76ers

Sixers Mailbag: Pressure on Joel Embiid, Brett Brown?

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Sixers Mailbag: Pressure on Joel Embiid, Brett Brown?

Training camp begins this month, so you know what that means … another edition of the #CSNSixersMailbag. From playoff expectations to Embiid’s back-to-backs to the guards’ roles, these are the questions on your mind about the Sixers.

All three could be on the court at the end of a game. Of course, that depends on matchups and if the Sixers are going big. In this scenario, Simmons could be at the one, Covington at the three, and Saric at the four. The Sixers will have the flexibility to experiment with numerous lineups throughout the season. Because so many players can play different positions, they won't have to rely on just one unit in tight games.

Confidence always has been key to Nik Stauskas' game. He should enter this season carrying it over from the previous one. Stauskas shot career-bests with 39.6 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range in his third year, ran the point in a pinch and also focused on improving his defense. He will have the invaluable opportunity of picking the brain of one of the best shooters in the league, JJ Redick.

I am interested to see what the Sixers end up doing with Stauskas this season. He is in the final year of his contract, which automatically puts him on my trade watch list. Stauskas boosted his value last season and the Sixers are overcrowded at the two spot. Will he play the entire season in Philadelphia? That is an uncertainty worth keeping an eye on.

The Sixers signed Jerryd Bayless last season for reasons that still are applicable on this revamped roster. Let's start with on the court. Bayless has combo guard skills that allow Brett Brown to play him at the point and shooting guard. Originally, the plan was for him to complement Ben Simmons while Simmons ran the floor. That changed when both players missed last season because of injuries. This season, Bayless can either be the point guard or play off the ball at the two. 

Off the court — and this cannot be overlooked on a young team — Bayless was brought in to be a leader. The Sixers will be relying on two rookies, Simmons and Markelle Fultz, who have never played an NBA game to take on starting roles. Players like Bayless and Redick will be instrumental in their development. Bayless already formed a mentor-like relationship with Simmons last season while both were rehabbing.

If it were up to Joel Embiid, he would play 48 minutes in 82 games. But it's not. Embiid's playing time will be determined, once again, by the team. He has the pressure to stay in shape and well-conditioned, especially with the possibility of a contract extension. Beyond that, the Sixers will map out how frequently he's on the court.

More pressure will be on Brett Brown as long as the Sixers are healthy. If he has a fully available roster, this will be the first time he will actually be able to coach for a whole season. Brown had a brief window of opportunity last January when the team went 10-5 before Embiid was sidelined.

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Back-to-backs will be a storyline all season. The Sixers held Embiid out of consecutive games after he missed his first two seasons because of injuries. He is entering his second season, coming off knee surgery in March and has not played in a game since Jan. 27. In June, Brett Brown said the idea of Embiid and Ben Simmons playing without minute restrictions is "ambitious."

I would expect the Sixers to proceed with caution and hold him out of the majority of back-to-backs. With 14 back-to-back series, my prediction is he plays in two sets of consecutive games. The Sixers' priority is keeping Embiid healthy for the long-term and playing two straight nights in December, let's say, isn't worth the risk.

Sixers rookie Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Sixers rookie Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Finally, some good health news, Sixers fans.

While Zhaire Smith continues an unfortunate trend of Sixers’ rookies suffering injuries, two other 2018 draft picks are progressing.

First-round pick Landry Shamet (sprained right ankle) and second-round pick Shake Milton (stress fracture in his back) are both asymptomatic, the team said Monday.

Shamet has been cleared for “light basketball activities” while Milton can “resume limited basketball activities.”

Shamet, a guard out of Wichita State, got banged up in the first half of the Sixers’ first summer league game against the Celtics. Shamet logged just 12 minutes before suffering the ankle sprain. He hit 2 of 5 from three for six points during the stint.

Milton never got the opportunity to play in summer league having suffered his injury during the pre-draft process. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward out of SMU is on a two-way contract with the Sixers, meaning he’ll spend the majority of his season with the Delaware Blue Coats and can spend no more 45 days with the big club.

