With training camp beginning Tuesday, 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: What's the Sixers' ideal rotation for this season?
Brett Brown has been criticized for his “rotation” for years and I’ve always thought that was silly. If your players aren’t good and your bench isn’t deep, your rotation isn’t going to be great.
This season, Brown may have the most talented and deepest roster he’s ever had. He has a starting five that should play big minutes and his reserves are a mix of useful veterans and intriguing young players.
Given the chemistry they’ve developed and their talents, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are likely to have all their minutes together — something Brown did more of at the end of the regular season when Embiid was available. The trio of Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson will likely stick together, allowing Horford to slide to the five, Harris to the four and Richardson to a wing spot defensively.
Mike Scott and James Ennis are clearly your first two off the bench. They’re seasoned and offer defensive versatility that meshes well with the members of the starting unit. After that, there are jobs to be won.
I like Trey Burke a little more than Raul Neto but either player should slot in nicely as Simmons’ backup and both can play alongside the 6-foot-10 point guard. Brown also mentioned the possibility of Richardson taking over some point guard duties. Kyle O’Quinn will be a more effective version of Amir Johnson, a veteran big that will be ready at a moment’s notice, whether because of load management or injury.
Then it’ll be the battle of the young guys. Matisse Thybulle, Zhaire Smith, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden will all be fighting for minutes. Ideally a battle between first-rounders in Thybulle and Smith for wing minutes makes the most sense. Both are immensely talented on defense and a little raw on offense.
Brown mentioned at his luncheon Wednesday that nothing is set in stone — especially during the first third of the season. The top seven seem like they are. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Burke be No. 8 and either Thybulle or Smith be No. 9.
As far as personnel, I think Mike Scott, James Ennis, Zhaire Smith and a backup point guard — Raul Neto in some spots, Trey Burke in others — should be regular bench players during the regular season. Big man Kyle O’Quinn should also be part of the mix, especially on load management nights for Joel Embiid, and it would be nice to see rookie Matisse Thybulle get some opportunities, too. For me, Jonah Bolden, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton would be the odd men out on most nights.
Brett Brown acknowledged at a luncheon with members of the media Wednesday that “there’s probably five, six guys, you know, seven guys that are gonna have to fight for stuff."
"Always, at the end of the day, the gym tells me," he said. "They will show me, they will tell me, and somebody’s going to put their hand up and grab a spot."
There are a lot of pieces to juggle, and Brown will likely need to trim things down a bit before the playoffs. He’ll have chances to experiment, though, and with that in mind, here are three lineups I think have intriguing potential:
All starters minus Embiid, with Horford sliding to center and Scott at power forward. I’d expect this group to play together a good amount when Embiid sits, and I like the idea of giving Horford the chance to anchor the defense. You could also put a more conventional wing like Ennis at the three and use Harris at the four if you think Harris could be exploited defensively against a particular opposing small forward.
This group is, like many the Sixers will employ this season, a strong defensive unit. The pairing between Simmons and Horford is one I think could thrive. They’re two 6-foot-10 guys who can run, handle the ball and pass it very well. There are some exciting possibilities between the two with dribble handoffs early in the shot clock and pick-and-rolls with Simmons both as the ball handler and as the roller.
Since he’ll likely be a complementary player on offense with the starters, how about allowing Richardson to run the show a bit in these sort of lineups? And with Harris at the wing, you have a strong pick-and-roll player who can initiate, freeing Richardson to move around some off the ball, as well.
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