76ers

Joel Embiid named NBA All-Star Game starter for second straight season

Joel Embiid named NBA All-Star Game starter for second straight season

If you've watched Joel Embiid play this season, you likely have little doubt that he’s one of the best players in the NBA. 

That became official on Thursday night, when the Sixers center was named an All-Star starter for the second straight season. Embiid is the first Sixer to be selected to back-to-back All-Star games since Allen Iverson, who made seven consecutive All-Star teams from 1999-2000 to 2005-2006.

This year’s game will be held on Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Embiid is averaging 27.2 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 blocks per game for the 32-17 Sixers, and he has a league-leading 40 double-doubles. He’s defended 798 shots, most in the Eastern Conference, and opponents are shooting just 44.6 percent against him. 

His impact on the Sixers is massive on both ends of the floor. Embiid has a 31.7 percent usage rate, behind only the incomparable outlier that is James Harden. The Sixers’ defensive rating rises from 102.3 when he’s on the court to 108.1 when he’s on the bench

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and Kemba Walker were named the other starters from the East, while LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Stephen Curry and James Harden were selected from the Western Conference. Starters were decided by weighting fans votes at 50 percent, player votes at 25 percent and media votes at 25 percent.

Head coaches will choose seven reserves from each conference to round out the rosters, which will be announced next Thursday at 7 p.m.

Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler are strong contenders for two of those spots, as we detailed here. The Sixers haven't had three All-Stars in a season since Charles Barkley, Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks in 1986-87.

Captains James and Antetokounmpo, the two leading vote-getters, will choose their teams in a draft on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. on TNT. 

That promises to be an interesting event, with the trade deadline at 3 p.m. on the same day. 

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Sixers' new starting five is on Sports Illustrated cover

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@SINow

Sixers' new starting five is on Sports Illustrated cover

If you're a Sixers fan, you better hope the Sports Illustrated cover jinx is not a real thing.

The Sixers' new, formidable starting five is on this week's cover of SI, posing around the words "Process This." You'd imagine Sam Hinkie is reading with pride. 

Interesting to note how all five guys have a hint of a smile besides Joel Embiid. His competitive side sometimes gets overshadowed, but Embiid definitely looks like he means business on the cover with that cold stare into the camera.

Tobias Harris wishes his teammates had gone all-in on the smile.

In the issue, The Crossover staff at SI re-previews the highly competitive Eastern Conference, taking stock of where the Sixers, Celtics, Bucks and Raptors stand after an eventful trade deadline.

So did Philly just build the most talented team in the East — or a very expensive runner-up? Whatever the answer, the experiment seems an appropriate extension of the Process," Andrew Sharp writes. "You don’t have to love every move, but you can’t help but admire the ambition.

Fair enough. 

Eleven years ago, Elton Brand was on the cover.

The question then was, "How far can Elton Brand take the Sixers?" It's still a relevant question, although at this point, the Sixers' fate falls largely on the team Brand has helped assemble. But there's no doubt Brand is again a big part of the Sixers' return to the national spotlight.

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What should Sixers' rotation be for playoffs?

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USA Today/AP Images

What should Sixers' rotation be for playoffs?

After Sunday night's All-Star Game, we still have three days to kill before the Sixers are back in action. 

Today, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick discuss who should be part of the Sixers' playoff rotation. 

Tuesday, they'll look at how the Sixers can overcome the Celtics, and Wednesday they'll review their expectations for the rest of the season.

Hudrick

Brett Brown has said that his rotation will be at 10 players for now and will go down to nine when the playoffs come. You could make the argument that number should perhaps be eight given how elite the starting five is.

Looking at the five bench guys now, Brown has mentioned that veteran Mike Scott is a lock as the backup four. You figure T.J. McConnell will also be in as the backup point guard. Brown also seems determined to see how much he can use Boban Marjanovic. The other two guys off the bench should be James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons, without a doubt.

Jonah Bolden has been the odd man out, but that may not continue into the postseason. He lost his job as Joel Embiid’s backup really by no fault of his own. He’d been doing a nice job as the backup five and makes a ton of sense as a rim protector that is capable of switching onto guards and can hit the occasional open three.

As we saw in the game against the Celtics, Marjanovic is a liability against bigs like Al Horford and Daniel Theis with the ability to hit shots from the perimeter. Marjanovic was exposed big time in the pick-and-roll, already a sore spot for the Sixers.

With McConnell, he seems more like a matchup-type player as he can be exposed by bigger guards. That’s where the Jimmy Butler point guard experiment comes into play. If I were Brown, my playoff bench would be Scott at the four, Bolden at the five and then either Ennis or Simmons as a backup wing while Butler runs the point. The nice thing about having useful, versatile pieces is you can match up against other teams and also swap players that maybe don't have it on a given night.

If the starters all play around 40 minutes, that leaves about 40 minutes — 13 apiece — for three players. That should be manageable given the strength of the starting unit.

Levick

The playoff rotation is going to have to be largely matchup-dependent. That’s a good thing.

The Sixers now have the personnel to adapt off the bench to most situations. For instance, if you’re playing the Bucks and have to deal with the threat of Brook Lopez as a three-point shooter, you’d likely prefer Jonah Bolden’s quickness and ability to defend away from the rim over Boban Marjanovic. If you’re playing the Hornets, Jonathon Simmons could get more minutes as a physical defensive option against Kemba Walker. T.J. McConnell might play a more prominent role against the Celtics, a team he thrived against last postseason.

Furkan Korkmaz should not be part of the equation; Simmons, Ennis, McConnell and Mike Scott all offer more reliable value. Korkmaz is dependent on hitting three-point shots, and he hasn’t done that consistently. And unlike Korkmaz, Simmons, Ennis, McConnell and Scott all have playoff experience.

We also shouldn’t forget about Zhaire Smith. According to general manager Elton Brand, the expectation is still that he’ll play this season. If Smith gets back on the court and his stint with the Blue Coats goes well, he deserves a shot to show what he can do this year at the NBA level. And if Brett Brown likes what he sees, Smith’s perimeter defense and athleticism could be an intriguing playoff option. 

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