76ers

What if rumored Tracy McGrady trade to Sixers happened?

What if rumored Tracy McGrady trade to Sixers happened?

For what felt like Allen Iverson’s entire career with the Sixers, the team was looking for an ideal sidekick.

Whether it was Toni Kukoc or Matt Harpring or Glenn Robinson or Chris Webber, the right fit never seemed to come to fruition.

There was one reported attempt to trade for a Robin to Iverson’s Batman that was thwarted by Stephen A. Smith — yes, that Stephen A. Smith. If you don’t know the story, the Sixers and Raptors supposedly had a deal in place in December of 1999 which would’ve sent McGrady and a first-round pick to Philadelphia for Larry Hughes.

Smith, then a columnist for the Inquirer, reported the agreement. After the news got out there, the Raptors allegedly got cold feet. Smith has confirmed this story to be true.

So, what if that trade goes down? Do Iverson and McGrady form one of the greatest backcourts in NBA history? Does it not work because there simply wouldn’t have been enough shots to go around?

McGrady started his Hall of Fame career playing next to a superstar in Vince Carter. The duo seemed to be creating something special in Toronto, but McGrady chose to return closer to home by signing with the Magic in 2000. The only reason the Raptors explored a trade in 1999 was McGrady’s pending free agency.

While Toronto fans can ponder what could’ve been, so, too, can Lakers fans. Jerry West apparently had his eyes on McGrady coming out of high school in 1997. West envisioned McGrady forming a dominant trio with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

While that never came to fruition, McGrady acknowledged that he’d heard that story before. On ESPN’s The Jump in 2017, McGrady talked about how he might’ve fit in L.A. playing next to Bryant.

“My career took a turn when I went to Orlando because I had to become a scorer because I didn’t have Grant Hill [because of injury]. I was always the player like a Scottie Pippen type — share the ball, defend the best player. That’s what I did in my three years in Toronto. I would’ve been that player alongside Kobe Bryant.”

When you look at McGrady’s final season in Toronto, it’s not hard to imagine him taking on a Pippen-like role next to Iverson. As a 20-year-old, McGrady averaged 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals in 1999-00. That stat line lines up favorably next to Pippen’s career averages.

But would he have been comfortable in Iverson’s shadow after seemingly not enjoying being in Carter’s? As McGrady said, he went to the Magic thinking he’d playing alongside Hill, who at the time was one of the best players in the league and still ascending. Orlando also courted Tim Duncan in that wild offseason.

The bigger question is, would Iverson have been on board with McGrady as a running mate?

It wasn’t that long ago that the Sixers thought they had a dynamic duo of the future in Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse. That situation wound up being a disaster for the Sixers as there was a constant struggle between the two over whose team it was.

“I do remember them always having kind of a fight for whose team it was going to be,” former Sixer Scott Williams said on the Sixers Talk podcast, “because it had gone from the 80’s when it was the Los Angeles Lakers and Magic Johnson or the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird to becoming Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls or Charles Barkley and the Philadelphia 76ers. 

“So the league started to market players differently. They started putting players in front of the teams. And I think when these guys came in here starting in the mid-90’s, they started saying, ‘I want to be that guy whose name goes before the team’s.’ So, there was always that confrontation about who’s going to be the star of the show and it didn’t lead to good chemistry among the rest of us.”

It could’ve just been those specific players that couldn’t mesh. As mentioned, McGrady signed in Orlando with the idea of playing next to Hill and also had a successful stint in Houston playing with Yao Ming. It’s feasible that he could’ve done a similar thing with Iverson.

But was that the best strategy to suit Iverson’s strengths? The team’s best playoff run happened in 2001, when a roster full of tough, defensive-minded players surrounded the high-volume shooting guard. 

Though all of us may have yearned for that perfect Iverson sidekick, maybe the fact is he didn’t need one.

“Everybody in Philadelphia always had this idea that we needed another scorer to play with Allen,” former Sixers head coach Larry Brown said on the Sixers Talk podcast. “They brought in Glenn Robinson, they brought in Chris Webber at one time, they brought in Toni Kukoc, they brought in Matt Harpring — we can go on and on and on. But it was our belief, and my personal belief, that you had to surround Allen with the right kind of guys.”

Given the way McGrady’s career went as a two-time scoring champ, it may be hard to picture it all working out.

But if he would’ve played a Pippen role next to Iverson and possibly re-signed with the Sixers the following offseason, that could’ve been a dangerous basketball team for a long time.

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2020 NBA draft profile: Payton Pritchard's elite ball handling, unlimited range should entice Sixers

2020 NBA draft profile: Payton Pritchard's elite ball handling, unlimited range should entice Sixers

Payton Pritchard

Position: PG
Height: 6-2
Weight: 190
School: Oregon

The NCAA Tournament being cancelled will likely affect several draft prospects. Oregon’s Payton Pritchard seems to be one of them. The senior guard led the Ducks to a 24-7 record and the team won the Pac-12 regular season title with a 13-5 mark. Pritchard leading a strong tourney run could’ve helped his draft stock.

As it stands, Pritchard’s resume is still pretty darn impressive. He was a consensus All-American in 2019-20 and won Pac-12 Player of the Year. He averaged 20.5. points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his final collegiate season.

