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Sixers Mailbag: Who plays point guard when Markelle Fultz returns?

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers Mailbag: Who plays point guard when Markelle Fultz returns?

This edition of the Sixers Mailbag prompted so many questions I couldn't fit them all in one article. So stay tuned for more Thursday and thanks to all who participated with #SixersMailbag.

Ben Simmons is the Sixers' starting point guard. As for the bench, T.J. McConnell — once again — has settled into that reliable backup role. His minutes nearly have doubled since Markelle Fultz was ruled out (shoulder). He is averaging 6.8 assists and, notably, only 2.2 turnovers in 27.8 minutes over the past six games. Brett Brown knows what he’s getting out of McConnell and teammates like Simmons have been jelling with him on the court. 

The Sixers drafted Fultz because he can play off the ball, but he’s struggled with his shot because of his injury. The team will wait for his shoulder to get healthy before he returns. If he’s back to “the old” Fultz when he does, he can complement McConnell in the second unit just as the original plan was for him to be paired at the two spot with Simmons in the starting lineup.

This season is all about growth for 20-year-old Furkan Korkmaz. Even though the G League no longer has the word “development” in its name, that’s what Korkmaz is spending time with the Delaware 87ers to do. Having an affiliate so close to Philadelphia provides the Sixers with the opportunity to send players there for short stints. They previously assigned Korkmaz to the 87ers for a practice when they had an off day, a car ride back and forth. 

Or, the Sixers can have him log minutes in a G League game (as they did Tuesday) if they know he wouldn’t get playing time for them. Korkmaz averaged 13.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals (30.4 minutes) in two games while the Sixers were in Salt Lake City. 

Korkmaz came to the NBA to play this season, but he also came here to adjust to the league and progress as a player and he will get more of a chance to do that with the Sevens.

Jerryd Bayless has been the subject of a lot of scrutinies this season, but I don’t agree. Bayless is not going to score 25 points per game. He’s not on the team to be a knockdown shooter like JJ Redick. Bayless’ role is not one of Simmons or Joel Embiid where he is looked to as the main scoring option. And that’s OK. 

The Sixers signed Bayless last summer for a few reasons, experience and backcourt versatility among the top. He brings intangibles to the team, like having a veteran presence alongside Simmons as he got adjusted to the NBA starting lineup or sliding into the second unit as an offensive boost off the bench. Bayless can step in where (point guard or shooting guard) and when needed. 

His performance isn’t tied to the Sixers’ future with Redick. They are two different players with different roles in this system.

Some coworker participation in the mailbag today.

The Celtics, Pistons, Magic, Raptors, Sixers, Knicks, Wizards and Pacers are the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference standings today. Wow. Who thought we’d be saying that? 

The Sixers are only 10 games into the season and it’s too soon at this point to know how other teams will look after the trade deadline and closer to the playoffs. What I do know is the Sixers have jelled a lot quicker than expected. They got through challenging matchups like the Rockets and are rolling on a five-game winning streak in an early-season schedule that initially seemed rocky. Finishing above .500 is not a stretch. 

Before the season started, I predicted the Sixers would finish seventh in the East behind the Cavaliers, Celtics, Raptors, Wizards, Bucks and Hornets. At this point early on, I would bump the Sixers ahead of the Bucks and Hornets. When it comes to making a playoff push, I don’t rule out veteran teams that have been there, done that. That’s why I’m not wrapped up in the Cavaliers' early struggles. I’m also not ready to write off the Wizards after last season’s playoff run. I’d look for them to make moves to enhance their roster. 

The Sixers certainly have the talent to make the playoffs this season. Their postseason expectations have been heightened by their early success.

Thinking ahead to playoff ceilings, that depends on matchups and health. It’s a topic we’ll be revisiting many times, and we'll have a clearer picture once the standings start to take shape later in the season. 

Sixers select Villanova's Mikal Bridges with No. 10 pick in 2018 NBA draft

Sixers select Villanova's Mikal Bridges with No. 10 pick in 2018 NBA draft

The Sixers didn’t have to go far with the No. 10 pick in the NBA draft as they selected Villanova standout Mikal Bridges.

Bridges starred at ‘Nova, where he won two national championships under head coach Jay Wright. The 6-7, 210-pound wing took his game to a new level last season when he averaged 17.7 points on 51.4 percent field goal shooting and 43.5 percent three-point shooting. The Malvern native added 5.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks in 32.1 minutes a game for the Wildcats.

“When I was younger, my mom, my dad, my grandparents would always take me to games,” Bridges, whose mother works in the organization, said after his pre-draft workout with the team. “It's really cool seeing what they've been doing and how well-coached they are and how hard they play, how talented they are. It would just be the perfect fit.” 

The Sixers had their choice of wing players at No. 10 with Michael Porter Jr. and Miles Bridges also on the board, the team went with the familiar face in the end.

(More coming ...)

More on the Sixers:

2018 NBA draft rumors tracker: Could the Sixers move down?

2018 NBA draft rumors tracker: Could the Sixers move down?

We’ve spent a lot of time talking over the last few weeks about the possibility the Sixers trade up in the draft, possibly into the top 5. 

But what if they trade down? 

That scenario was brought up this afternoon by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who makes it seem like that No. 10 pick could be in demand. 

If the Sixers trade out of the top 10, it would be pretty surprising based on the chatter leading up to the draft. And it probably wouldn't be a very popular move in the eyes of most fans. But perhaps they're anticipating a scenario where the player they'd take at 10 would be available later. In that case, it would obviously make some sense to trade back and add more value. 

Earlier in the day, a report from The Athletic surfaced that said the Sixers had internal discussions about possibly involving Markelle Fultz in a package to move up and get Michael Porter Jr. in the top five (see story)

The draft begins at 7 p.m. tonight from Brooklyn and Draft Central: Sixers begins at 8:30 on NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

Here’s everything else you need to know about tonight’s draft. 

Top 6
Here's how the top six picks should shake out, according to Woj.

Spurs are listening
A slight update on the Kawhi Leonard drama in San Antonio. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of that is that the Lakers and Spurs haven’t talked about Kawhi yet. That’s a little surprising because many think the Lakers might be the frontrunners to land the disgruntled superstar. 

The Sixers might still have a chance to trade for him. It’s fair to wonder if they’re on that board. 

Buyout for Dwight Howard 
It wasn't all that long ago when Howard was considered one of the top big men in the league and a prized acquisition. Those days are gone. 

Howard will be a free agent soon enough.  

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