76ers

Elton Brand will look at buyout market, but he sounds pleased with Sixers' new bench

Elton Brand will look at buyout market, but he sounds pleased with Sixers' new bench

CAMDEN, N.J. — Tobias Harris is by far the biggest name the Sixers added before Thursday’s trade deadline. The subtraction of former No. 1 Markelle Fultz warranted a few headlines too.

But general manager Elton Brand also acquired four other players — Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, Jonathon Simmons and James Ennis, transforming the Sixers’ bench.

At a press conference Friday, Brand detailed the roles he expects those four can fill. 

With Marjanovic, the tallest player in the NBA at 7-foot-3, it’s not too complicated. 

“He’s bringing great frontcourt depth behind Joel [Embiid], for sure. He wasn’t a throw-in. ... We look forward to having him on the court, create a mismatch out there, and defend the rim. One of our key needs was rim protection, and he certainly brings that.”

The 39-year-old Brand actually played with Scott during his time on the Hawks. He praised Scott’s toughness and three-point shooting (39.1 percent this season).

As for Simmons and Ennis, Brand expects the pair will bolster the Sixers’ depth on the wing.

Ennis, who averaged 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds this season for Houston, doesn’t have any elite skills, but the five-year veteran should be able to provide a little bit of everything for the Sixers. Simmons, the player the Sixers acquired in the Fultz trade, has a reputation as a strong perimeter defender.

“Very athletic, tenacious defender,” Brand said. “He can shoot, he can score. Very physical, rugged defender. I think the city is really going to like him a lot.”

The notion that Simmons “can shoot” is not backed up by the stats — he’s 22.9 percent from long distance this season, 31.2 percent for his career. Simmons did have surgery to address a torn ligament in his right wrist in the offseason, which appears to have affected his shot. 

“We studied it,” Brand said. “We think he’s close to being back where he was pre-injury. Again, we’re excited to have him.”

Before taking any questions Friday, Brand issued an opening statement. His words were bold, but they didn’t feel incongruous after the deals he’d made the past two days.

“We believe we’re in position to contend now, and our moves reflect that belief," he said.

Are those four new pieces off the bench enough for Brand, or does he think more help is needed via the buyout market?

“We’re always going to look to see how we can improve our team,” he said. “I think last year we got lucky at the buyout market. I think we’re good now, but if something comes up we’re surely going to look at it.”

When pressed later about whether more wing depth specifically was required, his response was clear.

We’re always going to look. But I like our team, I like where we are, and I think we’ve added enough depth. But we’re still going to look, of course. 

Meanwhile, there remains a real possibility rookie Zhaire Smith and 21-year-old big man Justin Patton have an impact for the Sixers this year. Patton has grabbed 22 points and 12 rebounds in two G-League games as he works his way back from a Jones fracture in his right foot.

Though there would appear to be less of a rush now to get Smith back on the floor, it couldn’t hurt for the Sixers to have an excellent athlete with the potential to be a very good NBA perimeter defender. Brand isn’t deviating from he what he said about Smith back in December — he said Friday that Smith is still progressing well after suffering a Jones fracture in his left foot in August, then enduring serious medical complications after an allergic reaction — and the Sixers still expect him to return this season.

External additions, though, sound less likely. Brand has proven he’ll probe the market and pounce on any chance to improve the Sixers, but he feels better about where the team stands, and how the bench looks, than he did a couple days ago. 

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Sixers at Magic: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

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Sixers at Magic: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (47-26) are looking to get back on track against the Orlando Magic (35-38) after a disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.

Here are the essentials for tonight's game: 

•  When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
•  Where: Amway Center
•  Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
•  Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

The playoff race

The Magic are looking for a fifth straight victory, but even more than that, their playoff hopes are on the line. Orlando is sitting one game behind the Miami Heat for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and after tonight they are about to embark on a tough road trip. Orlando has a lot on the line.

