76ers

Is the Sixers' new-look starting 5 better or just new?

Is the Sixers' new-look starting 5 better or just new?

The Sixers’ starting lineup will look completely different in 2019-20. It remains to be seen if the new look will be better.

Gone are Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick. In are Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Still, the Sixers have one of the most talented starting units in the entire NBA with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Horford and Richardson.

In this year’s edition of Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players of 2020, all five players are ranked fairly … for the most part. (You can check out the whole list and criteria for yourself.)

Not only are all five starters in the top 100 but they’re also all in the top 75. 

The lowest ranked is Richardson at 71, sandwiched between Harrison Barnes and Thaddeus Young. This feels like a good spot for J-Rich, though he was listed in the same exact spot for 2019 and certainly improved. He’s an ascending player that the Sixers may be getting at the perfect time of his career as he enters his age-26 season.

Next was Harris at 49, just ahead of Gary Harris of the Nuggets. Like Richardson, this seems fair, but Harris saw a nice jump. Harris was No. 65 on the list last year. Also, like Richardson, Harris is still improving and just turned 27 this summer. The pair of Tennessee alums have had a similar rise in the NBA and it’ll be interesting to see what they can do in a full year with the Sixers.

There are teams with impressive star power on the list. Both L.A. teams have two players in the top 10 — the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard (2) and Paul George (8) and the Lakers with LeBron James (3) and Anthony Davis (6). The Rockets have James Harden (5) and Russell Westbrook (12).

But one of the most notable facts is that the Sixers have three players in the top 25, the only team that can make that claim.

Simmons rose three spots from 26 to 23 while Horford dropped two spots from 16 to 18. Embiid also rose a couple spots from No. 9 to No. 7. (Perhaps the only thing that seems out of line is Anthony Davis being ahead of Embiid at No. 6, but I digress).

When you consider that Richardson and Horford are taking the place of Butler (11) and Redick (67), it’s an interesting trade off. The departed players are ranked higher but their value to the Sixers — something that SI outlines isn’t part of the equation when making the list — is different. Sure, the Sixers will miss Redick’s shooting, but Richardson’s defense is immensely better. Butler’s ability to create his own shot was huge for the Sixers, but Horford being able to play next to and back up Embiid may prove to be invaluable. Plus, it doesn’t seem out of line to say that Horford will be better for the Sixers’ locker room.

So is the Sixers’ starting five better? According to SI’s list, no.

But games aren’t played on paper — or on the internet — so we’ll find out for real starting Oct. 23.

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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

NBA GMs sometimes feel the temptation to pay average or good players as if they are great.

That description applies to a few of the players listed below in our ranking of the five worst Sixers free-agent signings. For the purposes of this list, we’re reserving judgement on well-paid current Sixers. 

5. Scott Williams 
Then-Sixers GM and head coach John Lucas liked that Williams knew “how to win.” The big man had immediately won three championships after entering the NBA, but the fact that he was on Michael Jordan’s Bulls probably had something to do with that early success. 

Signed to a seven-year contract, Williams only managed to play 212 games with the Sixers, none of which were in the postseason. He posted 5.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game before being traded to the Bucks and eventually facing the Sixers in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. In that series, he was suspended for Game 7 because of a hard hit to Allen Iverson’s throat in Game 6. 

4. Brian Skinner 
Skinner’s first stint as a Sixers was solid. Though he wasn’t used much during the 2003 playoffs, he chipped in 17.9 minutes per game during the regular season. After spending a year with the Bucks, Skinner then decided to return to the Sixers, who offered a five-year, $25 million contract.

Besides starting regularly for the first time in his career the season prior, it’s unclear what Skinner had done to merit such a lucrative deal. With Marc Jackson, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson all preferred in the frontcourt by head coach Jim O’Brien, Skinner had a minimal impact, averaging 2.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 24 games. The Sixers ultimately used his contract in February to help facilitate their ill-fated trade for Chris Webber. 

3. Kenny Thomas 
Seven years and approximately $50 million was far too large a commitment for Thomas, who the Sixers acquired in a 2002 trade with the Rockets and then signed as a restricted free agent.

Thomas wasn’t a bad player — he even averaged a double-double in the 2003-04 season — and he would’ve been viewed in a much kinder light if GM Billy King had given him a shorter and/or less expensive contract. He joined Skinner and Williamson in that deal for Webber, wrapping up his NBA career in Sacramento. 

2. Elton Brand 
Brand was far from a bust as a player with the Sixers after signing his “Philly max” contract. He wasn’t a 20 points, 10 rebounds per game guy anymore, but he was decent when healthy enough to play and praised frequently for his leadership and professionalism. 

Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending torn labrum in his first year with the team. While he was a regular presence in the three years after that, he was diminished physically compared to his prime in Los Angeles. The Sixers released him with one season left on his five-year, $82 million deal under the league’s amnesty clause. 

1. Matt Geiger 
First, it’s important to note that Geiger’s refusal to waive his trade kicker prevented Iverson from being traded to the Pistons ahead of the 2000-01 season. It’s very unlikely the Sixers would’ve won the Eastern Conference without him.

"I looked at Detroit and didn't think Allen and I would've been better off there,” he told reporters in 2001. "So the decision was easy."

Geiger’s contract, however, was excessive — six years and approximately $48 million. He had some bright moments in Philadelphia, including a career-best 13.5 points per game in the 1998-99 season and a 5-for-7 shooting performance in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals (although he fouled out in under 14 minutes), but none of that was enough to make the contract worth it. He retired after four games in the 2001-02 season because of persistent, painful knee problems. 

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2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

A day after the NBA’s Board of Governor’s approved a 22-team return to play format, the NBPA did so Friday evening, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

All 28 player reps approved the plan, which would see 22 teams head to Walt Disney World in Florida to finish out the 2019-20 season beginning July 31. The league will play eight regular-season games with the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth seed. The playoffs will follow the traditional format.

One of the new pieces of information presented Friday is that there will also be two or three preseason games before the season resumes.

On TNT Thursday night, commissioner Adam Silver said the league is in the “first inning” in its quest to return to play. The NBA suspended the season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to Charania, players will undergo testing every day and there will be a minimum seven-day quarantine for any player that tests positive. If a player does contract the virus, play would continue.

“Of course we’ve always been looking for whether or not there is an appropriate and safe way that we can resume basketball,” Silver said, “and knowing that we’re going to be living with this virus for a while. … We’ve been exploring with the players whether there can be a new normal here.”

Another sticking point was a tentative date of Nov. 10 to start training camps for the 2020-21 season. Oct. 12 would be the last possible date for Game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals under this return-to-play plan. The NBPA told the players it’s “unlikely” the 2020-21 season would start on Dec. 1 and that it’s still being negotiated, per Charania.

With no fans in the stands, the two sides have also discussed pumping fan noise in courtesy of NBA2K.

The league and NBPA are still continuing to work out the health and safety details in the weeks leading up to a return.

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