76ers

Will Kevin Love's injury open All-Star spot for Ben Simmons?

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Will Kevin Love's injury open All-Star spot for Ben Simmons?

With Kevin Love expected to miss six to eight weeks after breaking his hand Tuesday, another All-Star roster spot is open.

Could it go to Ben Simmons? We'll likely find out from commissioner Adam Silver later today.

Simmons is one of a handful of worthy candidates to replace Love. Andre Drummond is no longer on that list after replacing the injured John Wall.

Simmons' main competition for that final All-Star roster spot appears to be Heat point guard Goran Dragic and Hornets PG Kemba Walker.

Lou Williams is another consideration, but it's more likely that Love's roster spot is filled by someone from the Eastern Conference.

So let's compare the numbers of Simmons, Dragic and Walker.

Simmons: 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks, 52% FG, 56% FT, zero made threes

Dragic: 17.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 44% FG, 76% FT, 1.5 made threes per game

Walker: 22.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 42% FG, 84% FT, 2.6 made threes per game

Simmons has the edge in rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage.

Another advantage he may have over the other two is that, positionally, he'd make more sense as a replacement for Love. (In that regard, Kristaps Porzingis is also a consideration, averaging 23.3 points and 6.7 rebounds for the 23-28 Knicks.)

Of course, stats aren't the only consideration. Team records also matter.

Miami is 29-21, fourth in the East and without an All-Star representative. That plays into Dragic's favor. 

The Sixers are 24-23, eighth in the East and with an All-Star starter in Joel Embiid.

The Hornets are 20-29, 11th in the East and five games out of the playoffs.

Another name we saw surface Tuesday when Wall's injury came out was Jaylen Brown. Though it's confusing why Brown would even be considered. He's averaging 14.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals, shooting 46 percent from the field, 38 percent from three and 59 percent from the line.

Solid numbers, but not All-Star worthy, even when you account for his defense and his team's record.

Drummond himself threw some shade at Brown on Instagram while simultaneously praising Simmons.

Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell headline NBA All-Rookie first team

Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell headline NBA All-Rookie first team

Sixers guard Ben Simmons and Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell continue to be linked in the quest for Rookie of the Year. 

They both were unanimously named to the 2017-18 NBA All-Rookie first team with first-place votes on every ballot. 

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma and Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen rounded out the first team. Tatum was one vote short of also being a unanimous selection. 

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hawks forward/center John Collins, Suns forward Josh Jackson and Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. were named to the second team. 

Simmons (15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 1.7 steals), Mitchell (20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 steals) and Tatum (13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steals) are the finalists for Rookie of the Year. The award will be announced on June 25.

The All-Rookie votes were cast by global broadcasters and sportswriters, choosing five players at any position for each team. First team votes were weighted with two points, second team votes one. 

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Amir Johnson

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

Position: Power Forward/Center

Status for 2018-19: Unrestricted free agent

Johnson in 2017-18
The Sixers signed Johnson to provide solid backup minutes to Joel Embiid. He certainly wasn’t spectacular in that role, but that’s not who he is. He did his job.

Johnson averaged 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, playing in 74 contests. He averaged 15.8 minutes per game, his lowest since the 2008-09 season.

It seemed like Johnson’s name was always linked with Richaun Holmes, the younger, springier center also competing for backup center minutes (see Holmes' evaluation). While Johnson doesn’t have Holmes’ athleticism or offensive ability, Brett Brown preferred the veteran’s defense. During the regular season, Johnson had a 101.3 defensive rating, while Holmes’ was nearly five points worse, at 106.2.

At the start of the postseason, Johnson played some important minutes with Embiid working his way back from a left eye orbital fracture, and he played well. Despite Johnson not creating much of his own offense, the Sixers had no problem scoring when he was on the floor. In fact, Johnson’s 121.5 offensive rating was the best of any player in the first round of the playoffs.

Brown then drastically cut his minutes against the Celtics, Johnson’s former team, leaning heavily on Embiid. Johnson only played 17 minutes the entire Boston series, sitting on the bench for all of Game 4 and 5. He didn’t score in the series.

Signature game
In the Sixers’ 121-113 win over the Hawks on April 10, their 15th straight victory, Johnson posted 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. That game was during Embiid’s recovery from his eye injury, which gave Johnson more of a chance to shine.

When Embiid was active, however, Johnson mainly just held down the fort while the big man got some rest.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Johnson sometimes seems older than he actually is, mainly because of his experience and the way he carries himself. At 31 years old, Johnson has already played 13 years in the NBA, since he was the last player to be drafted directly from high school in 2005 before the league changed its eligibility requirements.

JJ Redick and Johnson were two players the young Sixers could always turn to for wisdom. Johnson never complains about his minutes, always plays hard and goes about his business like a true professional — there’s no doubt he’s a good guy to have in the locker room.

Does that mean he’ll still be a part of the Sixers’ locker room next season? Not necessarily. With the Sixers looking to acquire a superstar this offseason, Johnson would likely have to take a pay cut from the $11 million he made this year if he wants to stay in Philadelphia.

And in the long term, the Sixers may ultimately want to place their faith in Holmes, who’s seven years younger and has a higher upside. If Holmes can improve his defense, Johnson could be expendable.

On Johnson
“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were. People skills, works his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

- Brett Brown on Johnson after the Sixers' 107-86 win over the Jazz on Nov. 20