76ers

Report: Sixers 'very much looking to move up' near top of NBA draft

Report: Sixers 'very much looking to move up' near top of NBA draft

Is a future Sixers front office exec already getting into the habit of leaking information to the public?

We would hope not. However, former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager and Sixers candidate, David Griffin, unleashed a bit of news on Friday.

Per Griffin in an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio, the Sixers are “very much looking to move up to get somebody they think will go in the top five.” Griffin did not name any specific prospect that the Sixers would be targeting with a potential trade.

The Sixers hold six picks in the 2018 NBA draft, including Nos. 10 and 26 in the first round. In addition to those selections, the team has plenty of other ammunition in the way of young players and cap space to make moves this summer.

Whether the Sixers are successful or not in pulling off a deal remains to be seen, but you can definitely expect them to be active in their pursuit of getting better.

“I think we need more,” head coach and interim GM Brett Brown said on Friday’s edition of The Mike Missanelli Show (see story). “I feel what people should most hear is that in the event that we do not get that, we’re going to be very aggressive, and people understand the cap space that we have. In the event that we are not successful this year achieving that, we can reload and do the same thing next year.

“We are completely exploring aggressively all options, and I think we just know we need a little bit more.”

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Sixers at Magic: 3 storylines to watch in Jimmy Butler's debut

Sixers at Magic: 3 storylines to watch in Jimmy Butler's debut

It’s all about Jimmy Butler tonight in Orlando. The starting lineup has been changed. It's be Butler, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Wilson Chandler and Joel Embiid.

Here are three storylines to watch in tonight’s game.

Who takes over in crunch time?

As Brett Brown noted the other night, the Sixers have struggled in both pick-and-roll and isolation situations, especially in crunch time. Having Jimmy Butler should radically change that. I’ll have my eye on how the offense opens up because of what Butler can do off the pick-and-roll. And if this is a close game down the stretch, who brings the ball up? Who takes the final shot? How do late-game situations change?

Our culture is built on defense

At shootaround this morning, Brown echoed the following: "Our culture is built on defense.’"He reminded his team that they finished third in defensive rating last year. Joel Embiid is the anchor of the defense, and the new concepts they’ve been implementing are contingent on what Embiid does defensively. How does having one of the best defenders in the NBA (fun stat: Butler’s 3.6 deflections per game is tied for first in the NBA) immediately up their defensive intensity? I’m not as worried about concepts at this point as I am about the effort and energy, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t immediately see Butler up this tonight.

Butler’s ball dominance

There’s been a lot of talk about how Butler being a ball dominant guard will impact both Simmons and Embiid’s game, and this is certainly going to be under the microscope tonight. Is it as big of a deal as people are making it out to be?

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Behind the scenes of Jimmy Butler's first day as a Sixer

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AP Images

Behind the scenes of Jimmy Butler's first day as a Sixer

It was business as usual at Sixers shootaround, except as Brett Brown gathered the group together, there was a new face sitting front and center.

By 10 a.m., Jimmy Butler had already been up for four and a half hours, had his breakfast, did his reading, got a lift in at the hotel gym, chatted with Brown, and arrived early to Freedom High School to get some shots up before shootaround.

Butler listened intently as his new head coach spoke to the group.

It went something like this ...

“He’s an All-Star. He thrives on the defensive end, and our culture is built on defense," Brown said. "He’s going to fit right in. There is no culture to be changed. We all have one goal. We want to win the championship, and with his addition, we have a good chance.”

But Brown wasn’t using his own words, he was actually quoting phrases from an interview that Joel Embiid did with the media on Monday night, following their win over Miami.

“Our culture is built on defense,” Brown repeated before helping Butler up off the floor.

And then it was time to get started. Butler picked up a foam roller and rolled out next to rookie Landry Shamet and Furkan Korkmaz. assistant coach Billy Lange came over to chat. 

“He was talkative, he was asking questions and talking and listening to new verbiage and words,” Brown said of Butler.

One of the guys Butler particularly gravitated towards was JJ Redick. The two were going back and forth during shooting drills, and Redick pulled him aside to make sure that he was understanding (and helping to explain) concepts. 

But there’s only so much one can pick up during one shootaround session with brand new coaches, teammates and terminologies. 

“Today was about less is more, and close-game situations,” Brown said. “In that environment, he picks up really quickly. It’s obvious he’s been doing this for a long time.” 

After his first shootaround, Butler joked that he was “hella confused on some plays, but other than that, basketball was basketball.”

“He’s a cool guy, and I feel like he’s going to help this team in a lot of ways,” said Markelle Fultz, who has been relegated to the second unit. “I don’t know about all the stories y’all heard, but I’m excited to pick his brain.”

“I love basketball,” Butler beamed. “I love to compete, to show that I can help a team win, to show that I’m one of the really good players in the league.” 

Tonight, Butler will don a Sixers uniform for the first time.

“I know I’m going to love this city, and I hope the city loves me just as much. I’m just ready to hoop, ready to win, battle with my guys.”