76ers

Which young player will make the biggest improvement for the Sixers in 2019-20 season?

Which young player will make the biggest improvement for the Sixers 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 young player will make the biggest improvement for the Sixers this season?

Hudrick 

It has to be Zhaire Smith. 

Smith appeared on his way to having a lost rookie season after suffering a broken foot and a severe allergic reaction not long after. He lost a ton of weight and basketball seemed secondary to the young man’s health.

But to his credit, Smith worked his tail off. He put up shots with a tube in his stomach. He regained some of his strength and the freakish athleticism he was known for was still in his bag. He miraculously played six games at the end of the regular season and was legitimately in the conversation for playoff minutes.

In those six games, Smith flashed the ability to defend at an extremely high level. His quickness, his understanding of how to fight through screens and just his overall defensive tenacity makes him super intriguing. To see what he battled through last season, you know he has the work ethic and will to get the most out of his athletic abilities.

And, oh yeah, he’s still just 20 years old and learning how to play guard after being a power forward at Texas Tech. He’ll have to make open looks to stay on the floor — something he’s worked on tirelessly — but if he just hovers around league average, what he brings on the other end of the floor will far outweigh anything. He’s continued to add muscle this offseason and could become a defensive demon off Brett Brown’s bench. He'll likely have to fight off rookie first-round pick Matisse Thybulle and 2016 first-rounder Furkan Korkmaz for minutes, but Smith should be up for the challenge.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see him be the first Sixer to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest since Andre Igoudala was robbed of the title in 2006.

Levick

There are quite a few options here, especially if you have a broad definition of “young.”

Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson are still only 25 and 26 years old, respectively, and neither seems to have reached their potential yet. Ben Simmons is 23. Shake Milton is 22 and on a full NBA contract for the first time — same with rookie Matisse Thybulle.

However, I’m confident in going with the youngest player on the team, 20-year-old Zhaire Smith. As a rookie, Smith suffered through a broken foot, a severe allergic reaction and a dramatic weight loss. He’s on the other side of all that now and should play a role for the Sixers in Year 2.

You’d assume the first seven spots in the Sixers’ rotation are entrenched, at least to start the season, with Mike Scott and James Ennis the first two men off the bench. There are minutes to be earned after that, though, and Smith, who played in just six regular-season games last season, has the skills to take them.

Smith knows what his greatest strength is and wants to keep building upon it.

“Every goal he’s ever told me about what he wants to do has to do with defense," Sixers player development coach Tyler Lashbrook told NBC Sports Philadelphia in June. "‘I want to be All-Defense. That’s what I want to do.’ Love it. Love to hear that. Absolutely, man. Let’s do it. That’s a fun thing to hear from somebody. Especially when he’s so young, to know that’s what he cares about is really something.”

A tremendous athlete who threw down plenty of highlight dunks this year in summer league, Smith’s physical abilities — and relentless work ethic — mean that his ambitions aren’t so outlandish in the long term. In the short term, I expect him to help the Sixers off the bench. 



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Matisse Thybulle, Jonah Bolden and T.J. McConnell are vacationing together during All-Star break

tj-mcconnell-matisse-thybulle-jonah-bolden-twitter.jpg
Twitter

Matisse Thybulle, Jonah Bolden and T.J. McConnell are vacationing together during All-Star break

Though the NBA All-Star festivities have officially come to an end, the Sixers aren’t set to play again for another three nights. When you’re an avid sports fan, that seems like an eternity.

What are Sixers fans supposed to do during this break while they wait for their favorite team to get back in action?

I suggest a daily dose of wholesome content.

Today's edition of wholesome content comes from a place of warmer weather, with Sixers old and new vacationing together.

That's right, Matisse Thybulle is currently on vacation with former Sixers T.J. McConnell and Jonah Bolden. The past and present of fan favorites have come together to enjoy the little break in their hectic schedules.

And by the look of things, they're definitely enjoying themselves with ... whatever they're doing here.

And when the players are on the court, fans care about their shoe choice  — so the same should apply off the court, right?

With that being said, Thybulle went with a white croc and is rockin' them. One might even say ... crockin' them. Yes, I actually wrote that.

Anyways, the Sixers are back in action Thursday night when they host the Nets. Then and only then will the bad puns stop ... maybe.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

The fun Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons moment you might've missed during All-Star Game in Chicago

The fun Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons moment you might've missed during All-Star Game in Chicago

There’s been a lot made of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons’ fit on the court. In the past, there have been rumblings of the pair not necessarily getting along off it.

During All-Star Weekend in Chicago, the pair seemed to get along swimmingly.

But there was this fun moment we likely all missed initially.

While it’s true that they’re very different people and may not be best friends, it seems like they have a mutual respect and admiration for one another.

Both players shined throughout the night. Simmons (17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals) put on a show during his first run, dunking everything in sight. Team Giannis basically ran their offense through Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds, one ridiculous Dream Shake on LeBron) down the stretch.

Their chemistry appears to be growing. That could only help the Sixers as they look to go on a run in the final 27 games after the All-Star break.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers