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Sixers Mailbag: Jahlil Okafor trade options, Fultz update, biggest surprise

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Sixers Mailbag: Jahlil Okafor trade options, Fultz update, biggest surprise

There were so many responses to this edition of the Sixers Mailbag, that we needed a Part Two of the Q&A. Check out the answers from Part One

The Sixers have been looking for a trade partner for Jahlil Okafor for a while now. No team wants to just cut ties with a player and get nothing in return, especially when that player was a third overall pick only three drafts ago. 

I’d expect the Sixers to stay active in trying to work out a deal. Now that could include just Okafor, or it could be a package deal with Okafor and a player or Okafor and a pick to make it work. 

The tricky thing is, Okafor’s value isn’t going up. He has made it very clear he wants out of Philadelphia. He is hitting free agency next summer. On top of that, he has appeared in just two games, most recently picking up three fouls in as many minutes against the Jazz. 

There are teams around the league where he could fit in as an offensive-minded center, but it’s going to be about reaching a common ground in trade talks. 

Markelle Fultz is about halfway through the time period before his next reevaluation. The Sixers announced on Oct. 29 Fultz is out indefinitely (right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance). That day, the team also announced Fultz will be reevaluated in “approximately” three weeks by Dr. Ben Kibler, whom Fultz previously met with in Kentucky. Today is just under two weeks from that update. In the meantime, Fultz is receiving treatment with the Sixers and being monitored by the staff. 

The biggest surprise by far is how quickly the team has gelled, especially when you look at how many significant changes were made to the roster and starting five in particular.

The starting point guard is a 6-foot-10 rookie who had never played in the NBA and was coming off a season-long foot injury. Ben Simmons didn’t have trouble assuming the floor-general role, nor did he have lingering effects from his foot fracture. To date, he has recorded seven double-doubles and a pair of triple-doubles.

The Sixers implemented a new backcourt with Jerryd Bayless, also coming back from a season-long injury (wrist), and JJ Redick, who had to adjust to a whole new team. Brett Brown went with a three-guard lineup to start the season and has had success with Redick back at shooting guard and Bayless coming in off the bench.

Robert Covington, a mainstay from last season, switched from small forward to power forward to start the season. A few games in, Brown moved Covington back to the three and found a winning formula with Dario Saric starting at the four. 

Joel Embiid has played more minutes than expected (averaging 27.6) in his first month playing since knee surgery last March. That number surpasses the projection that prompted him to express frustration early on. 

The biggest disappointment has been the injury to Fultz. Another ... rookie ... injury. The Sixers are clicking, but it has been without the 2017 No. 1 pick. Fultz’s injury leaves a lot of uncertainties: How will he perform when he returns, how will his shoulder hold up, how will be fit into the Sixers' system and what does that mean for the other guards? 

In an ideal situation for the Sixers, they would be playing this well with a healthy squad so they know exactly what the team looks like when everyone is available. That helps to better plan for the future rather than waiting for questions to be answered. 

Late-game stumble sends Sixers to crushing overtime loss to Blake Griffin, Pistons

Late-game stumble sends Sixers to crushing overtime loss to Blake Griffin, Pistons

BOX SCORE

Admit it: the Sixers had you fooled.

When JJ Redick absorbed a foul and still made that rainbow three-pointer to take a lead over the Detroit Pistons with 5.6 seconds remaining in overtime, you thought things would be different. For a moment, you forgot just how much the Sixers struggle to finish off close games.

And then it all came crashing down as Blake Griffin rumbled through the lane and finished through Robert Covington’s contact for the and-one. Griffin tacked on the free throw of his career-high 50-point night to hand the Sixers a thrilling, yet gut-wrenching, 133-132 loss (see observations).

“It was a great game. You think it was a fantastic game for fans to watch,” Brett Brown told reporters. “You’re going to learn a lot more when you can actually sit down and see the tape.”

What the Sixers will learn from looking at the game film is that old habits die hard as their late-game struggles creeped up yet again.

The Sixers were 4-7 in regular-season games decided by three points or less a season ago. That trend continued in the postseason when they dropped two games within that margin during their series loss to the Boston Celtics.

The Sixers almost met a similar fate their last time out against the Orlando Magic before they ultimately survived at home. But on this night, against a better opponent, the team wasn’t able to outrun one of its major flaws.

The final defensive sequence to cap Tuesday night’s breakdown consisted of several mistakes. Brown made the questionable decision of having Amir Johnson in the game at that moment. Then somehow both Johnson and Joel Embiid bit on a fake dribble handoff move from Griffin. The trifecta was complete when Covington challenged Griffin at the rim only to foul the high-flying forward.

All of this even though the Sixers knew exactly what was coming.

“The last play, when Blake scored, that’s what we knew they were going to run,” former Griffin teammate Redick said. “We just did a poor job defensively executing that. That was what we drew up in the huddle. We said this is what they’re gonna run. We’ve got to be better there.”

The Sixers have been saying for a while they need to get better in the final moments of tight games. Maybe one day their actions will follow suit.

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The Joel Embiid-Andre Drummond rivalry grows

The Joel Embiid-Andre Drummond rivalry grows

Joel Embiid gonna Joel Embiid.

The Sixers lost a heartbreaker to the Pistons in OT and Blake Griffin went off.

But a fun subplot was the continued drama between Embiid and Detroit big man Andre Drummond. Embiid dominated the matchup much like he’s done before. He finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. Drummond on the other hand finished with 14 points on just 6 of 20 from the field with 16 boards and five turnovers.

When the fourth quarter wound down to under a minute, that’s when things got interesting. Embiid scores a bucket to put the Sixers back up two when it appears Drummond elbows Embiid in the face. Drummond was ejected from the game.

It looks like Drummond clearly throws the elbow and that Embiid clearly embellishes the contact. Embiid did what he does and talked some trash on top of it all.

Drummond was not here for it, commenting on the video.

What's funny is that the players seemed to squash their beef last season.

"It's never hard feelings,” Drummond said after their matchup last December. “When was the last time you seen two real big men go at it? It was just a great matchup, I look forward to playing him again. Obviously a hell of a player. I have nothing negative to say about him.”

Well so much for all of that. We won't have to wait long for the rematch. The Pistons visit the Wells Fargo Center next Saturday, Nov. 3.

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