Smith, the 16th overall pick acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and underwent successful surgery last week. There’s been no timetable for his return.

Both Shamet and Milton offer something the Sixers covet: shooting. Shamet shot 44 percent on 5.1 threes a game in 71 games. Milton was also proficient, shooting 43 percent on 5.1 attempts from distance in 87 games.

The Sixers’ rotation should be a tough one to crack this season, but being healthy for camp would be a fine start for Shamet and Milton.

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

Despite coming up empty in their goal of star hunting this summer, the Sixers are still currently one of the more desirable franchises in the NBA.

They reached the second round of the playoffs last season behind two up-and-coming stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Plus, the organization has a respected head coach in Brett Brown, state-of-the-art training complex, an intense fan base and much more to offer.

At least that’s how free-agent scorer Jamal Crawford views things.

“I like their city. I like how into it they are about basketball. I like their knowledge of basketball, how passionate they are,” Crawford said of Philadelphia last week to Brandon Robinson on Scoop B Radio. “I’ve always loved coach Brett Brown. I’ve been on record. I’ve been a fan of his for years. He just needed talent, and now he has that. He added Ben Simmons, I love his game. I love Jo-Jo. They’re both among my favorite players in the league to watch. Markelle (Fultz) is like a little brother to me. Obviously, he went to the University of Washington, and we talk every other day. JJ Redick is like a brother to me. We’ve been through wars together, so there’s so many things to love about Philadelphia for sure.”

That’s high praise from a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner. High enough to the point that he would want to suit up for the Sixers?

“I think for me, especially being out there as a free agent, something could work out,” Crawford said. “I would be honored to play there, but things obviously have to take its course and I kind of got to sit back, but who wouldn’t want to play there?”

Well, that cleared things up. 

Now the Sixers, in a new position with players openly offering their services to them, have to be clear too: Crawford isn’t the answer.

No, not “The Answer” although Crawford does have some legendary crossover moves of his own. The 18-year veteran simply isn’t the right fit for this Sixers squad.

For all of Crawford’s accomplishments over nearly two decades in the NBA, the 38-year-old has been on a steady decline. His scoring has dropped in each of the past five years until he posted 10.3 points a night last season with Minnesota, his lowest mark since he averaged 10.7 a night way back in 2002-03.

While Crawford attributed his struggles with the Timberwolves to limited minutes, that doesn’t have anything to do with his efficiency or lack thereof. Crawford shot 41.5 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three-point range in 2017-18. Those numbers aren’t outliers either as he has career averages of 41.0 percent field goal shooting and 34.9 percent three-point shooting.

And it’s not just the scoring itself. It’s also how Crawford scores the ball. Even though he received only 20.7 minutes per game with the T-Wolves, Crawford was 13th in the entire league in isolation frequency with 19.8 percent of his possessions coming in a one-on-one setting. For comparison, Simmons was the highest Sixer in isolation frequency at 9.0 percent (87th in the NBA).

It’s understandable the Sixers might be still be looking to replace the veteran scoring off the bench lost by the departures of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, but Crawford’s game doesn’t exactly scream the pace-and-space mantra preached by the club.

That just shows how Crawford isn’t an ideal fit offensively. We won’t even get into the defensive end of the court (*cough* Crawford had a defensive rating of 112.9 last season, which means opponents averaged that many points per 100 possessions he was on the floor, good enough for 490th out of 523 total players *cough*).

Crawford does still have a place in the league. He’s a volume scorer that can potentially get hot on any given night and pour in 30 points. He’s also great in the locker room, a reason he took home Teammate of the Year award in '17-18.

But with the above signs of decline as well as T.J. McConnell and a rejuvenated Markelle Fultz penciled in as the Sixers’ reserve backcourt, there might not be the opportunity in Philadelphia that Crawford is seeking out.

Part of the Sixers now being desired is having the power in their hands. This might be a perfect time to use that to their advantage and ignore Crawford’s interest.

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