76ers

Sixers round out training camp roster with Emeka Okafor

Sixers round out training camp roster with Emeka Okafor

Before the Sixers tip off the 2018-19 season with practice Saturday, the team made one more addition to the roster.

It brought back Okafor.

Sorry, not that one. The Sixers signed Emeka Okafor, who spent the 2017-18 training camp and preseason with the squad. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Okafor rounds out the Sixers’ training camp roster to 20 players.

After being waived last preseason, Okafor latched on with the Sixers’ Gatorade League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats (then the 87ers). The No. 2 pick of the 2004 draft played 26 games for Delaware before making the leap back to regular-season NBA action with the New Orleans Pelicans. Okafor also played 26 games for the Pelicans (19 starts) and averaged 4.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.0 block in 13.6 minutes per game.

The 35-year-old had previously been out of the league for four years while recovering from a severe neck injury.

Coincidentally, Okafor, who was cut by the Pelicans earlier this week, will likely his minutes in New Orleans taken over by former Sixer Jahlil Okafor.

The Sixers’ full training camp roster is below:

Jerryd Bayless, G, 6-3/210
Jonah Bolden, F, 6-10/220
Anthony Brown, G/F, 6-7/225
Wilson Chandler, F, 6-9/225
Robert Covington, F, 6-9/225
Joel Embiid, C, 7-0/260
Markelle Fultz, G, 6-4/200 
Demetrius Jackson, G, 6-1/200
Amir Johnson, F/C, 6-9/240
Furkan Korkmaz, G/F, 6-7/185
T.J. McConnell, G, 6-2/190
Shake Milton, G, 6-6/205 
Mike Muscala, F/C, 6-11/240
Emeka Okafor, C, 6-10/255
Norvel Pelle, C, 6-11/215
JJ Redick, G, 6-4/195
Dario Saric, F, 6-10/250
Landry Shamet, G, 6-5/190
Ben Simmons, G/F, 6-10/230
Zhaire Smith, G, 6-4/200

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Markelle Fultz trade rumors: With Pistons' reported interest, what could Sixers get in trade?

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Markelle Fultz trade rumors: With Pistons' reported interest, what could Sixers get in trade?

Markelle Fultz is out with thoracic outlet syndrome, but that apparently hasn’t stopped teams from inquiring about the 2017 No. 1 overall pick.

The Detroit Pistons have shown interest in Fultz, per Liberty Ballers and the Detroit Free Press.

While many questions arise from this report, the main one has to be: What would the Sixers want from the Pistons?

Outside of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, Detroit’s roster is pretty bereft of talent. Reggie Jackson hasn’t been good and makes way too much money. St. Joe’s product Langston Galloway could have some appeal, but he has another year left on his deal after this season.

There’s only one deal that makes sense and it involves — brace yourselves — Ish Smith. Who says you can’t come home again? Smith was a Process Sixer twice over and turned his solid play in Philly into a three-year deal with Detroit.

But Smith’s money alone wouldn’t be enough to match in a deal for Fultz. Smith coupled with Reggie Bullock and possibly a second-round pick would work financially and it wouldn’t be the worst trade for the Sixers.

Smith would bring another experienced point guard into the fold. While T.J. McConnell does provide a strong energy role for the Sixers, he can get exposed when asked to play big minutes like he has recently. It’s not to say Smith is a substantial upgrade, but he does have a greater ability to create shots for himself and others than McConnell. Having multiple capable backup point guards competing for minutes certainly isn’t a bad thing.

Bullock is actually kind of intriguing. Like Smith, he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. He shot 44 percent on 281 attempts from three last season. He’s dipped back down to around league average this season, but he showed over a decent sample size that he can shoot. During his three-plus years in Detroit, he’s shot a combined 41 percent from three. While he’s not an elite defender, he’s solid and much better than any wing defenders the Sixers have coming off the bench.

Understandably, some fans will not be thrilled with getting two role players in exchange for a No. 1 pick. But we all need to move on from that mind frame. Fultz hasn’t been that player at the NBA level and until he shows it, this is what his value is.

You can make the argument that there may be more value in developing Fultz than this deal, but the Sixers have championship aspirations and may be looking to just move on (think Jahlil Okafor to the Nets for what wound up being nothing). It’s important to remember that trading Fultz for expiring contracts would also free up $9,745,200 for the coming offseason.

This may not be the sexiest trade, but it might be the right one.

