With training camp getting closer, there are plenty of topics to discuss involving the 2019-20 Sixers. Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick.
In this edition, we ask: How many All-Stars will the Sixers have this season?
The Sixers have one shoe-in All-Star with Joel Embiid. He’s the best big man in the Eastern Conference and, in one writer’s opinion, the best in the NBA. If he's healthy, he's in. I also have a hard time believing Ben Simmons won’t participate in his second All-Star game. If he brings that jumper we’ve seen over the summer to the regular season, he’s a lock.
The question will be about Tobias Harris — and possibly Al Horford.
Harris probably should’ve been an All-Star last year but couldn’t crack the Western Conference’s deep roster despite a stellar first half with the Clippers. Now in the less talented East and with a bigger, more defined role in the Sixers’ offense, Harris should notch his first All-Star appearance. Harris has a chance to be the second-leading scorer on the East’s best team. That was good enough to get Khris Middleton into the game last season.
As for Horford, it should be an interesting debate. He hasn’t put up All-Star numbers recently, but he’s still one of the better bigs in the conference and is only one year removed from his 2017-18 selection. It could be a similar situation to Horford’s 2014-15 Hawks where four of the five starters of that 60-win Atlanta team were All-Stars. If the Sixers get off to a hot start, they could be looking at four guys getting in.
The prediction here is Embiid, Simmons and Harris all get in, but don’t be surprised if Horford sneaks in as well.
I think the Sixers will have three All-Stars for the first time since the 1986-87 season, when Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks and Julius Erving were selected.
Joel Embiid would likely need to have a steep regression or suffer a serious injury to be excluded. Ben Simmons joined the club last year and, regardless of the state of his jump shot this season, should be among the best 24 players in the game. His assist numbers might take a hit with the departures of JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler, whom Simmons last season assisted 1.7 and 1.2 times, respectively. However, I expect Simmons to improve defensively and give more consistent effort on that end of the floor for a team that has the talent and mindset to be excellent there.
In his ninth NBA season, I think Tobias Harris will crack the All-Star Game for the first time. Harris now has the license to assert himself offensively and, you presume, will now be one of the Sixers’ main options late in games. He should score more than the 3.7 points per game he averaged in the fourth quarter last season. Defense will probably be an issue at times for Harris against the wings he’ll be asked to guard, but Embiid, Al Horford and company should help paper over his deficiencies.
Horford will be valuable in many ways, including as a competent three-point shooter, excellent interior defender, elite passer and astronomical upgrade over any backup to Embiid the Sixers had last season. Four All-Stars isn't out of the question for the Sixers, but I don’t foresee the 33-year-old Horford making his sixth appearance.
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