76ers

What Sixers really need for their bench

What Sixers really need for their bench

It’s no secret the Sixers need bench help.

The question is which position they should be targeting. If your first response isn’t a 3-and-D wing, then you haven't been watching this team very closely. 

With all due respect to Landry Shamet, a rookie who has been thrust into a position nobody thought he’d be in, imagine his minutes going to a proven swingman. 

You look at a player like Reggie Bullock from the Pistons. He’s on an extremely affordable and expiring contract. He’s been an above-average three-point shooter (41 percent during his four years in Detroit). He’s also a decent and versatile defender. 

The Pistons are clinging to the hope they can land the East’s eighth seed, so he may not become available. And that’s not to say the Sixers should go all in on Bullock — though it would make a ton of sense to place a phone call — but a player like him would certainly help. For the record, there is no indication the Sixers have shown interest in Bullock.

The second position to look at has been up for debate. 

A backup five? A true stretch four? While those spots could also use an upgrade, the Sixers’ second-biggest need is a backup point guard.

This is the point of the story where all of the T.J. McConnell lovers will start prepping their hate tweets. But the reality is that McConnell is not a backup point guard for a team with its sights set on winning the Eastern Conference.

There is no doubt McConnell has earned his place on this team and in this league. He’s a dogged competitor that’s given this team a huge spark at times. He’s also been almost automatic in the mid-range.

But his unwillingness to shoot threes is crippling the offense — especially when playing alongside Ben Simmons. His lack of athleticism has also hurt them on the defensive end. It’s never been more evident than in Saturday’s loss to the Thunder.

Unlike on the wing, there are no clear upgrades at the position. Elfrid Payton, who’s on an expiring deal, would be intriguing if the Pelicans fall out of it. It’s more likely they hold onto him to stay competitive and keep Anthony Davis happy.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Sixers needing another big, but that seems pretty low on their list of needs. Joel Embiid is playing 33.5 minutes a game. So basically you need a backup center to play roughly 14.5 minutes a night. That number will go down even more in the playoffs.

Plus, Jonah Bolden has given the bench a real spark. His athleticism, quick feet, rim protection and overall activity have given the team a big boost. His presence has allowed Mike Muscala to play more four and Wilson Chandler to play more three.

Would adding a player like Noah Vonleh help? Sure. Vonleh is a solid backup big that has added the three to his game. If he can be added for little to nothing, then it couldn’t hurt. It just seems like the other positions are of more concern.

One thing is for sure: Expect Elton Brand to make at least one move to bolster this roster. 

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Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Glenn Robinson III was having by far the best season of his NBA career, starting for the Warriors, averaging 12.9 points per game and shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

Then he was traded to the Sixers.

Since being acquired by the Sixers along with Alec Burks, Robinson has started two games, come off the bench in four and missed all nine of his three-point attempts.

In an interview with Basketball Insiders’ Spencer Davies, he did not sound pleased with his situation.

Even when (Golden State) played Philly, I showed them what I could do,” Robinson told Davies. “So to play those consistent minutes a night and perform well … that’s the most disappointing part about coming here is that — both of us (are) coming off career years where we’re looking at hopefully big numbers after the season. I know I’ve got a family to feed. So you think about all those things.

“All those things play a role, and then when you come here and your role’s not really explained or you don’t know what’s going on with the trade — it’s not like it was a trade where you come in and immediately have an impact. It’s a little different, so … this team is full of wings, full of guys who can play. So really, I don’t really understand it. But it’s a business, you’ve got to make it happen and go out and try to do your best every night.

Though the Sixers have actually gone 4-2 with Robinson, the team has been in a state of constant change since acquiring him and Burks. Since Robinson has joined, the Sixers have used five different starting lineups. They’ll have to use a sixth Thursday night vs. the Knicks with Joel Embiid out because of a left shoulder sprain. Ben Simmons will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks with nerve impingement in his lower back. 

Robinson had a promising first game after the trade, scoring 10 points on 5 for 6 shooting against the Bulls and moving sharply off the ball, but it’s certainly true that Brett Brown has yet to find a clear role for him.

Last Friday, Robinson talked about the adjustment of moving in the middle of the season. 

“It’s always different,” he said. “You come into a new team and there’s new plays, new personnel. I think that they’ve came it pretty simple when both AB and I have been on the court. Like I said, it’s always different and you kind of learn on the fly and adjust. But teammates have been great, kind of telling us where to be and what to do during the games.”

The 26-year-old is in his second stint with Brown and the Sixers after playing 10 games in Philadelphia his rookie season. 

He still expressed some optimism to Davies that the team can turn the season around. 

“A lot of talent. I think we can go as far as we stick together and want to go,” Robinson told Davies. “We’ve just got a lot of great players and they know how to play the game. That’s the biggest thing, so as long as we can stick together, come together … it’s about defense for this group. We’ve got all the talent in the world to score. I think that we’ve got high chances.”

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This stat shows just how brutal the Sixers have been on the road

This stat shows just how brutal the Sixers have been on the road

It doesn’t take heavy analysis to see that the Sixers are in serious trouble. They’re fifth in the Eastern Conference and both their All-Stars are dealing with injuries

The biggest conundrum with this team is its home and road splits. The Sixers have the best home record in the NBA at 27-2 but fell to 9-21 on the road after a brutal loss to the Cavs Wednesday. 

It was their seventh straight loss on the road and ensured that they will go through the month of February winless away from Wells Fargo Center.

Seems unprecedented, right? Like nobody has ever been this dominant at home and so putrid on the road? Well, that’s because the Sixers are making weird, not-so-great history.

As of now, the Sixers are on pace to be the only team in NBA history to win at least 90 percent of their home games and lose two-thirds of their road games, per Basketball Reference

At 9-21, the Sixers have the same road record as their opponent Thursday, the New York Knicks. Yes, the New York Knicks. The 20-38 Charlotte Hornets have a better road record (11-20).

Brett Brown and it seems like every single player on the team has been asked about the road issues. Nobody has been able to give a concrete answer. Then again, if they had one, this might be figured out.

As it stands, the Sixers are underperforming, and their road woes are the biggest culprit. It won’t get much easier with a four-game West Coast slate that starts Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers and with Ben Simmons and possibly Joel Embiid still on the shelf.

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