His former team

JJ Redick is lights out against the team he played his first seven seasons with. Redick is shooting 62.1 percent from deep against Orlando this season, and his 17.7 points per game career average against the Magic is the best he’s had against any opponent. The numbers would say Redick is due for another big night …

Orlando’s defense

I’ve got a stat that might surprise you. Orlando has the second-best defensive rating since the All-Star break (104.5). They give up the fewest second-chance points to their opponents and are first in defensive rebounding percentage (all since the All-Star break). This is not a team the Sixers can underestimate. Taking care of the ball must be a huge focus.

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Sixers' week ahead: A possible playoff preview, Tobias Harris' slump, Jimmy Butler's return to Minnesota

Sixers' week ahead: A possible playoff preview, Tobias Harris' slump, Jimmy Butler's return to Minnesota

While the sting of a disappointing loss in Atlanta is still fresh, the Sixers have a chance to redeem themselves Monday night in Orlando.

They’ll also host Brooklyn in a possible playoff preview and catch up with an old friend in Minnesota Saturday.

Here’s a look at the Sixers’ week ahead.

Hoping to find the Magic

Whether it was a letdown coming off a couple big wins or them taking a hungry young Hawks team too lightly, the Sixers simply didn’t show up Saturday night.

Their defense in the first half was horrendous as they allowed 74 points, the most they’ve surrendered to an opponent in a half this season. They struggled with a familiar issue, failing to stifle rookie Trae Young in the pick-and-roll.

But as Brett Brown alluded to postgame, it wasn’t strategy. It was execution.

“We had probably three or four different [adjustments] from blitzing to switching to hedging to dropping,” Brown said. “If you really dug in and looked at that, you would have seen that. I can’t say that any of them were incredibly effective, but they did force us to try and make different adjustments in the pick-and-roll.”

Expect a better effort Monday against a Magic team that’s fighting for its playoff life.

Tobi will come around

Tobias Harris was a monster in his first eight games as a Sixer, averaging 21.9 points while shooting 55 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. In his last 11, he’s down to 17.3 points on 45 percent from the field and 31 percent from three.

Harris is having an All-Star-caliber season, but every player — especially shooters — has their ups and downs. JJ Redick is a perfect example. He wasn’t hitting anything after the All-Star break and then followed it up with a torrid five-game stretch in which he shot 55 percent from three.

Whether it’s fatigue — he’s played in all 74 games for his teams this season — or just a rough patch, Harris deserves the benefit of the doubt given his recent track record. Also, it’s better that he gets this kind of slump out of the way now instead of mid-April. 

Playoff preview?

The Nets have given the Sixers fits this season. Guards D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie have scorched them, averaging a combined 51 points while both shooting over 55 percent in three matchups this season.

The only Sixers’ win was because of a furious comeback capped off by a ridiculous Jimmy Butler game-winner. In fairness, the teams haven’t squared off since Dec. 12 and Butler was out of the lineup — Furkan Korkmaz started in his place — in a three-point Sixers’ loss. This isn't even the same Sixers team.

If the playoffs started today, this would be the first-round matchup. It would behoove the Sixers to show up Thursday in front of their home crowd.

The return of Jimmy

Butler will return to Minnesota for the first time since the drama of his trade request ultimately landed him on the Sixers. 

While Butler was relatively quiet in the Sixers’ blowout win back on Jan. 15, he’s been a force recently. Over his last five games, Butler is averaging 23.8 points a game. 

The two most encouraging signs are his free throws and threes in that span. Butler has been aggressive getting to the rim, averaging 8.8 free throw attempts a game. Him attempting 3.2 threes and hitting 38 percent from there is a huge boon for his fit alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

The Sixers will also see Dario Saric for the second time as an opponent. Saric was such a key part of the Sixers’ playoff run last season, but has struggled to carve out a consistent role with the Timberwolves. Robert Covington, the key asset in that deal, is sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Covington hasn’t played in 2019.

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