76ers

'Jimmy is my brother' — Joel Embiid laments Butler leaving for Miami

'Jimmy is my brother' — Joel Embiid laments Butler leaving for Miami

If you’re a Sixers fans that misses Jimmy Butler, you’re not alone.

Butler had developed a close bond with Joel Embiid. The duo was perfect on the court in the sense that Embiid consistently got off to hot starts and Butler came up clutch in the fourth quarter.

Off the court, they also developed a strong connection. Embiid mentioned on media day the impact of losing Butler and JJ Redick, another player Embiid grew close to.

“Obviously everybody had a great relationship,” Embiid said. “I'm going to miss those three guys, especially JJ and Jimmy. JJ was my guy. Jimmy is my brother, we still talk a lot. I'm going to miss them a lot. 

“I don't think anything changes. But now we have more time. Last year we had a little time to get to know each other, and it started off rough. And that is my fault, too. I've gotta be a better leader. But this year, we've got a whole year to figure it out."

In an interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN's The Jump, Embiid said he would've liked to see Butler return:

Much has been made of who the Sixers’ go-to guy in the fourth quarter will be with Butler gone. Could Tobias Harris be the type of player that can fill that role? Will Ben Simmons, if he’s a equipped with a respectable jump shot, develop a closer-type mentality?

The easy answer — and one that Brett Brown has pointed to — is Embiid. Embiid is the most difficult player to defend on the Sixers because of his size and skill. But it is difficult for post players to fill that role.

That’s why Embiid has been trying to advance his skill set even further.

“This year, I feel like they're going to make everybody shoot the ball,” Embiid said. “Going into the summer, after I found out that I was losing both of them – especially because I also knew these guys were going to need me to take over. You've gotta be more than a post player. You've gotta be able to do other things, because it's easy for other teams to send double teams when you're just posting up, back to the basket. You gotta be able to attack off the dribble, you've gotta be able to shoot off the dribble.”

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2020 NBA draft profile: Tre Jones is a stellar defender who could fit well on the Sixers

2020 NBA draft profile: Tre Jones is a stellar defender who could fit well on the Sixers

Tre Jones

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 185 pounds 
School: Duke

Looking at the 2020 NBA draft prospects, there might not be a player that has been more closely scrutinized than Tre Jones. Such is life when you’re the point guard at Duke.

A look at Jones’ two years in Durham is a study in contrasts. In his first season, he played Ringo in a Fab Four freshman class that included Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish. (Apologies to Joey Baker for not being included in that group.) Oftentimes, Jones would defer to his more prominent teammates to the point of disappearing offensively in games.

Jones was the lone member of that unit to return to school for a sophomore season. The Minnesota native emerged as the team’s leader and most complete player en route to earning ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors. Only Shane Battier and Malcolm Brogdon have accomplished that double this century.

But how does Jones’ game translate to the NBA? Let’s examine his strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths 

Excellent defender: Jones earned that Defensive Player of the Tear award on merit. The best example of his prowess on defense came in his last college game, a 13-point win over rival North Carolina. In that contest, Jones placed the clamps on likely lottery pick Cole Anthony. The UNC star scored just 9 points on 4 of 14 shooting while adding only three assists in 39 minutes. 

You can count the number of on-ball defenders who were better than Jones in the NCAA last season on one hand. That said, the 6-foot-3 guard will have to continue to develop strength if he’s going to disrupt NBA-caliber point guards on a consistent basis.

Embraces the moment: As mentioned above, the affable Jones willingly played facilitator in his freshman season. But in his second season, Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils counted on Jones to take the team’s big shots. Obviously, one could point to the game-tying buzzer beater in Duke’s other game with North Carolina last season as evidence of that. But there were countless times in 2020 when Jones read the moment and made a play when his team needed it.

Jones will not be a primary offensive option in the NBA, but his defense has the opportunity to keep him on the floor at the end of games. He won’t be afraid to take and make big shots in those instances.

Weaknesses 

Shooting: Tre is actually the second Jones to make his way through Duke in recent years. His brother Tyus, you may recall, starred for the 2015 national champions alongside Jahlil Okafor. Tyus displayed a great deal of offensive weapons in his lone season at Duke. The younger Jones is slightly more limited on the offensive side of the ball, specifically when comparing the two as shooters.

