Friday gave another glimpse of how special Sixers' starters can be

Friday gave another glimpse of how special Sixers' starters can be

Six games.

That’s how many games the Sixers’ new starting five has played together. 

That’s it.

First-year GM Elton Brand didn’t waste his time getting his feet wet, acquiring two star-caliber players in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. With that, Brett Brown has a difficult task in getting all the team’s stars to align with just 13 games remaining.

Yet, as Friday night’s win over the Kings at the Wells Fargo Center demonstrated (see observations), this has the makings of something special.

The starting five of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Butler and Harris has played a total of 97 minutes. Among current NBA starting fives that have played at least 90 minutes — a small sample size, to be sure — the Sixers’ unit has the highest net rating at 22.8.

The Sixers saw a more aggressive Butler Friday (see story), but overall, this was by far the most balanced effort they got from their new starters. When there’s this much offensive firepower on the floor, it’s just matter of getting everyone involved.

“I like it when we play with some level of pace and the ball moves and things are a little bit unpredictable,” Brown said. “To just walk it up and call a play, I don’t feel that that’s how you really win. I think we had 28 assists, you know 10 turnovers, that’s not too bad … 

“When you look down and you see Jimmy with 14 shots, Tobias 16, Joel with 19, JJ with 12, Ben with 12, that’s pretty good distribution.”

Out of the five starters, Harris is the only one that was “off” on Friday. He was 7 of 16 and just 1 of 5 from three. But the newest member of the Sixers’ starting lineup has arguably been its most consistent since his arrival.

Harris has scored in double figures in every game he’s been a Sixer and has played less than 32 minutes only once — a blowout win over the Lakers.

But even on a night when his shot wasn’t falling, he found other ways to score. He was 2 for 10 from the field in the first half, but was more aggressive getting to the basket in the second, making 5 of 6 shots and going 4 of 4 from the line after halftime.

A perfect complement to Embiid and Simmons, the 26-year-old has fit in seamlessly.

“I would just say coach’s system and the talent level that’s around me has made the game easier for me to get the looks that I know I can make,” Harris said. “Even [Friday], I thought in the first half I had a bunch of good looks that normally fall, didn’t fall. I would just say the talent level has been the biggest thing that’s helped me and helped my game. I play in the flow of the game. I play off other guys and that’s a lot easier to do with the group that we have.”

Harris helped fuel the Sixers’ reserves as Friday night also gave us a sneak peek at what might be Brown’s playoff rotation.

Brand also overhauled the team’s bench, making it more postseason-ready with veterans like Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic. He also added James Ennis III, who has shined recently, from the Rockets for a second-round pick swap.

While Friday was a positive sign, the Sixers can’t afford to pat themselves on the back with a tilt looming Sunday against the Bucks, the only 50-win team in the NBA. While they have little chance to catch Milwaukee, it certainly provides a litmus test for this new-look team.

“I can’t wait because I think what it is, is it’s a reality check,” Brown said. “It really is an opportunity for us to see where we’re at. That’s why I like those types of games. You want to play Toronto or Boston or Milwaukee, Indiana, you can really get a gauge on where you really are at.”

The Sixers’ starting five looks incredible on paper. On Sunday, we’ll see how it looks on the floor against the NBA’s elite.

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Sixers sign and then waive Shizz Alston Jr., Terry Harris for purpose of adding them to Delaware Blue Coats

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Sixers sign and then waive Shizz Alston Jr., Terry Harris for purpose of adding them to Delaware Blue Coats

Updated: 2:27 p.m.

The 2019-20 Delaware Blue Coats are shaping up to be a fascinating team.

The Sixers are signing and then waiving Terry Harris, Shizz Alston Jr., Julian Washburn, Jared Brownridge and Xavier Munford with the purpose of adding them to the Blue Coats. Harris' deal is an Exhibit 9 contract.

Terry Harris is the younger brother of Sixers forward Tobias Harris, whom the team re-signed to a five-year, $180 million contract this summer. Terry played for the Sixers this year in summer league and scored nine points in three games. The 6-foot-6 wing worked out with the Sixers in June and said "it would be a blessing" to play with Tobias for the first time since eighth grade. As a redshirt senior at North Carolina A&T, Terry averaged 8.1 points per game and shot 41.1 percent from three-point range. Outside shooting is his trademark skill.

