With roster at 15 players, previewing Sixers' depth chart, roles and competitions

With roster at 15 players, previewing Sixers' depth chart, roles and competitions

After agreeing to a deal with Trey Burke Thursday night, the Sixers have 15 players on their active roster and their team is likely set for the 2019-20 season. 

Is this Sixers’ roster deep enough? Who might fill which roles, and where could there be competition for minutes?

Here’s an early look at the team’s depth at each position:

Point guard 

Starter: Ben Simmons

Depth: Raul Neto, Trey Burke, Shake Milton 

Analysis: Though Burke’s deal is only partially guaranteed, according to Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice, he could very well play a key role. He scored 20.2 points per 36 minutes last season and has thrived in the pick-and-roll — Burke produced 1.02 points per possession last season as a pick-and-roll ball handler with the Knicks (92nd percentile) and 0.99 points per possession on those plays with the Mavs (86th percentile), per NBA.com/Stats.

Another attractive quality Burke brings to the table is his excellent career assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.6 assists to 1.4 turnovers per game. Though the Sixers’ turnovers dropped after the trade deadline, they still finished 25th in turnovers last season. Burke could help to alleviate that longstanding concern.

Neto and Burke will likely compete for minutes. Especially given Neto’s injury history, Burke is a nice option for the Sixers to have.

As Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune points out, this actually won't be the first battle between Neto and Burke. Neto beat Burke out as a rookie for the Jazz's starting point guard spot to begin the 2015-16 season.

Milton can play both guard spots, but you assume he’d need to be highly impressive or be presented with an opportunity via injury to receive significant playing time at the point over two veterans. He struggled with his jumper in summer-league play, making just 6 of 36 shots (16.7 percent) before being sidelined by an ankle injury. 

Shooting guard 

Starter: Josh Richardson

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

Analysis: The Sixers lost JJ Redick, lost out on Kyle Korver and their outside shooting options at shooting guard are … not great. 

Richardson shot a tick over the league average from three-point range last year on 6.3 attempts per game and should replace a good chunk of Redick's production.

Brown has said Smith’s jumper will be “the thing that ultimately makes his package whole,” and though he’s worked extensively on his shot, the 20-year-old will need to prove it’s a reliable skill.

Thybulle looked comfortable in summer league shooting spot-up threes and made 11 of 28 shots from long range (39.3 percent). He’s aiming to show that his dip to 30.5 percent from three-point range as a senior at Washington was a random blip, not an accurate indicator of his ability as a shooter.

Korkmaz has a quick release and a pretty jumper, but he’s yet to be effective as an NBA three-point shooter, converting 32.3 percent of his threes in 62 NBA games. Smith and Thybulle are in a different class than Korkmaz defensively.

All three players could contribute during the regular season, with Smith’s specialities his on-ball defense and incredible athleticism, Thybulle’s his knack for deflections and disruption and Korkmaz’s his floor spacing and shooting. 

None of the three look like a lock for Brown’s playoff rotation, though I think Smith has the best shot. He’s shown the ability to slide with his man on the perimeter, hound smaller guards and shrug off screens. This massive Sixers team could use those skills off the bench.

Small forward 

Starter: Tobias Harris

Depth: James Ennis, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz 

Analysis: The 29-year-old Ennis is seven years older than the next oldest option on the 15-man roster at the wing, which tells you something about the importance of his return. Ennis and Mike Scott were the two players Brown could trust off his bench in the playoffs last season, and you’d think that will remain the case.

Power forward 

Starter: Al Horford

Depth: Mike Scott, Tobias Harris, Jonah Bolden 

Analysis: Harris can play at the four in certain lineups, and Bolden, despite some promising moments in his rookie year, appears to have an uphill battle for minutes. Other than that, there’s not much to add here — Scott is your backup power forward. 


Starter: Joel Embiid

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

Analysis: The Sixers are such a large team, it feels like half of the roster could play center. In reality, Horford will serve as Embiid’s primary backup and start at the five on load management nights for the Sixers’ All-Star center.

O’Quinn provides valuable veteran insurance, while Simmons and Scott both saw time at center in 2018-19 and could be small-ball options for Brown. 

The Sixers posted a minus-3.5 net rating with Embiid off the floor last year and a plus-7.6 net rating with him on the court. This season, there shouldn’t be such a cavernous disparity.

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Sixers at Wizards: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Wizards: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (15-6), winners of four in a row and eight of their last nine, will look to get to the .500 mark on the road when they visit the Wizards (6-13) Thursday night.

Josh Richardson (right hamstring tightness) remains out. He did individualized workouts the last two days at practice, but the team is being cautious as Richardson will miss his fourth straight game. Shake Milton (right hip discomfort) will be available.

