76ers

Sixers hire Ime Udoka as assistant coach, team source confirms

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USA Today Images/Mark J. Rebilas

Sixers hire Ime Udoka as assistant coach, team source confirms

The Sixers just continue to pluck from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree.

The team is hiring longtime Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, a team source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Shams Charania of the Athletic and Stadium was the first to report the news. 

Udoka will take over as Brett Brown’s top assistant after Monty Williams left the organization to take a head coaching job with the Suns. Brown and Udoka crossed paths when Udoka was a player in San Antonio and were on the same staff for one season.

Udoka, 41, has worked under Popovich since 2012, right after he retired from playing. He spent parts of seven seasons in the NBA with the Spurs, Lakers, Knicks, Trail Blazers and Kings. He also spent a few seasons overseas. Udoka’s late father was of Nigerian descent so he also got to play for the Nigerian national team. 

Udoka coached San Antonio’s summer league teams in 2013 and 2014. He was interviewed for the Cavaliers' head coaching job after the season before Cleveland ultimately hired Michigan coach John Beilein. With Ettore Messina entrenched as Popovich’s top assistant, perhaps serving as Brown’s top guy will help boost Udoka’s profile.

The team has also brought in Spurs assistant Cameron Hodges as a player development coach. With Brown, Udoka and Hodges, Popovich’s imprint is clear on the Sixers’ coaching staff.

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FiveThirtyEight's statistical model gives Sixers best chance of any team to win NBA Finals

FiveThirtyEight's statistical model gives Sixers best chance of any team to win NBA Finals

The Sixers, according to the statistics-centric website FiveThirtyEight, have a 55 percent chance to make the NBA Finals and a 27 percent chance to win it all — both the highest of any NBA team.

FiveThirtyEight's "Way-Too-Early Projections" for the 2019-20 season give the Sixers a greater than 99 percent chance to make the playoffs. The Houston Rockets have the next-best odds to win the title at 24 percent.

It's important to note, of course, that teams' rosters will change between now and the start of the regular season, and we still don't have a schedule.

Its model incorporates heaps of data and does "50,000 simulations of the schedule." A new element this year is the DRAYMOND defensive metric, which gives greater weight to how a defender impacts opponents' shooting percentage.

The fact that Joel Embiid has the second-best DRAYMOND rating since the 2013-14 season might, in part, explain why this year's model is so high on the Sixers. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks (26 percent chance to win the East, 10 percent chance to win the championship) and star-studded Los Angeles Lakers (13 percent odds to win it all) and Clippers (5 percent chance to win it all) have a better shot than FiveThirtyEight gives them.

In case you somehow missed it, a lot has changed for the Sixers this offseason. The team's new starting unit of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Embiid is locked in for the long term, while Mike Scott and James Ennis are again expected to feature off the bench. It's a big, defensively imposing team.

Ennis has said he thinks the Sixers can "walk to the Finals in the East." If you trust FiveThirtyEight's model, his view might not be so outlandish.

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Will Kyle Korver return to Sixers? Elton Brand drops an interesting hint

Will Kyle Korver return to Sixers? Elton Brand drops an interesting hint

Elton Brand’s busy offseason is not over.

The Sixers’ general manager acknowledged Tuesday morning in an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic’s “Farzetta and Tra in the Morning” show that he’s still working to fill out the Sixers’ roster. The team currently has 13 players on the roster and could add two more. 

When Marc Farzetta asked Brand about adding a player with similar shooting abilities to the departed JJ Redick, Brand dropped an interesting hint.

We’d love to have that. Spacing is key. We’re going to hang our hats on defense, but when it’s crunch time you’re going to need spacing to operate. So we are looking for players that can space the court. We are in talks with a few of them, so we’ll see how that goes. Hopefully the city will have someone that they know and can receive them well. 

He didn’t use his name, but Brand sure seemed to be talking about former Sixer Kyle Korver. Some Sixers fans might be familiar with available free agents like Thabo Sefolosha and Jose Calderon, but Brand has to be aware that fans know all about Korver.

The Sixers are reportedly a frontrunner to land the 38-year-old, who’s an unrestricted free agent after being waived by the Phoenix Suns. Korver is a career 42.9 percent shooter from three-point range and has made the fourth most threes in NBA history. 

Given the Sixers’ salary cap situation, Korver would need to be willing to accept a veteran minimum deal to come back to Philadelphia. 

A return to the city where he started his professional career would make a lot of sense for both parties. As Brand said, the Sixers could use some outside shooting. And for Korver, you’d think the chance to play for a team that looks poised to contend for a championship would be appealing. 

You can listen to the full interview with Brand here

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