Alston grew up in Philadelphia and attended The Haverford School before going to Temple, where he played for four years. The point guard had an excellent senior season, leading Temple to a 23-10 record and averaging 19.7 points and 5.0 assists per game. Like Harris, he had a pre-draft workout for the Sixers. Alston played with the Indiana Pacers in summer league and scored 24 points across three contests.

The 6-foot-8 Washburn has 136 career games of experience in the G League, including 38 last season between the Austin Spurs and Memphis Hustle. He signed a two-way contract with the Grizzlies in January and appeared in 18 NBA games last year, averaging 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds. Washburn was part of the trade between the Grizzlies and Warriors in July involving Andre Iguodala, and was later waived by Golden State.

Brownridge, who played his college ball at Santa Clara, played 49 games (27 starts) with the Blue Coats last season. He led the G-League in threes made with 187.

Munford spent last season with the Milwaukee Bucks G-League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd. He's also played in China and Spain after his collegiate career at Rhode Island ended.

In addition to Washburn, Alston, Harris, Brownridge and Munford, 7-foot-3 Christ Koumadje, Saint Joseph's product Isaiah Miles and Haywood Highsmith are candidates for the Blue Coats this season. Those three players were part of the Sixers' preseason roster and will be waived (see story).

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Sixers waive Christ Koumadje, Haywood Highsmith and Isaiah Miles

Sixers waive Christ Koumadje, Haywood Highsmith and Isaiah Miles

Updated: 2:17 p.m.

The Sixers have waived Christ Koumadje, Isaiah Miles and Haywood Highsmith. Those moves leave the team with its regular-season roster of 15 players, with Marial Shayok and Norvel Pelle on two-way contracts.

Because Koumadje, Miles and Highsmith signed Exhibit 10 contracts this summer, they can be incentivized to join the Delaware Blue Coats. Under the terms of an Exhibit 10 deal, a player who is waived can receive a bonus of up to $50,000 if he signs with the team's G-League affiliate and stays there for at least 60 days. 

Koumadje played four years of college basketball at Florida State and stands 7-foot-3 without shoes. He’s seeking to become the first NBA player from the country of Chad. Senior vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said in June at a pre-draft workout featuring Koumadje that the big man is agile for his size, which Koumadje attributed to playing soccer and running before fully focusing on basketball.

Koumadje has been seen working on his game with 7-foot-2 player development specialist Roy Hibbert. He said at media day that the Sixers’ player development staff has been helping him develop some of the finer points of his offensive game, such as non-dunk finishes near the basket and ball handling.

A 6-foot-4 wing, Highsmith played in 46 games for the Blue Coats last season, averaging 12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He also played in five games for the Sixers, with the team converting his contract to a two-way deal in January. Highsmith, who was waived by the team this summer to free up the two-way spot used on Pelle before signing his Exhibit 10 deal, played at Division II Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

Miles played his college basketball much closer to the Wells Fargo Center, at Saint Joseph’s, and is, like Highsmith, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. The 25-year-old was on the Sixers’ summer league teams in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and last played for Limoges CSP in France’s Pro-A league.

Based on what we saw in the preseason, below is a rough, projected depth chart by position. The backup point guard picture isn't yet clear, while several of the players at the shooting guard and small forward spots are interchangeable:

Point guard

Starter: Ben Simmons

Depth: Josh Richardson, Raul Neto/Trey Burke, Shake Milton

Shooting guard

Starter: Josh Richardson

Depth: Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, Zhaire Smith, Marial Shayok (Two-way player)

Small forward

Starter: Tobias Harris

Depth: James Ennis, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz

Power forward

Starter: Al Horford 

Depth: Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, Jonah Bolden 


Starter: Joel Embiid

Depth: Al Horford, Kyle O’Quinn, Jonah Bolden, Ben Simmons, Mike Scott, Norvel Pelle (Two-way player) 

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