76ers

Sixers are reportedly interested in Dewayne Dedmon, but backup center should be low on list of trade deadline needs

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Sixers are reportedly interested in Dewayne Dedmon, but backup center should be low on list of trade deadline needs

The idea of a championship contender relying on a rookie for significant minutes in the playoffs is instinctively objectionable, especially one who still makes “rookie mistakes” like falling for pump fakes and randomly tossing the ball into no man’s land.

But, given the Sixers’ current situation and the impressive talent they have in the rangy, athletic Jonah Bolden, having a rookie back up Joel Embiid in the postseason might ultimately be the Sixers’ smartest option.

The team reportedly is exploring outside options at backup center. On Wednesday, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps reported the Atlanta Hawks' Dewayne Dedmon “has drawn the Sixers’ interest.”

In a vacuum, Dedmon would be a nice addition for the Sixers. He’s proven himself as a valuable NBA player since an 11-game stint on the 2013-14 Sixers in Brett Brown’s first season on the job. Like Bolden, Dedmon is a good athlete who can stretch the floor (36.1 percent on 2.6 three-point attempts per game over the last two seasons). He’s posting 10.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and one block per game this season for the Hawks.

Trades, however, obviously don’t occur in a vacuum. Bontemps notes that, to land Dedmon, “the 76ers would likely have to do something they have so far been resistant to, per sources: trading 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz.”

Fultz’s trade value is, to put it mildly, not as high as it once was. He hasn’t played a basketball game since Nov. 19 and, though Fultz and his agent Raymond Brothers expect him to play again this season, we’ve yet to hear the Sixers say anything definitive. On the day the Sixers embarked on their current West Coast road trip, Brett Brown was honest in saying he didn’t know when the second-year guard would progress to on-court, basketball workouts in his rehab for thoracic outlet syndrome.

Even if the Hawks were willing to take a chance on Fultz’s potential and trade him straight-up for Dedmon, it’s not a move that makes a lot of sense for the Sixers.

The first reason is the presence of Bolden. 

The 6-foot-10 Australian has thrived as Embiid’s backup since Jan. 15, when he took over that role on a full-time basis. Over his past seven games, Bolden has played 12.7 minutes per night and averaged 5.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. He’s even shooting an unsustainably high 55.6 percent (10 for 18) from three-point range since Jan. 15 — although that’s just balancing out his 3 for 17 start from long range. 

When Bolden is on the floor, the Sixers have a 102.7 defense rating. That rises to 107.4 when he’s on the bench. With his length, excellent shot-blocking instincts, and ability to hang with perimeter players on switches, the old “eye test” supports the stats about Bolden’s defense. 

The second reason is — even if we momentarily remove ourselves from the constant discussion about Fultz’s unusual situation and whether the Sixers should be willing to trade him in a win-now move — a backup center like Dedmon shouldn’t be the Sixers’ highest trade deadline priority.

You might recall Brown said on Dec. 21 that he wanted a “perimeter defensive player” to fill the Sixers’ open roster spot. General manager Elton Brand acquired such a player in the pesky, speedy Corey Brewer, but the Sixers are still clearly short on capable perimeter players. Paul Hudrick covered a few names who fit that description a couple days ago. 

The playoffs might sound like a daunting proposition for a rookie who’s spent time in the G-League this season. But realistically, all the Sixers would need from Bolden in the postseason is 10 minutes per game of good defense behind Embiid and, as a bonus, the occasional three-point shot. Taking into account the Sixers’ more pressing need on the perimeter, Bolden is worth trusting in such a role.

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons out for Hawks game with back injury, will have additional evaluation Monday

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons out for Hawks game with back injury, will have additional evaluation Monday

Ben Simmons went through an initial evaluation on his back Sunday in Philadelphia, will have an additional evaluation Monday and is out for the Sixers’ game tomorrow night vs. the Atlanta Hawks, a team source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

Simmons missed Thursday’s game vs. the Nets with lower back soreness and irritated the injury in the first quarter Saturday night against the Bucks. 

Head coach Brett Brown said Thursday that Simmons was injured at the team’s practice Wednesday.

“It was a play where he went up for a rebound and I looked over and he left the court, and went and got treatment,” Brown said. “And it has played out as it has played out. We don’t believe it’s anything too significant.”

