76ers

Is Justin Anderson a keeper? Brett Brown letting him shoot enough to find out

Is Justin Anderson a keeper? Brett Brown letting him shoot enough to find out

Brett Brown has had Justin Anderson for all of six games, so he's not yet rushing to judgment about whether or not the 23-year-old swingman is a keeper.

But he's liked what he's seen so far.

"The more time that we spend with him, I'll be a better judge of how quickly he picks things up, a better judge of what you think peoples' ceilings might be," Brown said after Anderson's 19-point game against the Bucks Monday.

"It's been such a quick snapshot that it's unfair really to project out. I think that, from my gut feel, when you talk with him and ask him different questions, there's a good vibe that comes out of that conversation and you feel like there possibly is a keeper because he ticks so many skill packages."

Anderson has had 19 points in two of his last three games, shooting 8 for 12 against the Knicks and 9 for 16 against the Bucks. In the Milwaukee game, he went 0 for 6 from three and 9 for 10 from two, also contributing six rebounds and three assists.

Anderson, acquired on trade deadline day from the Mavericks for Nerlens Noel, has also brought the Sixers a sorely needed infusion of energy during this down period. He's already proven to be the best dunker on the team and the second-most active defender to Robert Covington.

As with most swingmen, Anderson's ceiling will be determined by how well he shoots from long range. In 112 NBA games, he's taken 224 threes and made just 28.1 percent of them, an ugly figure.

If the Sixers can ever get Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the court at the same time, they're going to need to surround them with 3-and-D players like Covington. If Anderson can become another complementary piece, he could have a role on their second unit.

"Does he fit how we want to play? Can he play fast? Can he make a shot? Does he have a toughness?" Brown asked rhetorically. "Defense, pace and space. From time to time he shows, yes he can, in all three of those categories.

"When you look at his age, his body and physical gifts, I get excited to coach him."

If it was 1985, you could look at a player like Anderson and say, "Drive to the basket, finish in traffic, play some D and you'll have done your job." But in today's NBA, if you're a 2 or a 3 and you can't shoot from distance, you're just not that valuable.

With much more opportunity for playing time as a Sixer, Anderson will have the chance to keep shooting threes in game situations. You can take as many wide-open treys as you want in practice, but those are no match for live game reps.

"Luckily, I now have a coach who's super cool, who comes down to the end of the bench and he says, 'Because this team is so long, space out even further. Shoot with confidence, be cocky with your shot,'" Anderson said, referring to the Bucks' length. 

"As a player, when you hear that, it just gives you that thing in your mind that you let all doubt go, it doesn't matter what you're shooting, you take the best three available.

"One of the first things that [Brown] told me when I got traded is that he thinks that I can improve my three-point shooting. He likes the way I shoot the ball, thinks I have a nice stroke. He said I'm gonna take a lot of threes and there may be a lot of misses, but we're going to keep taking them.

"For him to tell not just me that but the whole team, it shows his trust in our ability to shoot the basketball and we've just got to keep letting it go."

The Sixers lack a go-to scorer and rely on constant ball movement, so Anderson will have many more opportunities to let 'em go this season.

How much progress he's able to make in that department will determine whether he becomes a valuable piece in the Covington mold or just another player who came through town during the process.

Sixers at Cavaliers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Cavaliers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (7-5) will look to get back into the win column in Cleveland when they take on the Cavaliers (4-7) this afternoon.

Here are the essentials for today’s game:

When: 3 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

Time to get right

There’s no such thing as a good loss, but man, the Sixers’ losses have been particularly brutal. On Friday night, they held a nine-point lead with 7:20 to go but gave up a 12-2 run and eventually lost in overtime to the Thunder.

The Sixers have glaring issues — especially in their starting five — but Brett Brown feels like he knows what they are.

“If you're sick and you don't know why, that's a problem,” Brown said. “We are in a tough spot right now, but it's a long year. I think that it doesn't take much for me to understand where we have to get better. And it's really that simple. If you're scratching your head, sort of confused, then I think we got some problems and that's not what I'm doing. I think the guys understand the areas that matter most that can best impact changing the way things are going and get back on the winning side.”

We'll see.

Taking care of business

This Cavs team isn’t as bad as perhaps we all thought coming into this season. They start two extremely young guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but they’re still flanked by veteran bigs Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.