Tre shot over 42 percent from the field as a sophomore, a tick up from his freshman campaign. But where he really improved was as a three-point shooter, going from 26.2 point to 36.1 percent. Jones will need to continue to improve that part of his game, because NBA coaches are going to help off him initially and force him to hit open shots.

To his credit, Jones is a good free throw shooter (over 75 percent from the foul line in both seasons at Duke), and he gets better in that department late in games.

Ball handling:  A willing passer and good decision maker, Jones is the type of player you want to play alongside. But he’s not a point guard that can get anywhere he wants off the dribble. He’ll need screens in order to consistently get into the paint as an NBA player. 

His handle is also a little loose for a player of his size. That didn’t cost him much in college, but it will be a different story next season.

Fit 

Chances are that Jones will likely fall to the bottom part of the draft’s first round, and that might be a blessing in disguise for the 20-year old. He’ll never be the type of player that can change a franchise. But Jones has the potential to be a fit for a good team like the Sixers, initially as an eighth or ninth man. One could see Jones providing capable defense while taking some minutes as a lead ball handler when Ben Simmons needs a rest. He’d also provide the potential for giving the Sixers a ridiculous shutdown lineup of Jones, Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Joel Embiid and any other player you’d like.

In a best-case scenario, the Duke star becomes Kyle Lowry, a tenacious defender that runs his team and does enough offensively to be a factor. But if he doesn’t become a better offensive player, he might be relegated to NBA journeyman. I’d bet Jones ends up as a solid contributor to playoff teams for the better part of the next decade.

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Sixers Home School: The 1966-67 Sixers were one of the best NBA teams ever

Sixers Home School: The 1966-67 Sixers were one of the best NBA teams ever

From 1959-1969, the Boston Celtics won 10 of 11 NBA titles. The one year Boston didn't win was 1967, when the Sixers ran roughshod over the entire league, including the Celtics. That 1966-67 Sixers team went 68-13 in the regular season, which remains one of the top five regular-season records in NBA history.

You probably know some of the names from that team. Wilt Chamberlain, obviously. Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Chet Walker — all Hall of Famers.  What's great about this video, which is essentially a video yearbook of that 1966-67 team, is that you really get to understand the skill sets of those players and what made the team so dominant. It's also a time capsule. The shots of fans in suits and dresses inside the old Convention Hall really drive home that you're in a completely different era. (The Spectrum would open the following season.)

At the 1:55 mark, head coach Alex Hannum breaks down what each player brought to the team while you see video of those players. By the time he's done, you understand that Greer was a great mid-range jump shooter and that Luke Jackson and Chamberlain gave that team a "Twin Towers" look in the paint. It's a fascinating breakdown of what each player brought to the table and how the pieces fit together.

The real fun begins at 6:04, with a look at the Eastern Division Finals series against the Celtics. You get to see Chamberlain tangle with Bill Russell, and his combination of size, athleticism and skill just jumps off the screen. He averaged 21 points, 32 rebounds and 10 assists for the series. The absurdity of those numbers begins to make sense when you watch him do it. It’s impossible to watch the video and not believe that Chamberlain would have been a star in any era.

You also have to put into perspective what you’re watching as the Sixers overwhelmed the Celtics 4-1 in that series, including a 140-116 beatdown in Game 5 in Philadelphia. The Celtics were the eight-time defending champions. Russell had thwarted Chamberlain’s championship aspirations at every turn. But in 1967, the Celtics were a mere speed bump on the Sixers' road to a title.

At 16:47, you see Sixers fans holding a banner that says “Boston Is Dead” and you can feel the magnitude of that moment. At 18:21, you hear Chamberlain, Walker, Cunningham and others describe their feelings on finally vanquishing the Celtics as you watch the pure joy of the champagne celebration in the locker room.

The Sixers still had to finish the job, and the Finals series against the San Francisco Warriors begins at the 20:25 mark. You see the Sixers clinch the championship on the road in San Francisco before returning home to cheering fans at the airport.

The video begins and ends with a song from that era celebrating the 1966-67 Sixers. Here’s the chorus:

There's Hal and Larry, Matt and Bill and Wali Jones to pass it.

Luke and Billy, Chet and Dave and Wilt to guard the basket.

Those are names Sixers fans should know from what remains one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

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