76ers

Round 2 of Joel Embiid-Andre Drummond should be a doozy

Round 2 of Joel Embiid-Andre Drummond should be a doozy

With the Sixers currently holding a 12-9 record and the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference as the calendar flips to December, you can expect plenty of holiday cheer when the team takes the Wells Fargo Center floor on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons (7:30 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia).

Just don’t expect the joy to be shared by the two starting centers.

Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond have faced off only once in their careers — a 97-86 Sixers’ road win on Oct. 23. Despite Embiid scoring 30 points and Drummond notching a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double, those performances will be merely footnotes in the game’s story. That night will be remembered in NBA history for Ben Simmons’ first career triple-double.

However, that didn’t stop the big men from working their way into the conversation.

Following the victory, the never-shy Embiid shared his thoughts of Drummond’s defensive ability — or lack thereof — on the court.

“Defensively, he doesn’t play any defense,” Embiid told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey after the win. “When we started the game, he was being aggressive and he was talking, too. … So what I was like [in my mind], ‘You want to do that? I’m going to kick your [butt] then.’ So that’s what I did.”

One thing you can’t call Joel Embiid is a liar. The big man attacked right from the opening tip and put up his 30 points in 28 minutes on an efficient 11 for 15 shooting (73.3 percent). He also finished the night with nine boards and a game-best plus-21 rating, compared to Drummond’s minus-11.

“In my mind, I was like, ‘You want to switch up, because you are playing against me,’” Embiid said of Drummond. ”‘You want to be all physical and talk [trash].’ So I was like, ‘You are going to get your [butt beat].’ I love that.”

To his credit, Drummond owned up to his defensive showing after the clash. But the sixth-year center wanted Embiid to know he shouldn’t feel special about the on-court jawing session.

“I talk (expletive) to everybody,” Drummond said, via the Detroit Free Press. “That’s just what I do. I don’t say anything extra to anybody. I talk the same way to everybody — whether you my friend or anybody else.

“I don’t say anything extra because it’s Joel Embiid. I don’t need to do that. I just speak the way I speak. He felt some type of way, that’s on him.”

As news of Embiid’s claims about Drummond began to make waves on social media, the Pistons’ anchor opted to keep his response on Twitter short and sweet.

“See you Dec. 2nd,” Drummond tweeted with a winking emoji.

After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

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Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

We’re counting down the hours now until the 2018 NBA draft, which means all of the chatter surrounding teams is heading into overdrive.

That includes the Sixers, who are reportedly still attempting to move up the draft board.

Per a report Tuesday by Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer, the Sixers are continuing to make calls about moving into the top five. However, “they have offered packages of picks, but have thus far rebuked including oft-mentioned Robert Covington and Dario Saric,” according to the report.

There has still been no mention of exactly which prospect the Sixers are interested in trading up for since former Cavaliers GM David Griffin made the claim during a radio interview last week (see story).

With six total selections in Thursday’s draft, including Nos. 10 and 26 in the first round, it makes sense that the Sixers would offer draft picks first in any potential trade.

However you feel about the streaky Covington, the team was high enough on the All-NBA defender last season to lock him into a long-term deal while Saric has proven to be a rock-solid contributor that keeps improving every day.

We’ll see if the Sixers ease off those demands as we get even closer to the draft.

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NBA draft profile: Miami G Bruce Brown Jr.

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NBA draft profile: Miami G Bruce Brown Jr.

Bruce Brown Jr.

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 195

School: Miami

After his freshman year, Bruce Brown Jr. would have been a no-brainer first-round pick and most likely a lottery selection. Now, it would be a big surprise to see him go in the lottery, and even the first round is far from a sure thing.

There are two main reasons for Brown’s stock falling, the first of which is the regression in his play as a sophomore, especially his shooting. Brown’s three-point percentage dropped from 34.7 percent to 26.7 percent and his free-throw shooting went from 74.4 percent to 62.9 percent. The second reason is the left foot injury Brown suffered in late January, which caused him to miss the second half of the season.

There don’t appear to be any serious concerns about the injury for Brown, who worked out with the Sixers Wednesday. But questions about his shot and why he couldn’t build upon an impressive freshman year are certainly lingering.

Strengths
Brown is an outstanding athlete and competitor. He bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times at the combine, the most by any guard, and that's not at all surprising given the strength with which way he plays. He’s an intense, physical defender with a knack for turning defense into offense. For a guard, he’s an exceptional rebounder, posting 7.1 boards per contest in 2017-18. Offensively, Brown is a solid passer who’s comfortable in pick-and-rolls, which he ran a lot at Miami. He looks capable of being a secondary NBA ball-handler.

Weaknesses
His sophomore shooting dip is obviously a major worry. That 62.9 percent free throw percentage and the fact Brown made only 7 of 46 attempts from NBA three-point range last season are ominous signs. Like his teammate Lonnie Walker IV, Brown was inconsistent on offense. In 19 games last season, he shot 50 percent or better from the floor nine times and 25 percent or worse seven times. Brown has a variety of dribble moves, but his handle isn’t the most tight or fluid. His pull-up game, in terms of shot selection, rhythm and balance, has a lot of room for improvement.  Given how talented an athlete he is, Brown isn’t a great finisher (he shot 58.5 percent at the rim last season) and he doesn’t seem to like using his left hand.

NBA comparison
Brown has said he models his game after Russell Westbrook. He definitely has a little bit of Westbrook in him, especially with his intensity and explosiveness. He also seems to have some Westbrook-like confidence – he thinks he’s the best guard in the draft. And like Westbrook, Brown left college after his sophomore season without a great offensive résumé.

All that said, it’s not fair (or at all realistic) to compare Brown to a player who has averaged a triple-double in back-to-back seasons. Lance Stephenson is a much better comparison. Like Brown, Stephenson is a strong defender, excellent guard rebounder and subpar shooter. It’s important to note, however, that Brown won’t come with any of Stephenson’s notorious, ear-blowing antics.

How he’d fit with Sixers
On the defensive end, Brown will help any NBA team immediately. With his ability to guard one through three at a high level, he’ll have a role off the bench. There’s no doubt Brown’s defense and rebounding would make the Sixers better in two areas where they’re already strong. His athleticism would also be a boost for a second unit lacking in that department last season. 

Draft projection
Because of his injury history and disappointing sophomore campaign, Brown has a slightly wider range than most prospects. He’s expected to be taken in the late first or early second round. He could be an option at No. 26 for the Sixers, or he could be a potential steal at No. 38 or No. 39.  

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