Cleveland also gave the Sixers all they could handle earlier this week — especially veteran guard Jordan Clarkson (20 points). The Sixers were able to sneak out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 98-97 win. Then again, when is the last time this team played a game that wasn’t close?

While the Cavs are maybe better than anticipated, this is a team the Sixers should be able to get well against. On Tuesday, they held Cleveland scoreless for over three minutes to close out the game. They need to bring that for 48 minutes and get right with a win over a team they’re clearly more talented than. 

Sorting out the bench

Furkan Korkmaz was scorching hot for a six-game stretch. He shot 50.9 percent from three and averaged 13.8 points in mostly bench minutes. In his last three games, he’s just 4 of 16 from distance. The issue with Korkmaz is if he’s not hitting shots, he doesn’t bring much else to the table. You saw Oklahoma City pick on him in overtime after Tobias Harris fouled out.

Korkmaz has been getting the most minutes off Brown’s bench recently. Should he be? Rookie Matisse Thybulle got off to a roaring start, but has looked overmatched offensively. With that said, he’s just so special defensively, Brown should deal with the growing pains on the other end. In games Thybulle has played at least 12 minutes, the Sixers are 6-1.

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There are positive signs, but still glaring issues with Sixers

There are positive signs, but still glaring issues with Sixers

After dropping their second straight game in overtime Friday night in Oklahoma City (see observations), the Sixers at times sounded like a team looking for answers.

More of that is likely struggling to answer questions coming off another brutal loss. They have an idea why they’ve lost five of their last seven after starting their season 5-0. A large part of it is a group with a bunch of new faces that are still figuring each other out. On Friday, fouls were an issue as they allowed the Thunder to attempt 41 free throws.

For a team that has championship aspirations and got off to such a hot start, this isn’t where they expected to be 12 games into the season.

“Obviously we're frustrated,” Tobias Harris said to reporters postgame. “7-5 is not where we want to be. It's early in the season and right now we're going to progress and get better and figure out ways that we can help each other and help our team and go from there. This game is over. Tomorrow, we'll watch film on it, we'll find out which ways that we can better ourselves and be ready for the next game. [We’re] 7-5 right now but ... we'll just go into the next game and be ready to get that win and go from there.”

There are reasons for optimism — with Harris being arguably the biggest.

After missing 23 straight threes and looking lost recently, Harris splashed his first trey of the game and looked like a totally different player. He finished with 21 points on 8 of 16 from the field and 3 of 4 from three. He was much more aggressive and decisive than he’d been in the previous two games.

Josh Richardson, returning to his native Oklahoma, has continued to show signs of improvement. He poured in 28 points, his highest total as a Sixer. More importantly, he’s looked much more comfortable in the offense as he figures out his role.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both had their moments. Embiid had a game-high 31 points and Simmons broke out after a quiet first half to play the entire second half.

One of the team’s biggest issues is figuring out the pairing of Embiid and Al Horford. The reality is Horford has never played with a center like Embiid who demands the ball and attention offensively. It’s been an obvious adjustment for Horford, who shot just 5 of 12 Friday and has done most of his damage with Embiid off the floor.

The uncomfortable offensive fit for the entire starting five has been a big reason the Sixers have been involved in so many close games. A familiar theme emerged Friday, as the Sixers held a nine-point advantage with 7:20 to go in the game. Instead of hitting the gas and putting the Thunder away, they gave up a 12-2 run and saw their lead evaporate.

These are talented players that have won in different places. They’re still learning how to win together.

“I was just telling Al about that,” Harris said, “and really it's just I think a matter of right now we are yet to be up like eight points and push that to 15 and really push what we're doing and move forward with that, and really imposing our will and dominating. And that's something that we have to get to and that's something I think we're still learning — how we can do that and how we can make those type of runs. That's something we definitely got to get better at.”

The good news is you see the talent and recognize some of the issues.

And Brett Brown has 70 games to figure it out.

“If you're sick and you don't know why, that's a problem,” Brown said. “We are in a tough spot right now, but it's a long year. I think that it doesn't take much for me to understand where we have to get better. And it's really that simple. If you're scratching your head, sort of confused, then I think we got some problems and that's not what I'm doing. I think the guys understand the areas that matter most that can best impact changing the way things are going and get back on the winning side.”

They know the problems, now they just have to answer the questions.

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