76ers

Sixers' bench still 'a legitimate question' with playoffs looming

Sixers' bench still 'a legitimate question' with playoffs looming

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia media can count on with Brett Brown, it’s that he’ll always give a thoughtful response.

Whatever question you ask, whether it’s something he’s answered a million times or a flat out bad question, Brown will give a detailed answer.

But after a reporter in Dallas on Monday asked Brown about the Sixers’ depth following a 122-102 loss to the Mavericks at American Airlines Center (see observations), the head coach was short and sweet.

“I think it’s a legitimate question.”

That’s it. No elaboration — just a nod to the reporter and on to the next question.

Brown didn’t say any more and he didn’t have to. With no Joel Embiid and no Jimmy Butler, this seemed like a good opportunity for some of the Sixers’ reserves to step up against the Luka Doncic-less Mavs.

Instead, the bench was outscored, 62-28, and fill-in starters Jonah Bolden and James Ennis combined to go 2 of 12 from the field for six points. 

The performance was particularly disappointing for Bolden, who shined in the team’s win in Minnesota. With the backup center role still a question mark for the playoffs, Bolden failed to seize another opportunity Monday and is still entrenched in a battle with veteran Boban Marjanovic for minutes.

It looks like Ennis will be the first wing off the bench come postseason. He’s been up and down since his arrival at the trade deadline and has recently been dealing with a bruised quad that caused him to miss two games. The Sixers need him to play strong perimeter defense and hit open threes — neither of which he was able to do Monday.

Even Mike Scott, who’s been a solid contributor and has basically taken over as the Sixers’ sixth man since coming over from the Clippers, struggled in Dallas. He went just 1 of 5 from the field and 0 of 4 from three. 

T.J. McConnell was the lone bright spot off the bench with 15 points in 17 minutes. The backup point guard is what he is. He can give you a spark for 10-15 minutes a game and be lethal in the midrange. He’ll also struggle to defend bigger and/or quicker guards.

At this point, there isn’t much Brown or the Sixers can do to remedy their situation. Jonathon Simmons couldn’t show enough to stay in the rotation. Amir Johnson isn’t the same player he was last season. Furkan Korkmaz is coming back from an injury and quite frankly hasn’t been that effective when healthy. Rookie Zhaire Smith has just missed too much time to be asked to have a role in the playoffs. Two-way rookie Shake Milton won’t be eligible for the playoffs and also had his issues against the Mavericks. 

If Brown decides to roll with a nine-man rotation in the playoffs, you’re looking at Scott, Ennis, McConnell and some combination of Bolden and Marjanovic as the reserves. Because of how elite the starting unit is, you won’t need much from those players. If they can give the Sixers 10 solid minutes a game each, they’ll be fine.

But can they do that? Even the usually meticulous Brown doesn’t have an answer.

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Which Sixer has the most to gain in 2019-20 season?

Which Sixer has the most to gain in 2019-20 season?

With training camp getting closer, there are plenty of topics to discuss involving the 2019-20 Sixers. Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick.

In this edition, we ask: Which Sixer has the most to gain this season?

Hudrick

There are a few strong candidates — including the guy Noah has below — but to me, Josh Richardson has the most to gain.

Richardson is an ascending player that just turned 26 on Sunday. He was a key cog in Erik Spoelstra’s rotation because of his defensive abilities. He’s long and versatile, a perfect combination for the Sixers’ starting unit. His defense should shine alongside the Sixers’ elite defensive pieces. He’ll be tasked with guarding ones, but it’s a challenge he should be able to handle and excel with.

During last season in Miami, Richardson took on a much bigger offensive role. While at times he shined, it was clear that he’s not meant to be a team’s No. 1 option. He won’t have to be that for the Sixers. The space he should get with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should help immensely. Richardson also did well in dribble handoffs, something that was a staple of the Sixers’ offense with Embiid and JJ Redick. Brett Brown can explore the Richardson-Embiid two-man game with Redick’s departure to New Orleans.

One of Richardson’s most attractive qualities is his contract. The Heat have some pretty horrendous deals against their cap, but Richardson’s signing was likely their shrewdest. He’ll make $10.1 million this season and $10.8 million in 2020-21, per Spotrac. That’s a relative steal for a wing player of his capabilities. He has a player option for 2021-22 and that's where he has the most to gain. If Richardson performs well and helps the Sixers make a deep playoff run, his value should be extremely high as a 29-year-old free agent.

