76ers

Not worthy of No. 1: LSU reporter details concerns with Ben Simmons

Not worthy of No. 1: LSU reporter details concerns with Ben Simmons

So you think Ben Simmons should be picked first or second in the next month's NBA draft.

We found someone who thinks Simmons doesn't deserve to go in either spot. Someone who has seen Simmons play plenty.

It's USA Today LSU beat writer Glenn Guilbeau, who didn't mince words as a guest Thursday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. Guilbeau didn't question Simmons' desire and motivation — "I don't think that was an issue," he said — but did express concerns with other areas. 

Several other areas.

"To me, he's more of a specialist player and a complementary player than someone who can really take over a team," Guilbeau said. "He's not a strong, inside player like a brute. A physical player. And he also does not shoot from the outside, which is amazing, but he's a great passer and a great scorer."

Complementary player? Can't take over a team? Say what? 

"I don't think he should be the first pick," Guilbeau said. "I can see him being a high first-round pick. It depends on the team he's going to. Do they have enough of the other parts of the team where he can be a facilitator and a complementary player?

"He would have to go to a team where he can flourish as a complementary player, a team that has a very good center."

The Sixers are loaded in the front court with Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and potentially Joel Embiid. But a first overall pick is not supposed to be a complementary player.

"I think you could develop him to be as good as he could be, but not be that type of star," Guilbeau said. "It's kind of strange to me. Before he ever played he was supposed to be the greatest player, and I just never saw it. I covered great players here like Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Jackson, and he just didn't change a team like those guys did."

You'd think a team with the best player in the nation would have fared better than LSU, which finished last season a disappointing 19-14. The Tigers were crushed by Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament, 71-38, failed to make the NCAA Tournament and declined an NIT bid. In the loss to the Aggies, Simmons had 10 points, 12 rebounds and four fouls in 31 minutes.

The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists for LSU and hit 56.0 percent from the field. Gaudy numbers and all team highs. But he was just 1 for 3 from three, and that's a major concern given that he's being projected at almost every position but center.

"I just was surprised -- he didn't even try to shoot from the outside," Guilbeau said. "That would be the normal attribute that a player like him would have because he's a guard. He's basically a guard who can't shoot. Most of them can shoot. That's what I thought was really missing, and it hurt the team at times.

"In my mind, either you can dominate inside like a Shaquille O'Neal, or you can do all the other things, but all the other things has to include shooting from the outside, and he doesn't do that. I'd rather have Buddy [Hield]."

If there's one thing Hield can do — and let's just assume Guilbeau misspoke when he said "Guiled" — it's shoot. And the Sixers certainly need a shooter. But obviously it would be a major shock if they took Hield. 

It will be important for Simmons to develop an outside shot, and it might be more important for him to play under a quality head coach. Guilbeau wasn't praiseworthy of LSU's Johnny Jones, whose Tigers improved in each of his first three seasons as head coach before Simmons' arrival.

LSU won 19 games in 2013, 20 in 2014 and 22 in 2015 — and reached the NCAA Tournament.

"It's going to depend on the coach he gets too," Guilbeau said. "I would say he's never really had a great X and O coach yet in his career. He was on a team that had quite a few players last year, and they didn't do too well. So maybe it will be different depending on what team he goes to. He didn't play under Coach K or anything like that."

For more discussion on the topic, watch Thursday's edition of Lunch Break.

 

Can Elton Brand and the Sixers fix what went wrong with roster construction?

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USA Today Images/Bill Streicher

Can Elton Brand and the Sixers fix what went wrong with roster construction?

The Sixers had so many options heading into free agency last July.

We don’t know yet exactly when free agency will begin this year because of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and the suspended NBA season. Whenever it does happen, though, the Sixers won’t have as many possibilities. 

The decisions to give Tobias Harris a five-year, $180 million contract and guarantee Al Horford $97 million over four years are the two clear, primary reasons the Sixers won’t be in an especially flexible position. In Year 1, those moves haven’t panned out as GM Elton Brand and the front office would have hoped.

In one major way, Horford has actually provided what the Sixers expected. As a backup center, he’s been quite good — the Sixers have a plus-5.2 net rating when Horford is on the floor and Joel Embiid is off it. He’s been much better than a hodgepodge of Amir Johnson, Boban Marjanovic, Greg Monroe and Jonah Bolden. 

However, many of the reasonable concerns that came with signing Horford have come to fruition. The Horford-Embiid pairing has the worst net rating of any two-man Sixers lineup that’s played at least 500 minutes together. If you want an idea of just how poor the offense has been when the two have shared the floor, consider this: Their 100.6 offensive rating together is almost six points worse than any of the Sixers’ two-man pairings last season (minimum 500 minutes). 

