Raptors have had Sixers' number but not this version

Raptors have had Sixers' number but not this version

There’s having a team’s number and there’s what Kawhi Leonard has done to the Sixers.

In the 13 games he’s played against the Sixers since he entered the league, he’s a spotless 13-0. It’s fair to point out that he played against a lot of awful Sixers teams while playing for a couple outstanding teams.

Before this season, his numbers were fairly modest against them. After joining the Raptors in an offseason trade, he tormented the Sixers this season, averaging 30.3 points in three games.

Toronto, as a team, has given them fits recently. Kyle Lowry and company were not kind to The Process Sixers. Scotiabank Arena has been a house of horrors. The Sixers haven't won there since Nov. 10, 2012, losing 13 straight.

But that was then and this is now.

"Sixers 3.0" moved on to the second round to face the Raptors after a dominant Game 5 performance to end the Nets’ season. The team that was on the floor Tuesday doesn’t resemble the team Toronto faced in four games this season.

The Sixers suffered a deflating loss to the Raptors on Feb. 5. Then in the wee hours of the night, GM Elton Brand struck a deal with the Clippers to acquire Tobias Harris.

They aren’t putting much stock into the matchup’s history.

“We all understand what the math says with our success in Toronto and it’s not flattering. But it’s also not directed to the team that we have,” Brett Brown said. “You can credit or you can discredit it. I’m discrediting it. I think that we have a new group, we have a new opportunity …

“It’s going to be an incredibly tough series. I think that Toronto is as good as there is in the NBA. We will be tested immediately when we get up into Toronto.”

Not only do the Sixers feature a new-look starting five with Harris, they also have a completely different bench. Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott and James Ennis also didn’t play against the Raptors as Sixers. Brown has shrunk his rotation down to eight with those three playing the biggest roles.

Sure, those three players are not likely to swing the series, especially with the depth of Toronto, but they’re still upgrades across the board.

Marjanovic is a tough matchup against any team. He’s incredibly efficient offensively and, though slow footed, did an excellent job challenging shots at the rim against the Nets. As for Scott and Ennis, they bring a toughness and represent an upgrade defensively over anyone the Raptors saw off the Sixers’ bench this season.

But it all begins and ends with the starting five. They outscored Brooklyn 31-2 in the first half Tuesday. Of all the five-man lineups that have played at least 40 minutes together this postseason, the Sixers’ starting unit has the best defensive and net rating.

Brand was candid about his team needing more before the season and he went out and got way more. He wasn't going to sit on his hands after his team was beaten soundly in the second round last season by the Boston Celtics.

Again, that was then, this is now.

“We feel pretty good about what we can do,” Embiid said. “There is definitely a difference from last year. I feel this year’s team is better than last year’s team. Last year we had a great momentum going into the playoffs and then Boston just smacked us, but go into this series it’s different because I’ve seen it. It’s my second time being here. Last year we were kind of, I would say, overconfident, but this year it’s just about respecting everything about the game of basketball and just putting the work in.”

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Sixers sign and then waive Shizz Alston Jr., Terry Harris for purpose of adding them to Delaware Blue Coats

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Sixers sign and then waive Shizz Alston Jr., Terry Harris for purpose of adding them to Delaware Blue Coats

Updated: 2:27 p.m.

The 2019-20 Delaware Blue Coats are shaping up to be a fascinating team.

The Sixers are signing and then waiving Terry Harris, Shizz Alston Jr., Julian Washburn, Jared Brownridge and Xavier Munford with the purpose of adding them to the Blue Coats. Harris' deal is an Exhibit 9 contract.

Terry Harris is the younger brother of Sixers forward Tobias Harris, whom the team re-signed to a five-year, $180 million contract this summer. Terry played for the Sixers this year in summer league and scored nine points in three games. The 6-foot-6 wing worked out with the Sixers in June and said "it would be a blessing" to play with Tobias for the first time since eighth grade. As a redshirt senior at North Carolina A&T, Terry averaged 8.1 points per game and shot 41.1 percent from three-point range. Outside shooting is his trademark skill.

