76ers

Sixers looking to Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala for versatility, toughness off the bench

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Sixers looking to Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala for versatility, toughness off the bench

CAMDEN, N.J. — There aren't many questions about how the Sixers' starters will fare this season. The team had the five-man unit with the best net rating in the NBA last season. 

The bench is a different story.

The Sixers’ bench was outscored by 0.8 points per game last season. Now, Ersan Ilyasova, Marco Belinelli, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Justin Anderson are gone, with Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala taking their places.

Well, not exactly. According to head coach Brett Brown, Muscala and Chandler will be used in a variety of roles. While he doesn’t have complete clarity yet on his rotation, Brown knows one thing — he wants his bench to keep playing fast. The Sixers had the fourth-fastest pace in the league last season. 

“With T.J. [McConnell] and Markelle [Fultz] and Ben [Simmons], we really have push guards. And I think with Muscala getting up and down and Amir [Johnson], you have two bigs that aren’t ground-bound, they really want to run. And then we’re playing around with our wings, what do our wings look like? So I think the speed ball, the pace we play will continue. I think there’s a defensive commitment, a defensive energy that we demand. I think that second unit will be able to guard like we want to guard and still have the ability to put points on the board with some firepower.”

As Brown notes, there appear to be opportunities available for younger wing players looking to earn roles off the bench. While it will likely be difficult for a guard to earn playing time given the presence of T.J. McConnell and Markelle Fultz, two former No. 26 picks may be in the mix for minutes.

Landry Shamet, the No. 26 pick in this year's draft, and Furkan Korkmaz, the No. 26 pick in 2016, could find a way into the rotation. Shamet has two qualities Brown loves — versatility and shooting ability. He has experience both at the point and as a two-guard at Wichita State, and shot 43.7 percent from long range in college. 

He’s been working on his game after practice with JJ Redick, not a bad role model for a college sharpshooter entering the NBA facing questions about whether he can handle the physicality and defensive challenge at the next level.

Korkmaz, you may recall, exploded for a 40-point night in summer league. 

Like Shamet, Muscala’s outside shot and ability to play multiple positions should fit well with Brown’s “pace and space” philosophy — just in a more prominent role. The 6-foot-11 Muscala, acquired from the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team deal that sent Anderson to Atlanta and Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Oklahoma City Thunder, is a career 37.8 percent three-point shooter. Expect to see Brown use him both as a power forward and as a center in smaller lineups, similar to how he employed Ilyasova. 

Chandler, an 11-year NBA veteran with a solid all-around game, said Brown told him the Sixers could use a little bit of everything from him. Even though Chandler has started 447 of 590 games in his career, he’s ready to play a complementary role.

“Just from the outside looking in, you have guys like Joel [Embiid] and Ben [Simmons], so you don’t need too much offensively. Just kind of fit in when you get in. Play off those guys, play defense, run the floor, spacing. Whatever the team needs, pretty much, and that’s kind of what [coach] told me.”

Brown expects Chandler to provide the kind of toughness the Sixers could use come playoff time. He also should be better equipped to handle athletic wing players than a defensive liability like Belinelli.

“[Chandler] can play the three, he can play the four, he can switch out and guard a two, he’s a veteran,” Brown said. “He’s sort of a quiet achiever. He’s physical.

“I’ve had players like Luc Mbah a Moute, those modern-day playoff guys that are versatile and tough. The Morris twins in some ways. They’re just very versatile. And Wilson reminds me of that type of player. He’s multipurpose defensively and offensively.”

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Actual NBA players hilariously voted for these 6 Sixers to make All-Star Game — which is a problem

Actual NBA players hilariously voted for these 6 Sixers to make All-Star Game — which is a problem

The NBA released the All-Star Game voting results on Thursday and as expected, some of the results are quite curious.

The voting process currently takes into account voting by the fans, players, and media, with the fan vote being counted as double. There are clearly flaws to this method.

Fan favorites like Tacko Fall can garner close to a million votes while his play on the court clearly doesn't reflect any All-Star bona fides. But there are some checks to a fan-only system. Player and media votes count for a significant portion of the voting. But there are flaws to that portion of the voting as well.

Some players clearly don't take the voting process very seriously.

Just look at some of the Sixers' bench players who received votes from fellow NBA players — to be an All-Star!

Marial Shayok - 1 player vote
Shake Milton - 1 player vote
Trey  Burke - 1 player vote
Matisse Thybulle - 1 player vote
Furkan Korkmaz - 1 player vote
Norvel Pelle - 1 player vote

Raul Neto, sadly, did not get any love from his fellow NBA players, nor did Mike Scott. Then there are the starters who received significant player votes: Tobias Harris (19), Al Horford (16), Josh Richardson (13). Those make some sense.

Joel Embiid was voted a starter by receiving a hefty portion of all three segments of the voting audience. The only other Sixer with a legit chance to make the team as a reserve appears to be Ben Simmons.

Simmons received the third most votes among guards in the East from the media, fourth most from the players, but a curious eighth most by the fans. More fans voted for Jaylen Brown than Simmons. OK, sure.

You can see a list of all players who received votes here. The reserves for the 2020 All-Star squad will be announces on Thursday night on TNT. The reserves are chosen by head coaches.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the coaches around the league aren't going to give Pelle the nod for all of those sweet blocks.



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Sixers' Joel Embiid named All-Star starter for third consecutive season

Sixers' Joel Embiid named All-Star starter for third consecutive season

Joel Embiid is again one of the 10 best players in the NBA, according to fans, a panel of media members and his fellow players.

The Sixers’ center was named an All-Star starter on Thursday for the third consecutive season.

Starters were determined by the votes of fans (50 percent weight), media members (25 percent) and players (25 percent). 

Embiid has averaged 23.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the 29-17 Sixers. He’s been sidelined for the past eight games with a torn ligament in the ring finger of his left hand. If Embiid is unable to play in the All-Star Game, which will take place on Feb. 16 in Chicago, then Commissioner Adam Silver will select an injury replacement. 

Though his scoring is down from last season, the Sixers have still been a much better team with Embiid on the floor than with him off it.

He’s second in the NBA in defensive win shares per game and fourth in defensive rebounding percentage (minimum 20 games played, 15 minutes per game). Lineups with Embiid have a 99.5 defensive rating, while lineups without him are at 106.9. 

It’s been an eventful year so far for Embiid, who’s been suspended for a fight and subsequent social media barbs, called load management “BS,” publicly grappled with questions about how to balance maturity and dominance, and sustained a nauseating injury.

Though the Cameroonian big man has said he cares most about being healthy and at his best for the playoffs, he now has another personal accolade.

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