Washington will be without starting center Thomas Bryant (right foot stress reaction) and veteran wing C.J. Miles (left wrist). Backup bigs Ian Mahinmi (right Achilles strain) and Moritz Wagner (left ankle sprain) are available. 

Here are tonight's essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Capital One Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

The competition

Rookie Matisse Thybulle has wreaked havoc on the defensive end in almost every one of his appearances this season. He leads all rookies with 29 steals and is third among them in deflections — despite playing far less minutes than the other first-year players at the top of the list.

But it hasn’t just been Thybulle that’s been so disruptive. Ben Simmons, who looks well on his way to earning some type of All-Defensive team honors, leads the NBA in steals and is second in deflections.

A competition has formed.

“I’d say it’s me, him and J-Rich when it comes to steals, trying to see who can get the most, within reason, without trying to put guys in tough positions,” Thybulle said after practice Tuesday. “I think it’s cool that we have that competitiveness. You’ve seen it with Ben, he’s changed games — he’s won games — with steals down the stretch. I think it’s cool to have that little competition within ourselves.”

The caveat of not “trying to put guys in tough positions” is important here. Thybulle has been walking the fine line all season of being disruptive and not leaving his teammates out to dry. To Thybulle’s credit, you can see the improvement. And to Brett Brown’s credit, he admitted before the Jazz game that he needs to be more tolerant with Thybulle.

Despite playing at the fastest pace in the NBA, the Wizards are one of the better teams in the league at taking care of the basketball. Something will have to give Thursday night.

Feed Embiid

Joel Embiid is the focal point of the Sixers’ offense and that shouldn’t change against Washington. He’ll likely see plenty of rookie Rui Hachimura playing the five with the Wizards’ frontcourt so banged up. With that, Embiid is likely to see plenty of double teams and possibly even some zone.

It’ll be on the other Sixers to make plays and shots around Embiid, who has improved greatly in navigating double teams. They should be able to expose Washington’s defense. The Wizards have the worst-rated defense in the NBA and give up the third-most points per game.

Beal is the real deal

News flash: Bradley Beal is really freaking good. And he’s having one of his best seasons. He’s averaging 28.7 points and 7.2 assists a game — both marks would be career highs. He’s taking the most threes he ever has so his percentage is down, but he’s getting to the line just a little under seven times a game. 

And Beal’s supporting cast is no joke on the offensive end. The Sixers will have their hands full with how Davis Bertans (44.6 percent) and Isaiah Thomas (41 percent) are shooting from three. With that said, both players can be exposed on the defensive end.

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There's a giant statue of Joel Embiid in Brooklyn, but why?

There's a giant statue of Joel Embiid in Brooklyn, but why?

As many Philadelphia Sixers fans know, watching Joel Embiid play basketball can be awe inspiring.

Now, for tens of thousands of Brooklyn, New York residents who will pass by a recently unveiled sculpture, they'll have the chance to be inspired by Embiid in a different way.

New York artist Hank Willis Thomas created a 22-foot tall sculpture that was actually inspired by an image he saw of a Harlem Globetrotter standing in front of the Statue of Liberty. But when it came time to make the giant bronze sculpture, he used a three-dimensional scan of Embiid's arm, according to Brooklyn Paper.

The sculpture is titled "Unity" and was written about in the New York Times last month when it was unveiled:

“Unity” was originally called “We’re No. #1,” a more assertive title, perhaps recalling the historical competition between the boroughs that reaches back to the 19th century. “Unity” is a traditional and fairly conservative work, accompanied in the official news release by a statement that sounds politician-worthy: “This sculpture is a homage to, and celebration of, the unique and multifaceted character of the borough of Brooklyn,” Mr. Thomas says. “The spirit of Brooklyn has always been about upward mobility and connection to roots.”

The piece was five years in the making. On his Instagram page, the artist added, "It's about the process!" That can't be a coincidence can it?

Turns out, Embiid modeled for the sculpture quite some time ago (he's probably more jacked by now). Thomas was asked about Embiid's involvement by the folks at Tisch:

The sculpture is modeled after Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid’s arm. How did he become involved in this piece?

HWT: I had a studio visit with some people and they saw that I was doing a sculpture, so I was doing molds and casts with body parts of NBA players. They were like, “Do you need anybody else?,” and I was like, “Sure!” Then they said, “Well there’s this kid, he hasn’t started playing yet, but I’m pretty sure he’s gonna’ be good. You should reach out to him.” And that was Joel Embiid.

We reached out to Mr. Thomas to follow up but have yet to get a response.

"It's beautiful in a way, in terms of form, agility, suppleness," one New Yorker told Eyewitness News of the statue.

Philadelphians would agree. I'm curious what Nets fans think of Embiid flashing the No. 1 in their city for years to come?