76ers

Sixers' big three — plus JJ Redick — keep shining, but they need help ahead of NBA trade deadline

Sixers' big three — plus JJ Redick — keep shining, but they need help ahead of NBA trade deadline

The Sixers had a hell of a week during their West Coast swing. They went 2-2, which is solid for that type of trip, but the context makes it more impressive. They were missing multiple starters in both losses and were able to end the Warriors’ 11-game winning streak.

Joel Embiid just won Eastern Conference Player of the Month. Ben Simmons had arguably his best game as a pro vs. Golden State and followed it up with another strong performance in Sacramento. Jimmy Butler almost single-handedly stole the final game of the road trip against the Kings with his fourth-quarter heroics.

For all of the talk about fit and possible off-the-court drama, these guys are playing outstanding basketball together. The Sixers are now 21-10 with Butler in the lineup. They’re 20-8 when all three players are playing. 

Then there’s JJ Redick. For anyone who doubts his value, go back and watch that Sacramento game. The team was an abysmal 7 of 33 from three. Sure, there's no guarantee that percentage goes up with Redick in the lineup. He’s shooting 38 percent from three, not one of the highest marks for his career, but it goes way beyond that.

The spacing he provides the other three players is invaluable. You could see the Kings' players basically had one foot in the paint all night. The two-man game with Embiid and Redick has become such a key component to both players’ games and really the entire offense. We've seen the team run it with different pairs with varying degrees of success, but Embiid and Redick have it down to a science.

There's not a team in the Eastern Conference that has a top four like the Sixers. There's no team in the entire league outside of the Warriors that does. But what teams like the Bucks, Raptors and Celtics have that the Sixers' lack is depth.

While Wilson Chandler, T.J. McConnell, Landry Shamet, Jonah Bolden and Mike Muscala have all had their moments, this team just needs more. It’s to the point where Brett Brown has turned to two-way player Shake Milton on multiple occasions recently — granted the rookie has impressed, but it should’ve never come to this.

Elton Brand is going to have to add at least one, if not two, solid NBA pieces. There’s no need to make a splash and make a play for someone like Jrue Holiday — though that would be interesting — but a wing like the Pistons’ Reggie Bullock or buyout candidate Wesley Matthews could add so much to this team’s core.

With all that said, Brown has done a pretty good job managing the minutes of his big three and Redick. Many complain about Brown’s “rotations” and "rest" games, but come April, when the starting five is getting big minutes and the bench gets shortened, losses in Sacramento and Denver in the middle of the season won’t matter. Acquiring another player or two will only help Brown soften the load on his starters before the playoffs and will make shortening the bench a whole lot easier.

Brand made a bold move in acquiring Butler, but the trade weakened an already thin bench. Now it's time for the Sixers' GM to complement his stars, who are playing so well together, in their quest to win the East.

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How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

They say that shooters shoot.

Tobias Harris has been shooting plenty — they just haven’t been going down.

After going 0 for 11 from three on Tuesday night against the Cavs, Harris went 0 for 3 and 3 of 13 overall in the Sixers’ loss to the Magic in Orlando Wednesday (see observations).

The last three Harris hit was in the first quarter of the Sixers’ loss in Phoenix on Nov. 4. He’s missed his last 23 attempts since.

When Harris was acquired from the Clippers last season, he was shooting 43.4 percent from downtown in a healthy sample size.

So what the heck is going on?

“I'm not making shots, I'm not in a rhythm,” Harris said to reporters postgame. “That's it. Obviously, it's easier said than done but I'm going to find my rhythm and once I do those shots are going to be there and they're going to be able to be made. Until then, I'll watch film and see the looks I can get, see the easy ones I can get to, but when they're not going for me, get to the free throw line. 

“In the fourth quarter I thought that was two questionable whistles, a travel and offensive [foul]. So those are two turnovers that kind of affected our fourth quarter. But I just gotta find a rhythm. That's it.”

On top of missing, Harris just looks indecisive. During early parts of the season, he appeared to be passing up open shots. In his pregame availability before Tuesday’s win, Brett Brown made a point to talk about needing Harris to have a scorer’s mentality.

Over the last two games, Harris seems like he doesn’t know when to shoot the basketball. After shooting so poorly from the outside against Cleveland, in Orlando he appeared to just get caught in between while trying to drive to the basket more.

It just seems like Harris is in his own head.

“I think it's just human nature,” Brown said. “He wants to please, he wants to shoot the ball, he wants to score, we need him to score.”

Harris is an easy target for fan ire. GM Elton Brand gave up an awful lot to get him before last year’s trade deadline. During the summer, the Sixers gave Harris a five-year, $180 million deal — the richest in franchise history.

But to his credit, Harris hasn’t made any excuses. He faced the music Wednesday night after not playing well and not feeling well.

Brown mentioned Tuesday that Harris had been dealing with an illness. Harris didn’t want to take the easy way out and attribute that to anything.

“When I get out there and play, I'm playing,” Harris said. “I'm under the weather, yeah, but if I get out there and play, I believe I can go.”

Forget the big contract and disappointing start for a second — Harris is a worker. He’s worked on his game tirelessly to rise to the level he did last season in L.A. During the offseason, he stepped up as a leader that all of his teammates are eager and willing to follow. He’s been depended upon by the young players and veterans alike.

Now, it may be Harris who needs their support.

“Tobias has had great looks and he's a great player, great shooter,” Ben Simmons said. “I mean, at times, everybody gets down when they're not playing their best game. They know that they can do better. But he's one of those guys. He's always positive. And we all believe in him.”

The Sixers’ road trip continues Friday with a date with the Thunder. Oklahoma City is the site of Harris’ finest game as a Sixer. On Feb. 28 of last year, Harris poured in 32 points and led a tough road win without Joel Embiid.

Maybe the memory of that game will spark something in Harris.

If that doesn't work, what else can you really say?

“Keep shooting,” Brown said. “Don't listen to any of you guys. Don't read anything. Keep shooting.”

After all, shooters shoot.

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Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

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NBC Sports Philadelphia/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Tobias Harris' struggles continuing, Ben Simmons' unwillingness to shoot the ball, and why Matisse Thybulle isn't seeing more playing time.

• Another rough night for Harris. What the heck is going on?

• Simmons was strong, but still refuses to shoot the basketball outside the paint.

• Should Thybulle be getting more minutes?

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