After drawing a foul on Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez with 7:21 left in the first on a running hook shot, Simmons put his hands on his knees and appeared in discomfort. He stayed in to make 1 of 2 free throws, and the Sixers then had Matisse Thybulle commit a foul to stop the game and allow Simmons to return to the locker room.

Before Saturday, Simmons had been averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists this season in a team-high 36.3 minutes per game. The two-time All-Star has an NBA-best 115 steals. 

Simmons had entered the All-Star break strong, with a 26-point triple-double in the Sixers’ Feb. 11 win over the Clippers. 

He’d posted 20.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game in the final 18 contests before the All-Star Game, shooting 68.9 percent from the foul line during that stretch. When Joel Embiid was out with a torn ligament in his left ring finger, Simmons had carried the Sixers to a 6-3 record. 

With 25 regular-season games remaining, the Sixers are 35-22 and fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. They have a 26-2 home record, best in the NBA, and a 9-20 away mark that’s the worst of any team currently in a playoff position. The team’s remaining schedule is the easiest in the league.

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If Ben Simmons is sidelined for an extended period, how will Sixers adapt?

If Ben Simmons is sidelined for an extended period, how will Sixers adapt?

We don’t need to spend much time explaining how and why Ben Simmons is very valuable for the Sixers. 

The two-time All-Star leads the NBA in steals and, before irritating a lower back injury Saturday night in Milwaukee, was averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 assists and 7.9 rebounds.

Of course, the Sixers will hope the injury doesn’t keep Simmons out for long. The question of how the Sixers will manage if Simmons’ injury does sideline him for an extended period of time, however, deserves attention.

Who’d be in the starting lineup? 

Though Raul Neto started in Simmons’ place Thursday against the Nets, he didn’t play against the Bucks until the game was well out of hand.

Shake Milton handled much of the point guard duties after Simmons left and was solid, making 5 of 7 three-point shots and scoring 17 points.

Josh Richardson and Alec Burks are other ball handling options, with Brett Brown seeming to prefer Burks’ “scoring punch” off the bench.

In his second NBA season, Milton has posted 6.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, shooting 36.9 percent from three. The 23-year-old was on a two-way contract with the Sixers as a rookie and starred with the Delaware Blue Coats, scoring 24.9 points per game in the G League.

Who else would be impacted? 

Between Jan. 25 and Feb. 9, Milton started eight straight games for the Sixers because of Richardson’s hamstring injury. Brown didn’t play him as much as a typical starter during that stretch, giving him 25.4 minutes per game. He only exceeded 30 minutes once, when he scored a career-high 27 points on Jan. 30 in Atlanta.

Milton again would not likely be assuming full-on starters minutes. Perhaps Richardson and Burks would combine for a greater sum of backup point guard minutes than usual. If Richardson were to handle backup point guard duties, that would presumably mean Glenn Robinson III, Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle would have more minutes to take on the wing. 

Simmons was averaging a team-high 36.3 minutes entering Saturday’s game, so there is simply a lot of playing time that would need to be allocated among multiple players. 

Where would the Sixers suffer the most? 

The defense would take a big hit. The on-off stats mysteriously indicate that the Sixers have been a better defensive team with Simmons not on the floor, but they’d clearly be losing one of the best defenders in the game. 

Along with being first in steals, Simmons has the most total deflections and the most defensive loose balls recovered. He can defend opposing stars and, in general, most point guards, wings and power forwards. The Sixers would not be able to replace that defensive versatility or overall quality.

They’d obviously gain something in terms of outside shooting but would lose a lot in other offensive areas. Simmons has assisted on more threes than any player this season.

How much would it hurt overall? 

Because Simmons has played in 214 of a possible 221 regular-season games over the last three seasons, we don’t have any meaningful track record of how the Sixers tend to fare without him.

Joel Embiid would be the focus of a Simmons-less team, and it would make sense for the offense to involve more Embiid post-ups than ever.

The most basic formula for success without Simmons would be an elite Embiid on both ends of the floor, Milton and other guards succeeding in expanded roles, and Tobias Harris and Al Horford being better across the board, especially as three-point shooters. It’s not impossible that all those pieces would come together, but it would be a lot to ask. 

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