76ers

Sixers' week ahead: A possible playoff preview, Tobias Harris' slump, Jimmy Butler's return to Minnesota

Sixers' week ahead: A possible playoff preview, Tobias Harris' slump, Jimmy Butler's return to Minnesota

While the sting of a disappointing loss in Atlanta is still fresh, the Sixers have a chance to redeem themselves Monday night in Orlando.

They’ll also host Brooklyn in a possible playoff preview and catch up with an old friend in Minnesota Saturday.

Here’s a look at the Sixers’ week ahead.

Hoping to find the Magic

Whether it was a letdown coming off a couple big wins or them taking a hungry young Hawks team too lightly, the Sixers simply didn’t show up Saturday night.

Their defense in the first half was horrendous as they allowed 74 points, the most they’ve surrendered to an opponent in a half this season. They struggled with a familiar issue, failing to stifle rookie Trae Young in the pick-and-roll.

But as Brett Brown alluded to postgame, it wasn’t strategy. It was execution.

“We had probably three or four different [adjustments] from blitzing to switching to hedging to dropping,” Brown said. “If you really dug in and looked at that, you would have seen that. I can’t say that any of them were incredibly effective, but they did force us to try and make different adjustments in the pick-and-roll.”

Expect a better effort Monday against a Magic team that’s fighting for its playoff life.

Tobi will come around

Tobias Harris was a monster in his first eight games as a Sixer, averaging 21.9 points while shooting 55 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. In his last 11, he’s down to 17.3 points on 45 percent from the field and 31 percent from three.

Harris is having an All-Star-caliber season, but every player — especially shooters — has their ups and downs. JJ Redick is a perfect example. He wasn’t hitting anything after the All-Star break and then followed it up with a torrid five-game stretch in which he shot 55 percent from three.

Whether it’s fatigue — he’s played in all 74 games for his teams this season — or just a rough patch, Harris deserves the benefit of the doubt given his recent track record. Also, it’s better that he gets this kind of slump out of the way now instead of mid-April. 

Playoff preview?

The Nets have given the Sixers fits this season. Guards D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie have scorched them, averaging a combined 51 points while both shooting over 55 percent in three matchups this season.

The only Sixers’ win was because of a furious comeback capped off by a ridiculous Jimmy Butler game-winner. In fairness, the teams haven’t squared off since Dec. 12 and Butler was out of the lineup — Furkan Korkmaz started in his place — in a three-point Sixers’ loss. This isn't even the same Sixers team.

If the playoffs started today, this would be the first-round matchup. It would behoove the Sixers to show up Thursday in front of their home crowd.

The return of Jimmy

Butler will return to Minnesota for the first time since the drama of his trade request ultimately landed him on the Sixers. 

While Butler was relatively quiet in the Sixers’ blowout win back on Jan. 15, he’s been a force recently. Over his last five games, Butler is averaging 23.8 points a game. 

The two most encouraging signs are his free throws and threes in that span. Butler has been aggressive getting to the rim, averaging 8.8 free throw attempts a game. Him attempting 3.2 threes and hitting 38 percent from there is a huge boon for his fit alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

The Sixers will also see Dario Saric for the second time as an opponent. Saric was such a key part of the Sixers’ playoff run last season, but has struggled to carve out a consistent role with the Timberwolves. Robert Covington, the key asset in that deal, is sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Covington hasn’t played in 2019.

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Sixers sign and then waive Shizz Alston Jr., Terry Harris for purpose of adding them to Delaware Blue Coats

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Sixers sign and then waive Shizz Alston Jr., Terry Harris for purpose of adding them to Delaware Blue Coats

Updated: 2:27 p.m.

The 2019-20 Delaware Blue Coats are shaping up to be a fascinating team.

The Sixers are signing and then waiving Terry Harris, Shizz Alston Jr., Julian Washburn, Jared Brownridge and Xavier Munford with the purpose of adding them to the Blue Coats. Harris' deal is an Exhibit 9 contract.

