76ers

Which Sixer has the most to gain in 2019-20 season?

Which Sixer has the most to gain in 2019-20 season?

With training camp getting closer, there are plenty of topics to discuss involving the 2019-20 Sixers. Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick.

In this edition, we ask: Which Sixer has the most to gain this season?

Hudrick

There are a few strong candidates — including the guy Noah has below — but to me, Josh Richardson has the most to gain.

Richardson is an ascending player that just turned 26 on Sunday. He was a key cog in Erik Spoelstra’s rotation because of his defensive abilities. He’s long and versatile, a perfect combination for the Sixers’ starting unit. His defense should shine alongside the Sixers’ elite defensive pieces. He’ll be tasked with guarding ones, but it’s a challenge he should be able to handle and excel with.

During last season in Miami, Richardson took on a much bigger offensive role. While at times he shined, it was clear that he’s not meant to be a team’s No. 1 option. He won’t have to be that for the Sixers. The space he should get with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should help immensely. Richardson also did well in dribble handoffs, something that was a staple of the Sixers’ offense with Embiid and JJ Redick. Brett Brown can explore the Richardson-Embiid two-man game with Redick’s departure to New Orleans.

One of Richardson’s most attractive qualities is his contract. The Heat have some pretty horrendous deals against their cap, but Richardson’s signing was likely their shrewdest. He’ll make $10.1 million this season and $10.8 million in 2020-21, per Spotrac. That’s a relative steal for a wing player of his capabilities. He has a player option for 2021-22 and that's where he has the most to gain. If Richardson performs well and helps the Sixers make a deep playoff run, his value should be extremely high as a 29-year-old free agent.

Levick 

As far as contracts are concerned, there aren’t many obvious candidates for players with the most to gain. Backup point guards Raul Neto and Trey Burke, big man Kyle O’Quinn and young players Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden might qualify on the basis of not having any guarantees beyond this season, but I’m not going with any of those players.

I think Tobias Harris has the most to gain for the Sixers this season, even if he did sign a five-year, $180 million contract this summer. This isn’t about the money, though. 

With Jimmy Butler gone, Harris will now likely be looked to as the Sixers’ primary perimeter scoring option. He won’t need to carry the entire offensive load — Ben Simmons is dangerous in transition and improving in the post, Joel Embiid is dominant down low, Al Horford can do a little bit of everything and Josh Richardson averaged 16.6 points per game last year. But Harris now has the go-ahead to be the best version of himself offensively.

“I just wanted to adapt,” he said on July 12 about his role after joining the Sixers last season. “Not to be complaining about comfort or whatnot. I just wanted to be that guy who puts everything to the side and it’s about winning. Was that hard for me? Not hard for me with who I am, but for my own game, it was hard.”

Before joining the Sixers, Harris was among the top 20 percent of the league as a pick-and-roll ball handler in points per possession for four straight seasons, per NBA.com/Stats. I expect the Sixers to try to cater toward Harris’ strengths more this year. I also think it’s logical to predict Harris will shoot closer to his 42.6 percent mark from three-point range over 87 games with the Clippers than the 32.6 percent he shot from long range with the Sixers.

There’s no money to be gained for Harris, but a first All-Star appearance would be meaningful. It’s a very realistic possibility. 

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It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

Updated: Tuesday, 5:09 p.m.

We now have a diagnosis on Ben Simmons' injury. Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story). Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news.

Speaking before the Sixers' win Monday night over the Hawks, head coach Brett Brown was unsure how long the injury would sideline Simmons. The 23-year-old sustained the injury at practice Wednesday going up for a rebound, according to Brown, and irritated it in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Bucks.

“I don’t know,” Brown said. “And it really is like how long is a piece of string — who knows? Who knows? … Whatever the time equals on days, games, period of time, we can talk more honestly as this thing shakes out.”

However, it sounded as if Brown was preparing for his two-time All-Star point guard to be out for a while. He framed the situation as one the Sixers can cope with if other players take advantage of the chance to play expanded roles.

There’s 25 games left. … It’s an eternity,” he said. “Just keep going back to the end game. What’s the bottom line? I’ll say it again — if you get their health and their spirit, it’s got a chance to equal form. … And it’s all about landing the plane. And so with 25 games left, we’ve taken a hit with Ben. 

"I do see it this way. I’m not spinning it. It’s an opportunity for us to learn and something will emerge. And we need something to emerge. It’s not like we were all saying, ‘Oh, here it is, it’s anointed.’ It wasn’t that. So, I think we’re going to learn something and find something. If this was six games out, I wouldn’t be telling you this story. When it’s 25 games out, it is, with all my heart, what I think. That’s what I said to the team, that’s what I really think and that’s what I’m going to try to pull off.

Who specifically will take over ball handling duties? Brown said it “will be done by committee” for the time being, and he named a few players who he expects to be in that mix. Monday night, the team started Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. 

“The candidates could be Raul Neto or [Furkan Korkmaz] or Alec Burks or J-Rich, Shake," he said. "So, you have capable people that aren’t traditional point guards but have the ability to get the ball up the floor. Then at that point, you’re probably going to have to be in something that has motion and continuity instead of just giving Chris Paul the ball and saying, ‘Go to work’ out of a pick-and-roll, as an example.”

Regardless of Brown’s attitude, the tangible impact of not having Simmons will clearly be significant. He leads the league in steals, has assisted on the most three-pointers and is a highly athletic, versatile and talented player.

The loss of all those attributes will no doubt be difficult to overcome.

“When there is a vacuum, as there is right now with Ben, something will happen,” Brown said. “Somebody will step up. I’m trying to see the world through those eyes, and I really do — it’s not even creative coach speak. I see it as an opportunity, and I think I need to see it that way.”

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Ben Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Simmons will undergo daily treatment. 

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports “there's little expectation that [Simmons would] be ready to return to lineup that soon,” and says “doctors are hopeful treatment can drive improvement, but Sixers are preparing to play without him." 

According to head coach Brett Brown, Simmons was first injured at the team’s practice last Wednesday. The 23-year-old All-Star missed the team’s first game after the All-Star break, a win Thursday over the Nets. 

“It was a play where he went up for a rebound and I looked over and he left the court, and went and got treatment,” Brown said Thursday. “And it has played out as it has played out. We don’t believe it’s anything too significant.”

Simmons sat out the Sixers’ game vs. the Nets on Thursday and played Saturday in Milwaukee. He appeared to be in discomfort after drawing a foul in the first quarter on the Bucks’ Brook Lopez. The 23-year-old stayed in the game to make 1 of 2 free throws, then exited when Matisse Thybulle committed a foul to create a stoppage of play and ensure Simmons could return to the locker room.

Ahead of the game against the Bucks, Simmons had averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds and a league-best 2.2 steals. He’d played 36.3 minutes per game, most on the Sixers and third-highest in the NBA ahead of Saturday’s games. 

Brown talked before the Sixers’ win Monday over the Hawks as if he was prepared for a long-term absence. He said the team would split up ball handling responsibilities by committee, with Shake Milton, Josh Richardson and Alec Burks among the possible candidates. Milton started on Monday. 

The 36-22 Sixers are fifth in the Eastern Conference and play the Cavaliers on Wednesday night in Cleveland. 

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