Though Brett Brown was talking about aiming to further develop Horford and Embiid together as recently as the day before the season was suspended, that combination is a problem. It’s not what the Sixers would have planned when they signed Horford, but the decision to move him out of the starting lineup in February was very sensible.

Horford has shot more three-pointers than ever in his career, but not at an efficient rate (33.7 percent, his worst mark since the 2014-15 season). We thought he’d likely decline in the later years of his contract and be costing the Sixers money at 35 or 36 years old. To put it bluntly, he’s cost the Sixers money in his first season, and has not fit well. 

Harris, in his ninth NBA season, has improved defensively, is second on the Sixers in scoring (19.4 points per game) and, after an 0-for-23 nightmare of a stretch, has shot 39.1 percent from three-point range. He’s the only Sixer to have played in every game, and younger players like Matisse Thybulle and Marial Shayok have praised his mentorship. All of that matters and is positive, but Harris has not been worth $32.7 million this season.

The main question now — outside of when basketball will return, of course — is whether the Sixers can repair their mistakes.

Is there a team out there that would be willing to take on Horford’s contract and give up any value in return? The Kings, who reportedly were expected to make a “massive offer” to Horford in free agency, are one team it would make sense to engage. Sharpshooter Buddy Hield would presumably be the name of interest.

Trading away Harris looks much less likely, although we’ve learned not to rule anything out during Brand’s brief tenure. It’s difficult to imagine the Sixers receiving a worthwhile return, and Brown and Brand have often portrayed Harris as being an emerging player. They believe he’s going to get more and more comfortable and effective as a primary scoring option.

Josh Richardson, who’s suffered a variety of injuries in his first year a Sixer, is on a team-friendly deal. He shouldn’t be untouchable, but his perimeter defense and shot creation are important for this team, and they come at a good value.

Ben Simmons and Embiid are not what’s wrong with the Sixers and should not be traded at this stage. The pieces around them are the issues. Of course, judgement of whether those are issues the Sixers can overcome is incomplete. We don’t know yet how this roster would fare in the playoffs, and Brand has insisted his team was built with the postseason in mind. 

The Sixers would currently have a first-round pick in the draft — the top-20 protected Oklahoma City Thunder pick they acquired in the Markelle Fultz trade would convey — and that’s one of the ways they should be able to improve their roster. They’ve hit on Landry Shamet, Shake Milton and Thybulle in the draft over the last couple of years. With how Brand has constructed the team, targeting a perimeter player who can shoot, capably create his own shot or do both would appear an obvious priority.

Fundamentally, nobody envisioned this NBA season unfolding the way it has. Whatever is next and whenever the offseason eventually begins, the Sixers will have to discern the best methods to address the unpleasant surprises of this season. 



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Matisse Thybulle is a much better defender in real life than in NBA2K

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Matisse Thybulle is a much better defender in real life than in NBA2K

Matisse Thybulle is known for his defense in real life. In NBA2K, that is definitely not the case.

With the NBA season suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak, Thybulle and the Suns’ Mikal Bridges played each other in 2K on Friday night and streamed the action on Twitch.

Though Thybulle gave Bridges a little bit of a scare with a big third quarter, the virtual Suns beat the virtual Sixers, 75-64. 

While the intensity obviously didn’t compare to a typical game night at Wells Fargo Center, both Thybulle and Bridges — a Villanova product and a Sixer for about 20 minutes before a draft-night trade two years ago — were very into it.

Thyulle decided to sub himself into the game after just 28 seconds, and Bridges did the same 30 seconds later. 

“Which one’s shoot again?,” he asked. “Square?” 

As his team fell behind, Thybulle had some stern words for his players.

“Al, you’re better than that,” he said when Al Horford bit on a pump fake. “You’ve been in the league too long to be making those mistakes.” 

When Ben Simmons had a floater blocked, Thybulle wasn’t thrilled. 

“Ben, you’re 7-foot,” he said. “Just dunk it.” 

And a Mike Scott lay-up early in the third wasn’t what Thybulle was hoping to see. 

At one point, he tried begging for mercy from Bridges.

“Stop running pick-and-roll, I don’t know how to guard it,” he said. “Please. Come on, man.” 

Unfortunately for Thybulle, Bridges did not stop and the rookie left with a loss, albeit an entertaining one.

“I apologize to the Sixers, to my family, my friends, the people of Philadelphia,” he said. “This is not acceptable.” 

After personally finishing with no points on 0 for 3 shooting, Thybulle promised he'll be practicing.



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