76ers

Sixers stock watch: Elton Brand making moves, Jimmy Butler quietly excellent, Jonah Bolden out of rotation

Sixers stock watch: Elton Brand making moves, Jimmy Butler quietly excellent, Jonah Bolden out of rotation

What a week it was for the Sixers.

After getting beat pretty handily by the Raptors Tuesday night, the mood postgame was somber.

All that changed when the Sixers pulled off a late-night trade for forward Tobias Harris.

Let’s get right into this week’s stock watch.

Stock up

Elton Brand

Duh, right? Less than five months into the job and less than three years removed from actually playing for the Sixers, Brand has pulled off the two boldest moves of the NBA season. Landing a player the caliber of Harris signifies to the rest of the league that the Sixers mean business. 

For anyone that’s concerned that this trade is a “rental,” you need to realize the situation Harris is in. This is already his fifth NBA team, it’s the best one he’s ever been on and the Sixers can offer him more money than anybody. From the Sixers’ perspective, you have a 26-year-old borderline All-Star that has improved consistently over his NBA career. Hell of a move by Brand.

Aside from Harris, Brand did a solid job upgrading the team’s bench with players like Mike Scott, Boban Marjanovic, James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons. All four guys are experienced, battle-tested and can play average to above-average defense.

Bonus points for telling Magic Johnson and the Lakers to kick rocks.

Jimmy Butler

The slam dunk here would be Harris, but he’s only been here for two games so there’s no baseline for his performance as a Sixer. 

Butler, on the other hand, has had a weird tenure with the Sixers. There have been questions about his fit and reports that he “aggressively challenged” Brett Brown. The questions came back up with Harris’ arrival, but Butler has quietly been excellent over the last two games.

Against Denver, Butler was aggressive and lived at the line, making 14 of 14. He was efficient vs. the Lakers, hitting 6 of 10 for 15 points in just 30 minutes.

Brown is enjoying what he’s seen out of Butler:

With this team, he respects the game, he plays the right way. So you start putting him in a system and on a team that has more firepower, you feel even a greater level of respect. I see that with him. I really do see that with him. He and Tobias I think are incredibly unique in that regard. Normally you get shot hunters and they’re not doing that. They take what the game gives them and I think to the points that we all talked about, there is a good ecosystem, there is a good vibe. They are sharing the ball.

It’s an interesting point Brown brings up here. Butler is an All-Star caliber player, but he’s never been a volume shooter. The highest amount of shots per game he averaged in a season was 16.5 in 2016-17. That mark was good for 23rd in the league.

It’s entirely possible that Harris’ presence will actually allow Butler to thrive, creating more space for Butler to drive and get to the basket.

Stock down

Jonah Bolden

This one is tough because it’s really just a matter of circumstance. Bolden had solidified his role as the team’s backup five, but with an experienced big like Marjanovic in the mix, Bolden finds himself on the outside looking in with the rotation.

It will be interesting to see what Brown does if a team chooses to go small at the five with Marjanovic — it didn’t work out well when the Lakers did it with former Sixer Mike Muscala. Bolden has done well as a rookie and could still get playoff minutes if there’s an appropriate matchup against a smaller and more athletic five.

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Sixers Talk: Ben Simmons not playing in the World Cup; Mike Scott living his best life

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers Talk: Ben Simmons not playing in the World Cup; Mike Scott living his best life

Ben Simmons will not be playing for Team Australia in the World Cup while Mike Scott is living his best life on his 31st birthday. Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick talk that and sneaky teams in the East on this edition of Sixers Talk.

Simmons is choosing to work on his game for the upcoming NBA season instead of playing in the FIBA World Cup. What are the pros and cons?

Scott and the hive are having a great time on Twitter. Plus, we found out that the Sixers' forward didn't do so hot in French class at UVA.

The Sixers and Bucks appear to be the two top teams in the East. Which team could sneak up on them?

That and more below on this edition of Sixers Talk.

'Potential' is a dangerous word, but Sixers have players to realize it

'Potential' is a dangerous word, but Sixers have players to realize it

On paper, a lot of teams in the NBA look awfully good.

Both L.A. teams look like juggernauts. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant, but they’re still the Warriors. The Bucks have the reigning MVP and perhaps the deepest roster in the NBA.

