76ers

Meet Josh Richardson, the Sixers' young and talented new wing

Meet Josh Richardson, the Sixers' young and talented new wing

There are assuredly Sixers fans that will be disappointed to see Jimmy Butler go.

Butler was outstanding for the Sixers in the playoffs and helped lead the team to a Game 7 against the eventual NBA champion Raptors.

But the four-time All-Star is gone thanks to a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat

Welcome, Josh Richardson.

The Sixers' newest wing is young, cheap and a pretty damn good player. He’ll turn 26 in September and he’ll make $10,116,576 in 2019-20 and $10,865,952 in 2020-21 with a player option at $11,615,328 for 2022. Since being drafted in the second round (40th overall) in the 2015 draft out of Tennessee, he’s been lauded for his defense but has steadily improved his offensive game.

From a defensive standpoint, you’re getting a player that’s emerged as one of the better wing defenders in the league. In a league where positionless basketball rules the day and long, switchable defenders are all the rage, Richardson is an ideal fit. You’ll remember the Sixers last season went to a more switch-heavy scheme with less-than-stellar results. Replacing JJ Redick, who signed with the New Orleans Pelicans, with a player like Richardson should help a whole lot. He’s also a maximum effort type of player who doesn’t take possessions off.

While defense has been his calling card since he got into the league, he’s developed more of his offensive game as the Heat’s roster has declined. He averaged career-highs in points (16.6), assists (4.1) and rebounds (3.6) per game while posting his highest usage rate (20.3) last season. The assists stand out most as Richardson was relied on more as a playmaker. His 1.5 turnovers a game is also a solid number considering his high usage rate.

The jumper has been inconsistent over his career, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism in that department. While his three-point percentage dipped from 37.8 to 35.7 this season, he also took over two more attempts a contest. It’s also worth noting that his free throw shooting has improved every season since he’s been in the league. He was at 86.1 percent last season, a number that borders on elite.

Think about how much more things will be opened up for Richardson, as well. With all due respect to retirement tour Dwyane Wade, Miami wasn’t littered with explosive offensive options. With players like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford, Richardson will be surrounded by skilled playmakers and shot makers. That should take the pressure off of him while also creating space on the floor.

While the Sixers likely aren’t quite done, the starting five of Richardson, Embiid, Simmons, Harris and Horford is an awfully good start to free agency.

While Richardson can’t be expected to provide what Butler did, he could become a pivotal piece as the Sixers try to assert themselves among the East’s elite.

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2020 NBA playoffs: Sixers will take on Celtics in first round

2020 NBA playoffs: Sixers will take on Celtics in first round

It’s seemed an inevitability for a while, but now it’s official: The Sixers will play the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

The Pacers beat the Rockets on Wednesday, which means the Sixers cannot finish ahead of Indiana. Though the Sixers could still end with an identical record to the Pacers', Indiana would hold the tiebreaker because of a 3-1 edge in the regular-season series. This will be the second time in the past three years that the Sixers have played Boston in the postseason. With the help of valuable contributions from current Sixer Al Horford, the Celtics won a tight five-game series in the second round in 2018. 

The winner of the Sixers-Celtics series will take on either the No. 2 seed Raptors or No. 7 seed Nets in the second round. 

The Sixers beat Boston in their first three regular-season meetings this season, then lost 116-95 on Feb. 1, a game in which Joel Embiid shot 1 for 11. Embiid, who is available to play Wednesday after suffering a left ankle injury Sunday, will be especially important with Ben Simmons out after undergoing surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee. While the Feb. 1 performance against the Celtics was one of his worst this year, his 38-point, 13-rebound, six-assist effort in a Dec. 12 win over Boston was one of his best. 

He expects to face relentless double teams from the Celtics — and from any opponent, for that matter. The 26-year-old had been responding to double teams well at Disney World before his injury and averaged 30.0 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the Sixers’ first four seeding games. 

“I’ve just gotta keep on getting better,” he said on Aug. 3, “because I know that every single game I’m going to get doubled, so I’ve gotta just figure that out to be the offense and create shots for my teammates. If I’m open and I’ve got a duck-in, just go out and do it. But other than that, just try to make sure defenders attract a lot of attention, just for my teammates.”

Perimeter defense will be a challenge for the Sixers without Simmons, especially against All-Stars Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum. Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle and Glenn Robinson III are among the players who should draw the most difficult assignments.

In addition to Robinson, trade deadline acquisition Alec Burks hasn’t played this season in a Sixers-Celtics matchup. He’s been a bright spot in the seeding games as a shot creator off the bench and has also made 12 of his 22 three-point attempts (54.5 percent). 

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Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris available vs. Raptors

Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris available vs. Raptors

Joel Embiid is available for the Sixers’ game Wednesday night vs. the Raptors after missing Tuesday’s loss to the Suns with a left ankle injury. 

The three-time All-Star sustained the injury in the first quarter of the Sixers' game Sunday against the Trail Blazers. He appeared to grimace after his left foot landed awkwardly on the basket stanchion (see video above). 

Al Horford and Tobias Harris will also return after sitting out Tuesday's game with left knee soreness and right ankle soreness, respectively. Josh Richardson, who rested against Phoenix, is available as well. 

On Tuesday, Brett Brown said the players out vs. the Suns could've played in a postseason game, and the news that they're available for the team's penultimate seeding game clearly indicates that is indeed the case. The Sixers head into their game vs. the Raptors at 43-29, a game behind the No. 5 seed Pacers in the Eastern Conference. They're likely to face the No. 3 seed Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, and a Pacers win vs. the Rockets this afternoon and/or Sixers loss to Toronto would finalize that matchup. 

Alec Burks is out for the game against Toronto with left foot soreness, an injury that The Inquirer's Keith Pompey reports is not a "long-term concern." He's performed well at Disney World, averaging 14.3 points and shooting 57.1 percent over the Sixers' six games, and looks primed to play a key role in the playoffs as the Sixers forge ahead with Ben Simmons sidelined by a left knee injury. Simmons had successful surgery to remove a loose body from his knee on Monday.

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