Levick 

As far as contracts are concerned, there aren’t many obvious candidates for players with the most to gain. Backup point guards Raul Neto and Trey Burke, big man Kyle O’Quinn and young players Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden might qualify on the basis of not having any guarantees beyond this season, but I’m not going with any of those players.

I think Tobias Harris has the most to gain for the Sixers this season, even if he did sign a five-year, $180 million contract this summer. This isn’t about the money, though. 

With Jimmy Butler gone, Harris will now likely be looked to as the Sixers’ primary perimeter scoring option. He won’t need to carry the entire offensive load — Ben Simmons is dangerous in transition and improving in the post, Joel Embiid is dominant down low, Al Horford can do a little bit of everything and Josh Richardson averaged 16.6 points per game last year. But Harris now has the go-ahead to be the best version of himself offensively.

“I just wanted to adapt,” he said on July 12 about his role after joining the Sixers last season. “Not to be complaining about comfort or whatnot. I just wanted to be that guy who puts everything to the side and it’s about winning. Was that hard for me? Not hard for me with who I am, but for my own game, it was hard.”

Before joining the Sixers, Harris was among the top 20 percent of the league as a pick-and-roll ball handler in points per possession for four straight seasons, per NBA.com/Stats. I expect the Sixers to try to cater toward Harris’ strengths more this year. I also think it’s logical to predict Harris will shoot closer to his 42.6 percent mark from three-point range over 87 games with the Clippers than the 32.6 percent he shot from long range with the Sixers.

There’s no money to be gained for Harris, but a first All-Star appearance would be meaningful. It’s a very realistic possibility. 

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Sixers to host Blue X White Scrimmage at 76ers Fieldhouse in Delaware

Sixers to host Blue X White Scrimmage at 76ers Fieldhouse in Delaware

In what’s become a tradition, the Sixers will host their annual Blue X White Scrimmage on Oct. 5.

Your first chance to see the new-look squad will come at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware, home of the team’s G-League affiliate, the Blue Coats.

In years past, it’s also been an opportunity for the fans to see the players in a more laid-back setting. The players that have been here have enjoyed participating.

They’re great. Our players get it,” team president Chris Heck said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Our players understand how important Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley is to the 76ers and they’re excited to get the season started. We open training camp on Oct. 1, and this will be the first chance for anyone in the area to see our players play in what we think will be a very exciting and winning season for the 76ers.

There are an awful lot of new players to see, including two-fifths of the starting lineup with Al Horford and Josh Richardson coming on board. It will also be the fans' first chance to see rookie first-round pick Matisse Thybulle and veteran pickups Kyle O’Quinn, Trey Burke and Raul Neto live as Sixers.

Part of the reason for the move to Delaware is to accommodate the demand for tickets. The 161,000-square-foot-complex held its first Blue Coats game on Jan. 23, and has also held Cardi B and O.A.R. concerts, plus large-scale corporate events and local high school graduations, in addition to youth camps and weekly academies for basketball, soccer, lacrosse and volleyball.

As the team has continued to improve, the need for more space has heightened.

It has grown in the sense where it’s harder and harder to provide as many seats to the demand that’s out there,” Heck said. “It was really important for us to move it down to Delaware this year because our fan base in the first state is so strong and so close to Philadelphia as well. This is the perfect opportunity to re-launch the Fieldhouse, by bringing Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and the likes of all our team, including Brett Brown, back down to Delaware to launch our season.

The event is definitely fan- and family-focused. It will have an entire fan zone that will feature inflatable games, face painters, balloon artists and additional carnival games. Fans can also participate in an NBA-style combine. They can also win prizes from Chick-fil-A and TruMark Financial, receive free haircuts for their kids by Maestro’s Classic and register their children ages 4 to 14 for the 76ers Kids Club, presented by Five Below.

The Fieldhouse features indoor and outdoor, multi-purpose artificial turf fields, Titus Strength and Condition Center and Nemours Center for Sports Medicine.

If you’re looking to score tickets, you must sign up for the SixthMan Fan newsletter. More information on how to secure tickets will be communicated through the SixthMan Fan newsletter in the coming days. Both Sixers’ and Blue Coats’ season ticket members will receive access to a presale featuring a limited amount of free tickets. 

The Sixers are expecting a game-like atmosphere.

I think it will be exactly what it’s like during any of our games and any time our players are a part of the community — which will be loud and fun and energized and positive,” Heck said. “That’s why I think this city and the Delaware Valley as a whole has embraced the 76ers so much over the last several years. We are a team that represents the community and that’s fun.



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