76ers

Sixers are No. 1 in Zach Lowe's NBA League Pass Rankings for second year in a row

Sixers are No. 1 in Zach Lowe's NBA League Pass Rankings for second year in a row

The upcoming NBA season promises to be an entertaining one. Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are among the new arrivals in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook is teaming up with James Harden in Houston and Zion Williamson is poised to rock rims.

And, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe, the most watchable team in the league this season is the Sixers. They're No. 1 in his NBA League Pass Rankings for the second consecutive season. The Lakers, Bucks, Clippers and Nuggets round out the top-five teams. 

Lowe's rankings grade each team in five categories: Zeitgeist, highlight potential, style, League Pass minutiae and unintentional comedy.

What makes the Sixers deserving of the No. 1 spot?

The Sixers are so weird, big, goofy and loaded with personality -- well, one mega-personality -- they repeat as League Pass champions despite losing the high-wattage curiosity factor of Markelle Fultz," Lowe writes. "I didn't think it was possible.

Lowe goes on to call Joel Embiid "the best trash-talker in the league," raise some interesting questions about how the team's gargantuan starting lineup will play together and highlight "exciting prospects" Matisse Thybulle and Zhaire Smith.

He doesn't even mention Mike Scott, who's hit a game-winning shot during the playoffs, taken a sip of a fan's beverage during a live game and said at media day that, while he's "not trying to be an enforcer ... when the bulls---- happens, I just react on that." There's also James "Ennis the Menace" Ennis, who savors attacking the offensive glass and said this summer the Sixers "can walk to the Finals in the East," and Kyle O'Quinn, who throws delicate bounce passes and enjoys attending Bar Mitzvahs.

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons to undergo surgery for loose body in left knee

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons to undergo surgery for loose body in left knee

Ben Simmons will undergo surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, a source confirmed Saturday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news. 

He'd been diagnosed with a left patella subluxation, an injury he sustained in the Sixers' win over the Wizards on Wednesday. A source told NBC Sports Philadelphia the loose body resulted from the subluxation, and that surgery was decided as the best option after consultation with the Sixers' medical staff and several specialists. Simmons will leave the NBA's campus at Disney World and further updates will be provided after the procedure. 

This news clearly makes things much more difficult for the Sixers, who are sixth in the Eastern Conference with four seeding games remaining. Simmons made his second All-Star team this year and has immense value as an ultra-versatile defender, passer and transition playmaker. 

Without him Friday night, Al Horford started and had 21 points and nine rebounds in a win over the Magic. Guard Alec Burks also had a strong game with 22 points. They're two of the players who will be asked to elevate their games in Simmons' absence, while an even heavier burden will fall on Joel Embiid. 

We reviewed several of the big questions posed by the 24-year-old's injury here while he was evaluating his treatment options. 

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2020 NBA awards: Ben Simmons isn't a Defensive Player of the Year finalist

2020 NBA awards: Ben Simmons isn't a Defensive Player of the Year finalist

Ben Simmons, the NBA’s leader in steals this season, is not a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. The three finalists announced Saturday are Rudy Gobert, the winner of that award the last two seasons, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis. 

A panel of sportswriters and broadcasters voted on the NBA’s awards, which were based on games through March 11. Winners will be announced during the playoffs. 

Here’s a look at the finalists for the other awards: 

Rookie of the Year 
Ja Morant
Zion Williamson 
Kendrick Nunn

MVP 
Giannis Antetokounmpo 
LeBron James 
James Harden 

Most Improved Player 
Luka Doncic 
Bam Adebayo 
Brandon Ingram 

Sixth Man of the Year 
Dennis Schroder
Lou Williams 
Montrezl Harrell

Coach of the Year 
Nick Nurse
Mike Budenholzer 
Billy Donovan 

As for Simmons, the 24-year-old, who is currently sidelined by a left patella subluxation, put together a compelling case. Among his more impressive statistics through March 11: First in steals; third in deflections per game; first in defensive loose balls recovered; 42.3 defended field goal percentage. He’s guarded point guards through centers, typically defended the opposition’s top threat late in the game and acquitted himself well against stars. 

His exclusion, however, is certainly not an egregious snub given the credentials of the finalists. Antetokounmpo is the best defender on the NBA’s top-rated defense. Davis has 2.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per game, and he’s held opponents to 38.3 percent shooting on field goals he's guarded. Gobert has defended the most field goals in the league and has a 48.2 defended field goal percentage on attempts of six feet or less, second to Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez. 

Simmons, one figures, should still feature on an All-Defensive Team for the first time, and it could very well be the First Team. 

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