The late night (and early morning) basketball is over. After the Sixers’ 2-2 West Coast road trip, the team has a couple days off before embarking on a four-game home stretch vs. the Raptors, Nuggets, Lakers and Celtics.
Let’s look at where the team stands before that stretch and before Thursday’s trade deadline:
• As far as excuses go, you can’t get much more legitimate than those the Sixers have for their two losses on the road trip. The team was without Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler in Denver, while Chandler and Redick were missing in Sacramento.
The loss to the Kings was a bit more disappointing for the Sixers, even if it wasn’t shocking.
Chandler and Redick are important players for the Sixers, but Redick’s absence doesn’t automatically mean the Sixers have to shoot 7 for 33 from three-point range, their fourth worst three-point shooting percentage of the season.
• Under then-interim general manager Brett Brown and a collaborative leadership structure necessitated by the scandal involving Bryan Colangelo and burner Twitter accounts, the Sixers improbably might have taken two of the biggest steals of the 2018 NBA draft.
Landry Shamet, the No. 26 pick, is a tremendous shooter with maturity well beyond his years, as we’ve covered in this space many times before. “Mini JJ” has the second-most three-pointers made among rookies (97) and the best three-point percentage among rookies with at least 30 long-distance attempts (40.6 percent). He’s the only Sixer to have played in all 53 of the team’s games.
Shake Milton, the No. 54 pick, was acquired in a draft-night deal for the No. 56 (Ray Spalding) and No. 60 (Kostas Antetokounmpo) selections. In 126 NBA minutes, he has just three turnovers. Milton has a smooth shot, but he’s been a positive for the Sixers even when his jumper hasn’t fallen. A go-to scorer when he’s playing for the Blue Coats, Milton wants to carve out his own space in the NBA, and he’s done well whenever he’s had the opportunity.
• Despite 19 turnovers, a 3-for-12 shooting night from Butler, and 41 points from Stephen Curry, the Sixers beat the Warriors on Thursday. Not only did the Sixers top the best team in the world (albeit without Klay Thompson), they didn’t need to play the “perfect game” to do it. It’s an indication of how good they can be defensively when all three stars are available and everyone is committed.
Sure, the bench could use some help, but rotations inevitably shorten in the playoffs. There aren’t many opponents who present devastating mismatches against a full-strength Sixers team.
• If general manger Elton Brand doesn’t make a move before Thursday’s trade deadline, it’s not the end of the world for the Sixers. Brand is in a difficult spot, given the team’s dearth of attractive assets other than draft picks. He could get something in exchange for Markelle Fultz, but the value of a player who hasn’t suited up in an NBA game since Nov. 19, 2018, can’t be very high.
Regardless of whether Brand does anything before the deadline, you’d expect he’ll be active in the buyout market, and you’d think there will be a number of veterans interested in joining the Sixers.
In the Philadelphia bubble, the Sixers might sometimes appear to be a team with grave, fundamental flaws. But to an outsider, a 34-19 team with three stars and recent wins over the Rockets, Lakers and Warriors on national television can’t look like the worst destination.
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