76ers

Sixers' week ahead: Jimmy Butler rests, Boban Marjanovic returns, James Ennis winning 'the tournament'

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Sixers' week ahead: Jimmy Butler rests, Boban Marjanovic returns, James Ennis winning 'the tournament'

Joel Embiid returned to the lineup and the Sixers won a huge game against the Pacers Sunday.

Now in the driver’s seat for the Eastern Conference’s third seed, the team has to take care of business against the lowly Cavaliers with two difficult matchups coming this weekend.

Let’s take a look at the Sixers’ week ahead.

Butler’s rest day and who could be next

Jimmy Butler will be out for tomorrow’s game against the Cavs for a planned rest day. Brett Brown said after practice Monday that Butler’s absence is not related to the “discomfort” he felt in his foot at the end of the win vs. Indiana.

Giving Butler off Tuesday gives the veteran swingman extra time. With the team not playing again until Friday against the Kings, Butler will get four days of rest. The Sixers shouldn’t have an issue beating Cleveland without Butler.

Butler is 29 and has logged a lot of minutes. Brown has done a good job with Butler, who is averaging 33.1 minutes with the Sixers, his lowest mark since 2012-13. 

Embiid also mentioned Sunday that he’s likely going to sit out at least one more game before the playoffs start. It’s all about delivering healthy players to the postseason.

With that in mind, who could be next the next to rest?

“I suspect JJ [Redick] will get one coming up soon,” Brown said. “Ben [Simmons] is incredibly reliable, durable and I think we got to pay attention as much to him as some of the obvious ones we just talked about. I think none of us should be surprised if these guys miss some games.”

Simmons and Tobias Harris have logged a ton of minutes — especially lately while Embiid was out —and both players have played 66 games this season. They’re both still young and have proven to be durable during their careers. It’ll be interesting to see if Brown rests either player or scales back their minutes as the postseason approaches.

The return of Boban

Boban Marjanovic will return to the lineup Tuesday after missing the last six games. Marjanovic was recovering from a sprain and bruise in his right knee, but the injury certainly looked scarier when it happened on Feb. 25, in New Orleans.

“He’s spectacularly genuine as a teammate,” Brown said of Marjanovic. “I’m just so happy for him that what we all thought was going to maybe a season-ending injury in New Orleans wasn’t the case. Here he is [on the practice floor] and we’ll see him [Tuesday].”

Marjanovic is a fan and teammate favorite, but he’s also given the Sixers some solid minutes. There’s still concern about his lack of athleticism in defending pick-and-rolls and stretch bigs, but he does offer some rim protection and has an underrated offensive game.

Ennis winning ‘the tournament’

In “the tournament” for bench minutes, James Ennis seems to have pulled ahead of Jonathon Simmons. With regular minutes in his last three games, Ennis has looked more comfortable and showed a little more of what he brings to the table.

“I think there’s a quiet athleticism that has surprised me,” Brown said. “He’s had some sneaky dunks that you wouldn’t have expected. He had an offensive rebound last night off a missed free throw. There was an explosion, there was an athleticism that caught me pleasantly by surprise.”

So why has it taken so long for Ennis to look comfortable? Just think about the offense he came from in Houston. It was the James Harden show and all Ennis was asked to do was spot up in the corner and look for open threes.

Brown’s pace-and- space system is much more dependent on ball and player movement. It’s taken Ennis time to adjust.

The Sixers won’t be asking a ton from Ennis, but they’ll need at least 10 minutes per game from a wing player if Brown does go to a nine-man rotation once the playoffs begin. Ennis is looking like the frontrunner for that role.

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NBA offseason begins in earnest as Lakers reportedly agree to trade with Pelicans for Anthony Davis

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NBA offseason begins in earnest as Lakers reportedly agree to trade with Pelicans for Anthony Davis

It didn’t take long for the NBA offseason to begin in earnest.

Just two days after the Raptors clinched the NBA title, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Los Angeles Lakers have acquired star center Anthony Davis in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. In return, the Pelicans are getting Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 selection in this year’s draft. 