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Sixers film review: Evolution in some areas, but nagging problems persist

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Sixers film review: Evolution in some areas, but nagging problems persist

It’s been an unusual week for the Sixers since our last film review. Joel Embiid rested for the first time this season, Jimmy Butler missed Wednesday night’s loss to the Nets with a strained groin, and the Sixers beat the Pistons twice.

At this point in the year, it’s rare to see any earth-shattering shifts from a team. We have, however, seen some interesting evolution from the Sixers over the past week, though familiar issues have persisted. 

Pick-and-roll defense continues to struggle

The Sixers were torched again Wednesday night by Spencer Dinwiddie and the Nets. As we covered in an earlier film review, the Sixers’ pick-and-roll defense has been an issue for a variety of reasons, including Joel Embiid’s tendency to drop back too far into the paint in “drop” coverage, the team’s dearth of quality individual defenders and new teammates still learning how to play with each other.

The play below illustrates how none of those problems have disappeared. Dinwiddie beats T.J. McConnell with a quick first step and Embiid is put in a bad position where he has to try to deter Dinwiddie’s drive and Jarrett Allen’s roll to the rim at the same time. He does neither, and Allen gets an easy dunk.

As they did last time out against Brooklyn, the Sixers “blitzed” the pick-and-roll more in the second half, but it wasn’t an effective or sustainable option vs. a Nets team that shot 14 of 28 from three-point range. On the fourth-quarter play below, blitzing was likely the right option — the shot clock was expiring, and sending a hard double at Dinwiddie ensured he had to give the ball up.

But one basic pass by Dinwiddie after Wilson Chandler and Ben Simmons’ blitz led to an open Jared Dudley three-pointer. Though Dudley missed the shot, you can see why blitzing isn’t a long-term solution for the Sixers’ issues defending the pick-and-roll.

Simmons' lack of a jumper

Ben Simmons still isn’t regularly shooting jumpers, which isn’t exactly news. 

The good piece of news for the Sixers is that Simmons is making a lot of shots within his comfort zone — he’s shooting 70.1 percent from the floor over his past seven games. He’s also developing other areas of his game (see film review). 

But his absence of a jumper does severely limit the Sixers’ offense. On the play below, it’s impossible for the Sixers to execute a conventional Simmons-Embiid pick-and-roll because Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sags under Embid’s screen, even though Embiid sets it about 10 feet from the rim. Simmons has to shoot this shot, not throw up a half-hearted floater.

Until he does, there’s just no other good option from this play for the Sixers, since it’s not hard for teams to stay attached to the other four players on the floor when they have this level of disrespect for Simmons’ jumper.

On two straight possessions down the stretch Wednesday night, the Sixers ran the same play to post up Simmons, and on two straight trips, Furkan Korkmaz turned it over. Besides Korkmaz’s poor entry passes, the biggest problem with these plays is the fact that Joel Embiid is lingering around the perimeter instead of in the post.

Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot clogs the floor, meaning Embiid needs to spend much of his time away from the basket for spacing purposes. This sequence vs. Brooklyn was an unpleasant reminder of that fundamental problem for the Sixers. 

New wrinkles for Butler

The Sixers’ favorite play to run for Butler has him make an “Iverson cut” to an unoccupied side of the floor, brushing across two screens to get the ball in isolation. 

He scored off that play at the start of Friday’s game in Detroit.

Butler often rejects one or both of the screens to capitalize on the defense anticipating the play.

Brett Brown ran a clever after-timeout variation of this play against Detroit. With Reggie Jackson denying Butler the ball, Simmons finds Mike Muscala at the top of the key. Butler pauses as if he’s going to post up, then beats Jackson back door for the lob. 

Korkmaz's defense

Furkan Korkmaz scored a career-high 18 points Monday vs. the Pistons, then matched it Wednesday in his first career start.

His offense hasn’t come out of nowhere; he’s shown in the past he has scoring ability, from his 40-point night in summer league to his impressive play this summer for Turkey in FIBA European qualifying.

His defense, though, was always an obvious weakness. But over the past three games he’s flashed deceptive athleticism and instincts on that end of the floor.

Korkmaz recovered well on the play below after turning the ball over to track down Langston Galloway and strip the ball at the right moment.

He’s also jumped the passing lanes well on a few plays, like on this steal vs. Brooklyn where Ed Davis tried to find D’Angelo Russell.

No, a couple nice steals don’t erase the concerns about Korkmaz’s defense, but his play on that end of the floor hasn’t been a liability for the Sixers recently. As a matter of fact, it’s actually been an occasional bright spot.

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