It feels like the Sixers experienced a decade's worth of drama in 2018. They packed a playoff series win, a bizarre scandal involving burner Twitter accounts, a trade for a superstar and much more into the past 12 months.
So, what should the Sixers' New Year's resolutions be for 2019?
Elton Brand’s resolution has to be to add to the Sixers’ bench … but he has to be patient about it.
Game after game, the Sixers are exposed by deeper teams with more options. They lack real NBA players to complement their trio of stars. There’s also a dearth of athleticism among the Sixers’ reserves.
With that said, Brand does have to have a measure of patience. The trade deadline is Feb. 7. Not too long after that, several veterans on losing teams will be bought out. On New Year’s Eve, Feb. 7 might seem far away, but it’s not. In that span, the Sixers will play 17 games. The Sixers’ roster as currently constructed should be able to stay afloat until then.
Remember, it wasn’t until buyout season that the Sixers were able to acquire Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. At this point last season, the Sixers were 17-19 and were running a bench of T.J. McConnell, Jerryd Bayless, Amir Johnson, Trevor Booker and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.
Now, it may be unfair to expect two players to come in and make the impact Belinelli and Ilyasova did, but the newcomers don’t need to. With Joel Embiid playing at an MVP level and Jimmy Butler now in the fold, they just need guys to fill in the gaps.
It may be tempting to look at every guy that becomes available, but let the other teams waste a roster spot on them. Put the onus on your players to keep you in the hunt until the right player(s) comes along.
The biggest resolution for the Sixers this year should be pretty simple: Be healthy.
If everyone gets (and stays) healthy, Brett Brown will have a few interesting dilemmas.
Markelle Fultz is undergoing rehab in Los Angeles for thoracic outlet syndrome. Big man Justin Patton is rehabbing after surgery in September on a Jones fracture in his right foot. Zhaire Smith is getting back into basketball shape after suffering a Jones fracture in his left foot in August, then having an allergic reaction in September and subsequent serious medical complications.
All three could be internal solutions to some of the Sixers' aforementioned woes off the bench.
Though the Sixers would hope he can regain the smooth jumper that deserted him, Fultz's perimeter defense would be an upgrade over what the Sixers have now off the bench regardless.
Patton could, in part, fill the need for quality backup center minutes. He has a grand total of four NBA minutes, but you'd think an athletic 7-footer who was a first-round pick in 2017 might be able to help. Mike Muscala and Johnson haven't been suitable answers to back up Embiid.
Though he's far from a finished product, Smith's defense might be a welcome addition. The Sixers believe he'll eventually add polish to his game, but you can envision Smith, once he's cleared to play, sticking his man and flying in the air for putback dunks.
All of these scenarios are, of course, hypotheticals. We won't know whether Fultz, Smith and Patton can make the Sixers a better team in 2019 unless they're healthy. And we certainly won't know whether the Sixers' goal of an Eastern Conference title is attainable unless Embiid, Ben Simmons and Butler reach the postseason injury-free.
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