Terry Harris is the younger brother of Sixers forward Tobias Harris, whom the team re-signed to a five-year, $180 million contract this summer. Terry played for the Sixers this year in summer league and scored nine points in three games. The 6-foot-6 wing worked out with the Sixers in June and said "it would be a blessing" to play with Tobias for the first time since eighth grade. As a redshirt senior at North Carolina A&T, Terry averaged 8.1 points per game and shot 41.1 percent from three-point range. Outside shooting is his trademark skill.

Alston grew up in Philadelphia and attended The Haverford School before going to Temple, where he played for four years. The point guard had an excellent senior season, leading Temple to a 23-10 record and averaging 19.7 points and 5.0 assists per game. Like Harris, he had a pre-draft workout for the Sixers. Alston played with the Indiana Pacers in summer league and scored 24 points across three contests.

The 6-foot-8 Washburn has 136 career games of experience in the G League, including 38 last season between the Austin Spurs and Memphis Hustle. He signed a two-way contract with the Grizzlies in January and appeared in 18 NBA games last year, averaging 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds. Washburn was part of the trade between the Grizzlies and Warriors in July involving Andre Iguodala, and was later waived by Golden State.

Brownridge, who played his college ball at Santa Clara, played 49 games (27 starts) with the Blue Coats last season. He led the G-League in threes made with 187.

Munford spent last season with the Milwaukee Bucks G-League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd. He's also played in China and Spain after his collegiate career at Rhode Island ended.

In addition to Washburn, Alston, Harris, Brownridge and Munford, 7-foot-3 Christ Koumadje, Saint Joseph's product Isaiah Miles and Haywood Highsmith are candidates for the Blue Coats this season. Those three players were part of the Sixers' preseason roster and will be waived (see story).

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Sixers waive Christ Koumadje, Haywood Highsmith and Isaiah Miles

Sixers waive Christ Koumadje, Haywood Highsmith and Isaiah Miles

Updated: 2:17 p.m.

The Sixers have waived Christ Koumadje, Isaiah Miles and Haywood Highsmith. Those moves leave the team with its regular-season roster of 15 players, with Marial Shayok and Norvel Pelle on two-way contracts.

Because Koumadje, Miles and Highsmith signed Exhibit 10 contracts this summer, they can be incentivized to join the Delaware Blue Coats. Under the terms of an Exhibit 10 deal, a player who is waived can receive a bonus of up to $50,000 if he signs with the team's G-League affiliate and stays there for at least 60 days. 

Koumadje played four years of college basketball at Florida State and stands 7-foot-3 without shoes. He’s seeking to become the first NBA player from the country of Chad. Senior vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said in June at a pre-draft workout featuring Koumadje that the big man is agile for his size, which Koumadje attributed to playing soccer and running before fully focusing on basketball.

Koumadje has been seen working on his game with 7-foot-2 player development specialist Roy Hibbert. He said at media day that the Sixers’ player development staff has been helping him develop some of the finer points of his offensive game, such as non-dunk finishes near the basket and ball handling.

A 6-foot-4 wing, Highsmith played in 46 games for the Blue Coats last season, averaging 12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He also played in five games for the Sixers, with the team converting his contract to a two-way deal in January. Highsmith, who was waived by the team this summer to free up the two-way spot used on Pelle before signing his Exhibit 10 deal, played at Division II Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

Miles played his college basketball much closer to the Wells Fargo Center, at Saint Joseph’s, and is, like Highsmith, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. The 25-year-old was on the Sixers’ summer league teams in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and last played for Limoges CSP in France’s Pro-A league.

Based on what we saw in the preseason, below is a rough, projected depth chart by position. The backup point guard picture isn't yet clear, while several of the players at the shooting guard and small forward spots are interchangeable:

Point guard

Starter: Ben Simmons

Depth: Josh Richardson, Raul Neto/Trey Burke, Shake Milton

Shooting guard

Starter: Josh Richardson

Depth: Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, Zhaire Smith, Marial Shayok (Two-way player)

Small forward

Starter: Tobias Harris

Depth: James Ennis, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz

Power forward

Starter: Al Horford 

Depth: Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, Jonah Bolden 

Center

Starter: Joel Embiid

Depth: Al Horford, Kyle O’Quinn, Jonah Bolden, Ben Simmons, Mike Scott, Norvel Pelle (Two-way player) 

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