Alston grew up in Philadelphia and attended The Haverford School before going to Temple, where he played for four years. The point guard had an excellent senior season, leading Temple to a 23-10 record and averaging 19.7 points and 5.0 assists per game. Like Harris, he had a pre-draft workout for the Sixers. Alston played with the Indiana Pacers in summer league and scored 24 points across three contests.

The 6-foot-8 Washburn has 136 career games of experience in the G League, including 38 last season between the Austin Spurs and Memphis Hustle. He signed a two-way contract with the Grizzlies in January and appeared in 18 NBA games last year, averaging 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds. Washburn was part of the trade between the Grizzlies and Warriors in July involving Andre Iguodala, and was later waived by Golden State.

Brownridge, who played his college ball at Santa Clara, played 49 games (27 starts) with the Blue Coats last season. He led the G-League in threes made with 187.

Munford spent last season with the Milwaukee Bucks G-League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd. He's also played in China and Spain after his collegiate career at Rhode Island ended.

In addition to Washburn, Alston, Harris, Brownridge and Munford, 7-foot-3 Christ Koumadje, Saint Joseph's product Isaiah Miles and Haywood Highsmith are candidates for the Blue Coats this season. Those three players were part of the Sixers' preseason roster and will be waived (see story).

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Sixers waive Christ Koumadje, Haywood Highsmith and Isaiah Miles

Sixers waive Christ Koumadje, Haywood Highsmith and Isaiah Miles

Updated: 2:17 p.m.

The Sixers have waived Christ Koumadje, Isaiah Miles and Haywood Highsmith. Those moves leave the team with its regular-season roster of 15 players, with Marial Shayok and Norvel Pelle on two-way contracts.

Because Koumadje, Miles and Highsmith signed Exhibit 10 contracts this summer, they can be incentivized to join the Delaware Blue Coats. Under the terms of an Exhibit 10 deal, a player who is waived can receive a bonus of up to $50,000 if he signs with the team's G-League affiliate and stays there for at least 60 days. 

Koumadje played four years of college basketball at Florida State and stands 7-foot-3 without shoes. He’s seeking to become the first NBA player from the country of Chad. Senior vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said in June at a pre-draft workout featuring Koumadje that the big man is agile for his size, which Koumadje attributed to playing soccer and running before fully focusing on basketball.

Koumadje has been seen working on his game with 7-foot-2 player development specialist Roy Hibbert. He said at media day that the Sixers’ player development staff has been helping him develop some of the finer points of his offensive game, such as non-dunk finishes near the basket and ball handling.

A 6-foot-4 wing, Highsmith played in 46 games for the Blue Coats last season, averaging 12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He also played in five games for the Sixers, with the team converting his contract to a two-way deal in January. Highsmith, who was waived by the team this summer to free up the two-way spot used on Pelle before signing his Exhibit 10 deal, played at Division II Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

Miles played his college basketball much closer to the Wells Fargo Center, at Saint Joseph’s, and is, like Highsmith, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. The 25-year-old was on the Sixers’ summer league teams in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and last played for Limoges CSP in France’s Pro-A league.

Based on what we saw in the preseason, below is a rough, projected depth chart by position. The backup point guard picture isn't yet clear, while several of the players at the shooting guard and small forward spots are interchangeable:

Point guard

Starter: Ben Simmons

Depth: Josh Richardson, Raul Neto/Trey Burke, Shake Milton

Shooting guard

Starter: Josh Richardson

Depth: Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, Zhaire Smith, Marial Shayok (Two-way player)

Small forward

Starter: Tobias Harris

Depth: James Ennis, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz

Power forward

Starter: Al Horford 

Depth: Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, Jonah Bolden 


Starter: Joel Embiid

Depth: Al Horford, Kyle O’Quinn, Jonah Bolden, Ben Simmons, Mike Scott, Norvel Pelle (Two-way player) 

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