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Which NBA playoff format should Sixers prefer?

Which NBA playoff format should Sixers prefer?

In a normal year, the NBA would be nearing the conclusion of a 16-team postseason organized by conferences. This is not a normal year.

As the league considers how it might restart the 2019-20 season, a handful of unorthodox options are on the table. Which of these possibilities would be best for the Sixers?

Let’s take a look:

No conference affiliation? Straight to the playoffs?  

According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, about half of NBA general managers voted for a 16-team playoff format with no conference affiliation. The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that 53 percent of GMs voted to go straight to the postseason instead of playing any further regular-season games. In such a scenario, the Sixers would hold on to Oklahoma City’s top-20 protected first round pick (currently No. 22), while any additional regular-season games would jeopardize that selection conveying. 

The Sixers’ path looks a bit more difficult without a traditional conference setup. They’d be seeded No. 6 in the Eastern Conference and play the Celtics in the first round, whom they hold a 3-1 advantage over this season. In a no-conferences format, the Sixers would also play Boston, in a 12 vs. 5 matchup. If they advanced, they’d potentially have to get through the following teams to win the NBA Finals: Clippers, Bucks, Lakers. Their most challenging path in a traditional format, on paper, would be facing the Celtics, Raptors, Bucks and winner of the West. 

Neither path is easy, but the no-conferences model would possibly force the Sixers to face better teams at earlier stages. The Sixers do, however, have regular-season wins over both Los Angeles teams, Milwaukee and Toronto. While they’ve been searching for consistency and continuity all season, they have shown they can beat the league’s elite teams. 

Play-in tournament? Group stage? 

Per O'Connor, about 75 percent of teams voted for a play-in tournament, while 25 percent of teams voted for a group stage model. 

A play-in tournament wouldn’t directly impact the Sixers, who aren’t on the playoff bubble. This is one method of widening the playoff field, which NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh reports would be “partially motivated” by a desire to include star names like Zion Williamson and Damian Lillard. Perhaps a bubble team winning the play-in tournament, gaining momentum and then upsetting a top seed would eventually help the Sixers, but that’s a stretch. The toll of earning a playoff spot could be depleting, too. We haven’t seen it before, so there aren’t any safe assumptions. 

A group stage format would be similar to the FIFA World Cup, where teams are drawn into pool play and those who perform best among their pool advance to the next round. It wouldn’t be a random draw — the league would presumably distribute teams based on regular-season performance — but the chance for more chaos and more top seeds falling in that setting would be a positive for the Sixers. 

Picking opponents? 

As a means to mitigate the loss of home-court advantage — Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is reportedly the frontrunner single location if/when the season resumes — Haberstroh suggests the idea of having higher-seeded teams pick their opponents in every round.

For those who feel the Sixers are better than their 39-26 record, that wouldn’t be an advantageous model, since higher-seeded teams could "avoid" the Sixers. In Round 1 of a no-conference 16-team playoffs, Haberstroh projects the No. 5 seed Celtics would decide to play the Mavericks. He thinks the No. 7 Jazz would choose to play the Sixers, who have split their two matchups with Utah. 

Commissioner Adam Silver is set to talk with the NBA’s board of governors on Friday and will discuss various formats, according to multiple reports. In the event that the season resumes, the Sixers’ route to a title will be a tough one — regardless of which format the league might ultimately settle on. 

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Sixers Talk podcast: New-look starting 5; What food would you break quarantine for?

Sixers Talk podcast: New-look starting 5; What food would you break quarantine for?

On this edition of Sixers Talk, we discuss which food we'd break quarantine for, the Sixers' new-look starting five and much more.

(2:16) — Richaun Holmes forced to quarantine after leaving the bubble for food.
(10:28) — Two players test positive for COVID-19 while inside the bubble.
(15:54) — With Shake Milton at point guard, it sounds like Sixers are leaning toward a new starting five.

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Why Shake Milton could thrive in strange NBA playoffs this year

Why Shake Milton could thrive in strange NBA playoffs this year

On March 1, Shake Milton introduced himself to the NBA world by dropping 39 points on the Clippers in L.A on national TV.

Not bad for a guy that was told he was out of the rotation before an injury to Ben Simmons thrust him into the starting lineup.

But that seems to be the story of Milton. He’s unflappable. Whatever his life or career presents him, he keeps moving forward.

As the Sixers continue their training camp at Disney World to prepare for the resumed NBA season, Brett Brown has been using Milton as his starting point guard, moving Simmons to the four. That means the 23-year-old that’s played 52 career NBA games appears to have the inside track on a starting job for a team looking to go on a deep playoff run.

No pressure or anything there.

There are people that just thrive in these circumstances. You can throw them in intense situations, and they act so calm you have to wonder if they even have a pulse. Milton’s imperturbable demeanor has likely helped him get to where he is. 

He was a freshman in high school when he lost his father. Myron Milton was just 43 when he passed away suddenly. The two were close and basketball was a big part of their bond. His dad told him to “just go out there and play like you’re the best player on the floor,” Shake said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters.

The Oklahoma native was recruited to play at SMU by former Sixers coach and Hall of Famer Larry Brown, who said he “got lucky” in landing Milton over the likes of the University of Oklahoma and Indiana. Milton had a strong college career but that’s also where injuries became an unfortunate part of his story.

Milton suffered a hand injury that limited him to 22 games his junior year and final season for the Mustangs. A back injury presumably caused him to slip to the back end of the draft. After making strides at the NBA level his rookie season, he suffered another hand injury. Just three games into the 2019-20 season — and when it appeared he had a legitimate chance at a spot in the rotation — a knee injury sidelined him.

Ironically, injuries are what led to his next prolonged NBA opportunity. When Simmons went down, Milton stepped in and produced in a big way, averaging 17.8 points and shooting 60.4 percent from three over his last nine games before play was suspended.

All the injuries and time spent with the Delaware Blue Coats has led to this moment, where he could potentially be the team's starting point guard in the postseason.

“You won’t find a better kid than him, and somebody that really trusts the process,” Larry Brown said as a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast in May. “And Philly did a remarkable job with him. Playing in the G League in Delaware, Shake told me was huge. …

“The greatest thing is they had patience with him. They had some injuries and you never know when the opportunity is going to be there for you to show you can play.”

Milton has rewarded that patience already. Now, he’ll have to try to carry the momentum he built before the season was suspended onto one of the biggest NBA stages.

But it’s all part of Milton’s story and why if anyone can do this at a young age and with so little NBA experience, it could be him.

“There’s a poise that he has as a person that I’m assuming everybody on this call that has interviewed him feels,” Brett Brown said in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday. “And I think that can help him navigate through a pressure situation of the NBA playoffs. I do believe how he’s wired from a human perspective can help him deal with that environment I think in a more calm way.”

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