The move has massive big-picture implications for the league. The Lakers now have a six-time All-Star with career averages of 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks to pair with LeBron James.

New Orleans got a substantial haul in return. Ball and Ingram, two former No. 2 overall picks, are both 21 years old. A Villanova product, Hart couldn’t build on a promising rookie campaign last year but has the makings of someone who can be a valuable NBA role player for many years. The Pelicans will also feel they have a real chance to land a star(s) with the three first-round picks, whether through the draft or through subsequent trades. They already had the No. 1 pick in this year's draft and are expected to select the electric Zion Williamson. 

According to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, the Lakers gave up all that for one guaranteed year of Davis — Haynes says Davis will enter free agency after this year. The fact that Toronto’s gamble to trade for one year of Kawhi Leonard before he hit free agency paid off could spark a league-wide trend of banking on short-term "rentals" for stars (see story). 

For the Sixers, the first, obvious takeaway from the trade is that their biggest rival failed to land Davis — the Celtics were reportedly interested in him, but The New York Times’ Marc Stein reports Boston refused to make Jayson Tatum available, which stunted negotiations. 

It’s unclear at the moment how the trade might affect Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris, the Sixers' two big-name free agents. Haynes reported Friday that Butler, as expected, will decline his player option. He also reported the Lakers “have genuine interest” in Butler. The Sixers hold Butler’s Bird Rights and are the only team who can offer him a five-year, $190 million deal.  

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2019 NBA draft profile: Louis King has a ton of upside for the Sixers in the second round

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2019 NBA draft profile: Louis King has a ton of upside for the Sixers in the second round

Position: Forward

Height: 6-8    

Weight: 195

School: Oregon

King, a forward out of Jersey City, New Jersey, bounced around three different high schools. That didn’t prevent him from being a five-star recruit and a McDonald’s All-American. King chose to attend Oregon over Kansas, among others.

King spent just one season at Eugene but made a strong impact. He helped the Ducks win the Pac-12 Tournament and a pair of NCAA Tournament games before losing to national champion Virginia. King made the conference’s All-Freshman team and was also named to the All-Pac-12 Tournament team after posting 16.5 points and shooting 40 percent from three in four tourney games.

Strengths

You can see why King was considered one of the top 25 recruits in the country coming out of high school. He has tremendous size and length but is also super skilled. He can really shoot the basketball, hitting 38.6 percent of his threes and 78.5 percent of his free throws in his lone season at Oregon. He’s not just a spot-up guy either. He showed the ability to shoot off the dribble and looked pretty natural doing it. He has the size of a power forward but has a perimeter skill set. His length and athleticism project extremely well on the defensive end at the next level. He has a chance to be the switchable defender most teams are looking for in the increasingly positionless NBA.

Weaknesses

You can also see why King will likely land in the second round. He’s under 200 pounds and while his profile defensively projects well at the next level, it’s most definitely a projection. He’s timid and you could see him getting bullied at the next level by bigger, stronger players. He’s definitely a little raw as far his decision making and shot selection. His feel for the game in general could be better. He also suffered a torn meniscus during his senior year in high school that caused him to miss the beginning of last season.

Fit

There are plenty of tools to work with here, but King is likely going to be a redshirt-type player if a decent team drafts him. Offensively, his skill set is special at his size. If he can develop his feel for the game and put on some muscle, he could turn into something special. Should the team that takes a shot at King be the Sixers? At 24, definitely not. At 33 or 34? Perhaps. At 42? It’s a no-brainer. You can add King to your roster and have him stay fresh and develop in Delaware. He’ll be coached into your system while getting to spend time around your NBA team.

“He’s really skilled,” director of scouting Vince Rozman said after the team had King in for a workout last week. “He has great size. He can handle and kind of make plays off the dribble … His shot is obviously very, very attractive and projectable. He’s here for a reason. There’s no doubt.”

King might not be the sexiest pick, but as we’ve seen from this year’s NBA champions, sometimes it’s worth taking a flyer on a projectable player that can develop in the G League. He may not help the Sixers in the present but could develop into a big part of their future.

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