty good…

“They’re different. Obviously, they’ve been good, but they added more depth, more athleticism, more scoring, more star power, and you look at that starting lineup and it’s really good, and you’ve got TJ (McConnell) coming off the bench with James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons, so it gives you some athleticism coming off the bench. They are up there.” — James Harden

“Big. Long. Athletic. It will be interesting to see how much better they can get, adding Tobias Harris and those guys, because they have already shown they can be one of the top teams in the East, so with those new additions, I think the sky is the limit for them. It’s going to be fun to watch.” — Mike Conley

 “When you have four guys that are really All-Stars on a team, and then a bunch of other guys around them that can play really well, it makes it interesting to see how it’s going to work out. It makes them tough.” — Danny Green, who also said Tobias Harris should’ve been an All-Star

“Right now they are extremely dangerous, need a little bit more time to play together, but they can get match (anybody in the) the world.” — Nikola Jokic

“Tough they are probably in the talks to win the championships, for sure.” — Luka Doncic

“They’re a super, super talented team…We’ve got a good rivalry going, they are super competitive, we are very familiar with them, and they are very familiar with us. Lot of trash talking out there, that’s what makes basketball super fun when you’re super competitive like that and everyone is watching.” — Jayson Tatum

 “All the players they have, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler now, and also got JJ Redick as a shooter and now they just incorporated Tobias. They’re going to have to get their chemistry together with him. They are just going to be a totally different team.” — Kawhi Leonard

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Making sense of Ben Simmons’ unique, All-Star season and what the future might hold

Making sense of Ben Simmons’ unique, All-Star season and what the future might hold

The conversation around Ben Simmons often centers, in a hyper-focused, incredulous manner, on the one thing he does worse than any other regular point guard in the NBA. Sure, the many things he does well are part of the conversation, but they’re usually breezed through, or even swept aside.

It’s possible, though perhaps not the easiest task, to reconcile Simmons’ inability to shoot like a normal point guard with his ability to play like an abnormal, freakishly talented point guard. On the eve of his first All-Star Game, let’s give it a shot.

First things first 

As a point guard, Simmons is unique as a shooter in two ways.

First, he rarely takes perimeter shots — 87.8 of his field goal attempts this season have been from less than 10 feet. 

Second, he is very poor on the outside shots he does attempt — he’s made just 14 of 70 from 10 feet and out this season (20 percent).  

The idea of him “keeping the defense honest” by pulling up for mid-range jumpers is appealing in theory. But there’s no evidence that, if he started doing so regularly, he’d have close to the success necessary to compel defenses to play him any differently. 

Historically good 

The minor controversy about Simmons wanting to work with Magic Johnson this offseason — besides being rather bizarre and a source of good jokes — again linked the 22-year-old Australian with the Hall of Famer. It was a reminder of how similar Simmons is to Johnson, a massive guard with an exceptional all-around game.

Johnson, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain (of course) and Simmons are the only players 6-foot-8 or taller to average 8.2 or more assists in a season, per Basketball-Reference. Simmons did it as a rookie. 

This year, Simmons is averaging 16.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game. Oscar Robertson is the only other second-year player to ever exceed those numbers over the course of a full season. 

The future 

When you watch Simmons gliding in the open floor, whipping the ball out to three-point shooters or attacking the rim himself, there’s a natural tendency to wonder what he could become. And when you watch him brick free throws late in games (he’s 50 percent from the foul line in the fourth quarter) and turn down open jumpers, it’s reasonable to wonder how much better Simmons will become, and not in a positive sense.

If he doesn’t improve his shot, will he ever become an “elite” player?

There are three relevant points to make here:

First, Simmons is already pretty darn close to an elite player. He’s a deserving All-Star this season. 

Second, he has room to get better in other areas. For instance, he’s grown as a post player in his second year. Simmons has leaped from shooting 21 of 70 (30 percent) on post-ups as a rookie to 50 for 99 (50.5 percent) this season. Consistent defensive effort and turnovers are two parts of his game he should be able to improve.

Third, his shot is fundamentally flawed. Despite the emphasis on keeping his elbow under the ball during the offseason and in training camp, Simmons flares his elbow. He doesn’t get any backspin, has little arc, and generally doesn’t give the ball a great chance to go in the hoop. 

While there are examples of players who developed their jumpers while in the NBA, it usually takes time. Before a late-career renaissance from long range, Johnson was a 19.2 percent three-point shooter in his first eight seasons. Al Horford made 21 three-pointers in the first seven years of his career before nailing 326, on 37.3 percent shooting, in the next three-plus years.

For Simmons, it’s all about attaining realistic goals in the near future — making strides from the foul line, avoiding defensive lapses and unforced turnovers and, most importantly, continuing to do the many things he already does at an All-Star level. 

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