Strengths

Pritchard has a reputation as a tireless worker and dogged competitor. As mentioned, he was the true leader of an Oregon team that had a chance to do serious damage in the NCAA Tournament. He excelled in a much larger scoring role his senior season.

He seems to have the ball on a string with advanced handling skills. His father told a reporter that his son practices dribbling “until his hands bleed.” While he’s not the most explosive guard, his ability to change speeds and understanding of when to do so is a huge asset.

He also has good vision and awareness. Despite a high usage rate, Pritchard’s turnover numbers didn’t grow exponentially. He averaged 4.6 assists and two turnovers a game during his time in Eugene.

Outside of a down season in 2018-19, Pritchard has proven to be an elite shooter. He’s fearless with unlimited range. This play against Washington in overtime got a much deserved “ONIONS!” call from Bill Raftery.

That game was sort of a microcosm of Pritchard. Oregon struggled against Washington’s zone for much of the game. Pritchard patiently picked his spots but took over at times when his team needed him to.

Despite being just 6-foot-2, Pritchard is solidly built and did flash potential as an off-ball defender with 1.5 steals a game. He’s also a solid rebounder for his height, which helps him be able to push the pace.

Weaknesses

The height will likely be an issue at the next level. He also doesn’t have long arms or the lateral quickness it would seem to take to defend NBA guards. It’s hard to gauge against the zone, but he may also struggle to battle through screens.

He’s not particularly athletic or explosive. Though his ball handling skills are excellent, he does struggle to turn the corner on quicker defenders. The lack of explosion also led to him struggling to finish against length at the rim.

While he has NBA skills, he does not possess a strong physical NBA profile.

Fit

As a player that can play with and back up Ben Simmons, Pritchard could be a decent fit. Pritchard's ability as a shooter and advanced ball handling would mesh well with Simmons' elite ability as a screener and roller. Simmons’ size and defensive prowess could help cover Pritchard’s deficiencies. 

While he took on a scoring role this season, Pritchard isn’t the type of player to force things. As a point guard that likes to push the ball up the floor, he could fit in well with the Sixers’ pace and space style.

Because of his lack of height and athleticism, he will likely be around for the Sixers in the middle of the second round. He seems worth a flyer there because of his steady improvement and work ethic. He's not the type of player you bet against despite his physical limitations.

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Joel Embiid's 'mentality just completely changed' after All-Star Game success

Joel Embiid's 'mentality just completely changed' after All-Star Game success

The coronavirus pandemic has altered our everyday lives. It’s caused many to self-reflect and find out new things about themselves.

So, what has Joel Embiid found out about himself with all this time on his hands while the NBA season is suspended?

“I’ve discovered that I’m not that good at video games,” Embiid said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Zumoff.

The All-Star center, whose game of choice is still FIFA, went on to explain the evolution of his player in career mode. That’s not to say Embiid hasn’t been taking the situation in our world seriously. Embiid pledged to donate $500,000 to COVID-19 medical relief efforts back in March.

Even as the NBA appears to be closer to a return, Embiid is still emphasizing safety — though he misses playing in front of the Wells Fargo Center crowd.

“First of all, I want everybody to remain safe. I want to be safe,” Embiid said. “This is nothing to play with. You don’t know what can happen. But when the time is right and everything is safe and I can be on the court, I feel like what I’m going to be missing the most is just being out there, winning for the city of Philadelphia, representing the city of Philadelphia, and just going out there and dominating.”

The 26-year-old felt like he was turning a corner before the stoppage. He had two of his more dominant outings of the season after the All-Star break, including putting up a career-high 49 points against the Hawks.

It was an odd first half to the season, but outside of a shoulder injury that cost him five games, Embiid was looking more like his old self after the break.

“I feel like before the season got shut down, I was on that path,” Embiid said. “Especially after that All-Star Game, my mentality just completely changed. First part of the season, it wasn’t up to my standards — not even close. I was on that path to just changing all that and making it happen.”

Of course, what would an article about Joel Embiid be if health and fitness level weren’t mentioned? Embiid’s career has been mired by injuries. When he’s missed time, whether because of injury or load management, he’s admitted that he can get out of shape quickly. He hasn’t played a game since March 11.

GM Elton Brand said earlier this month that he “wouldn’t bet against” Embiid coming back ready to play. His head coach took it even a step further.

“Joel's always a topic. We get it,” Brett Brown said back on May 15. “The importance that he represents as being a complete parallel to can you win a championship or not, is real. I've had many conversations with Jo. I spoke with him 30 minutes ago, and he's got a real desire to be at a playing weight that equals his best since he's been in the league.”

No matter what the format looks like, the Sixers won’t have an easy road ahead if/when the NBA resumes play. It seems like they could meet the Celtics in the first round, a team that knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs in 2018.

Like anyone missing basketball, Embiid watched “The Last Dance” documentary. There are some parallels to be made as Embiid and Ben Simmons have had their share of disappointment in the postseason. Much like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did with the “Bad Boy” Pistons, the Sixers’ All-Star duo may have to overcome their playoff boogeymen in Boston and Toronto.

Embiid believes he can push his teammates the same way Jordan once did.

“I did watch it. It was interesting,” Embiid said. “I saw a lot of similarities and a lot of people have told me that. … I can also be that guy, I just need to keep putting in the work and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

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