76ers

Things get foggy for Sixers in London

Things get foggy for Sixers in London

BOX SCORE

The Sixers are not bringing a win back from London. Instead, they will return to Philadelphia with a list of improvements needed to compete with the top talent in the Eastern Conference.

Surrendering leads is not a new issue for the Sixers. They have been prone to giving up game-changing runs, stretches in which their offense stalls and the opponents run up the scoreboard. 

On Thursday, the Sixers built a 22-point lead, but didn’t give it all up right away. The Celtics chipped away in the second quarter, then put their foot on the gas in the third to outscore the Sixers by 15. The game was out of the Sixers’ hands from there. 

"I think that's the first time we've ever let somebody back in and not done anything about it or made a push,” Ben Simmons told reporters after the Sixers’ 114-103 loss at the O2 Arena (see observations). “They just made a run and we didn't do anything about it, didn't execute plays, didn't get rebounds, didn't get stops. I think that's what it came down to.” 

What looked like it had the makings of an upset turned into a reminder of the Sixers’ to-do list. Play four quarters of basketball. Limit turnovers (two in the first quarter, 17 after that). Play team basketball. 

The Celtics have too many experienced players to let these windows of opportunities pass them by. 

“When you really go back and you say, 'Well, how do you surrender the lead? What are the common reasons that you surrender the lead?'” Brown said. “For us, there have been, at times, not a sort of disciplined way to handle adversity. Sometimes with our youth, this catches us a little off guard. I think structurally, you can point at some turnovers that creep up.”

And part of that growth is the continued development of young talent. Simmons scored 16 points and under his season average with three assists and just two rebounds (see highlights). Joel Embiid recorded a quiet double-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He was scoreless in the first quarter, a slow start when Embiid didn’t settle into a zone. 

"If I'm not having fun … another way for me to have fun and kick someone's ass is also talk trash — if I'm not doing that, usually I have bad games,” Embiid said. “I don't think they did anything. I was just not in a rhythm and I didn't do a good job of letting my teammates find me. I don't think they did anything special. But they double-teamed a couple times, I turned the ball over once and I shot a bad shot once, so I've got to correct that."

At 19-20, the Sixers are nearly halfway through the regular season. They currently are one spot out of the eighth seed behind the Pacers. The Sixers will face the 29-11 Raptors on Monday, another top-tier Eastern Conference team they are winless against this season. Their loss to the Celtics should serve as a measuring stick of steps they have to take to not only make the playoffs, but compete in them as well. 

“We got out by 22 points. You're playing against the best team in the East, the best defensive team in the NBA, and we didn't react the way we have to,” Brown said. “The physicality got the better of us, the turnovers definitely got the better of us, and it's part of our growth. It's something that .500 teams experience and we're going to have to do better.”

Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

uspresswire-sixers-covington-saric.jpg
USA Today Images

Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

We’re counting down the hours now until the 2018 NBA draft, which means all of the chatter surrounding teams is heading into overdrive.

That includes the Sixers, who are reportedly still attempting to move up the draft board.

Per a report Tuesday by Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer, the Sixers are continuing to make calls about moving into the top five. However, “they have offered packages of picks, but have thus far rebuked including oft-mentioned Robert Covington and Dario Saric,” according to the report.

There has still been no mention of exactly which prospect the Sixers are interested in trading up for since former Cavaliers GM David Griffin made the claim during a radio interview last week (see story).

With six total selections in Thursday’s draft, including Nos. 10 and 26 in the first round, it makes sense that the Sixers would offer draft picks first in any potential trade.

However you feel about the streaky Covington, the team was high enough on the All-NBA defender last season to lock him into a long-term deal while Saric has proven to be a rock-solid contributor that keeps improving every day.

We’ll see if the Sixers ease off those demands as we get even closer to the draft.

NBA draft profile: Miami G Bruce Brown Jr.

usa_bruce_brown_jr_miami.png
USA Today Images

NBA draft profile: Miami G Bruce Brown Jr.

Bruce Brown Jr.

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 195

School: Miami

After his freshman year, Bruce Brown Jr. would have been a no-brainer first-round pick and most likely a lottery selection. Now, it would be a big surprise to see him go in the lottery, and even the first round is far from a sure thing.

There are two main reasons for Brown’s stock falling, the first of which is the regression in his play as a sophomore, especially his shooting. Brown’s three-point percentage dropped from 34.7 percent to 26.7 percent and his free-throw shooting went from 74.4 percent to 62.9 percent. The second reason is the left foot injury Brown suffered in late January, which caused him to miss the second half of the season.

There don’t appear to be any serious concerns about the injury for Brown, who worked out with the Sixers Wednesday. But questions about his shot and why he couldn’t build upon an impressive freshman year are certainly lingering.

Strengths
Brown is an outstanding athlete and competitor. He bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times at the combine, the most by any guard, and that's not at all surprising given the strength with which way he plays. He’s an intense, physical defender with a knack for turning defense into offense. For a guard, he’s an exceptional rebounder, posting 7.1 boards per contest in 2017-18. Offensively, Brown is a solid passer who’s comfortable in pick-and-rolls, which he ran a lot at Miami. He looks capable of being a secondary NBA ball-handler.

Weaknesses
His sophomore shooting dip is obviously a major worry. That 62.9 percent free throw percentage and the fact Brown made only 7 of 46 attempts from NBA three-point range last season are ominous signs. Like his teammate Lonnie Walker IV, Brown was inconsistent on offense. In 19 games last season, he shot 50 percent or better from the floor nine times and 25 percent or worse seven times. Brown has a variety of dribble moves, but his handle isn’t the most tight or fluid. His pull-up game, in terms of shot selection, rhythm and balance, has a lot of room for improvement.  Given how talented an athlete he is, Brown isn’t a great finisher (he shot 58.5 percent at the rim last season) and he doesn’t seem to like using his left hand.

NBA comparison
Brown has said he models his game after Russell Westbrook. He definitely has a little bit of Westbrook in him, especially with his intensity and explosiveness. He also seems to have some Westbrook-like confidence – he thinks he’s the best guard in the draft. And like Westbrook, Brown left college after his sophomore season without a great offensive résumé.

All that said, it’s not fair (or at all realistic) to compare Brown to a player who has averaged a triple-double in back-to-back seasons. Lance Stephenson is a much better comparison. Like Brown, Stephenson is a strong defender, excellent guard rebounder and subpar shooter. It’s important to note, however, that Brown won’t come with any of Stephenson’s notorious, ear-blowing antics.

How he’d fit with Sixers
On the defensive end, Brown will help any NBA team immediately. With his ability to guard one through three at a high level, he’ll have a role off the bench. There’s no doubt Brown’s defense and rebounding would make the Sixers better in two areas where they’re already strong. His athleticism would also be a boost for a second unit lacking in that department last season. 

Draft projection
Because of his injury history and disappointing sophomore campaign, Brown has a slightly wider range than most prospects. He’s expected to be taken in the late first or early second round. He could be an option at No. 26 for the Sixers, or he could be a potential steal at No. 38 or No. 39.  

More on the Sixers