Then there are the Sixers, who have as much potential as any team. Their starting five could be the best in the league. One prominent statistical model even gives them the best chance to win the Finals.

But the word “potential” can be dangerous. Al Horford may be the steadiest player there is. Joel Embiid is still ascending and has work to do, but is already arguably the best big man in the league. 

The other three members of the starting unit all have to tap into their full potential for the Sixers to accomplish their goals.

Does anyone in the league have more to prove than Ben Simmons? It seems weird typing that sentence for a 22-year-old who’s won Rookie of the Year and already made an All-Star team, but here we are. Simmons was given his rookie max extension Monday — which was 100 percent the right move — but questions still linger over his jump shot. He’s been working with famed trainer and shooting coach Chris Johnson in Los Angeles this summer. He also has decided not to play for the Australian national team in the FIBA World Cup so that he can focus on getting prepared for the NBA season.

Recently, Tobias Harris joined Simmons for a workout in L.A. and he came away impressed with Simmons’ progress.

“We played a lot of 1-on-1. He’s in the gym religiously every day – grinding, getting better. He’s in great shape,” Harris said at a press conference last Friday. “Everyone was trying to figure out why I was guarding him at the three-point line. It was really because he hit two of them. I dared him to hit two of them and he hit two in a row that’s why I was there. He’s made big improvements on his game. His jump shot is looking really good. He has confidence to shoot it. I just kept telling him there, even in these workouts when you’re playing, have the confidence to shoot them and don’t’ get discourage when you miss.”

Harris is another player with something to prove after being given the richest contract in franchise history. GM Elton Brand gave up a haul to acquire the 27-year-old from the Clippers and the results were mixed.

Harris came out on fire with the Sixers, averaging over 20 points a game and shooting 40 percent from three in his first 13 games. He then really struggled down the stretch, averaging 16.1 points a game and hitting only 23 percent of his threes. He was also inconsistent during the team’s postseason run.

Still, there’s plenty of optimism surrounding Harris’ fit with the team — especially with Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick gone. He admitted that uncertainty surrounding his role affected his play, but these new pieces could unlock more of his potential. Harris had a borderline All-Star season and was one of the most prolific shooters in the league in a more featured role with the Clippers. He’s improved every season he’s been in the NBA and there’s hope that ascension will continue.

Harris hopes that ascension continues in Philadelphia — and only Philadelphia.

“Everybody knows over the course of my career I've been in a lot of situations,” Harris said. “Hearing in my meeting the possibility of getting these guys that are sitting up here with me was also one of the most appealing things in the pitch. For me, it was just a win-win, to come here in a situation where I can continue to develop and to be somewhere for many years to come. I'm excited for that and, obviously I signed a five-year deal, so I'll hopefully finish my career here, God willing."

It makes sense that Harris would be excited for the arrival of Josh Richardson. Other than Richardson proving to be a strong two-way player, the two have an existing relationship. While they missed playing with each other by a season at Tennessee, the two still crossed paths. Harris was stuck in Tennessee during the NBA lockout in his draft year so he took the incoming freshman Richardson out to dinner. 

Harris remembers an assistant coach saying around that time that Richardson “was going to be a pro” because of how hard he worked. It was a rather bold statement when you consider Richardson was a two-star recruit coming out of high school, but he made that unnamed coach look awfully prophetic.

Richardson, a second-round pick in 2015, had to earn his way onto the floor in the NBA with his tenacious defense and high energy. Much like Harris, Richardson’s offensive game has grown every season in the league. At times, he ran the Heat’s offense last season as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll and took the most threes of his career by a healthy margin — though he was only right around league average percentage wise.

While the team looks like a defensive monster, spacing is still a question mark. The Sixers are relying on all three players — and really even Embiid and Horford — to have the best shooting seasons of their careers.

"I look forward to training camp, figure all that out,” Brand said. “Defensively, of course that's where we're going to hang our hat. We should be one of the top defensive teams in the league, in my opinion. But we'll figure out the spacing. We have a lot of versatility. Al Horford can space, Joel Embiid can space, Ben's working on his game, Josh is a high-level scorer and Tobias is a high-level shooter and scorer also, so we're looking forward to making that work in training camp. But it's going to take some time. It should take some time."

With how much work Simmons, Harris and Richardson have put in, all that potential could be realized.

That could make the Sixers a very dangerous team.

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