76ers

Sixers reportedly ink Kris Humphries to non-guaranteed deal; sign Jacob Pullen

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Sixers reportedly ink Kris Humphries to non-guaranteed deal; sign Jacob Pullen

The Sixers are busy just days before the start of training camp. 

The team plans to sign veteran forward Kris Humphries to a non-guaranteed deal, according to The Vertical

Humphries fits with the Sixers’ plan for a versatile system. At 6-foot-9, he can knock down a long-range shot. Last season on the Hawks, he averaged 42.9 percent from 16 feet from the rim to the three-point line and 35.2 percent from three, according to Basketball-Reference.com. 

Humphries also averaged 3.7 boards in 12.3 minutes. The 32-year-old is entering his 14th NBA season and will add to the Sixers’ growing group of veteran players. 

The Sixers also signed 6-foot-1 guard Jacob Pullen, who was a member of BC Khimki in the VTB United League (Russia) last season. Pullen, 27, also has played in Italy, Israel, Spain, and Croatia. He was a standout at Kansas State (2007-11) and reached the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons. 

Pullen has been getting acclimated to the city. Earlier this month, he tweeted:

The Sixers will hold their media day Monday and open training camp Tuesday. 

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Where do Sixers stand after Jimmy Butler trade?

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Where do Sixers stand after Jimmy Butler trade?

The second edition of our weekly Eastern Conference power rankings is an interesting one, as we look at how things stand after the Sixers' trade for Jimmy Butler. 

1. Toronto Raptors (12-3) Last week: 1 
Pascal Siakam is having a breakout season for the Raptors. The third-year forward from Cameroon is averaging 14.1 points and 6.5 rebounds. Despite two straight losses, the combination of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry and an incredibly deep bench (the Raptors have 11 players averaging more than 14.9 minutes) keeps the Raptors at the top of the East, although the next three teams are not far behind.

2. Milwaukee Bucks (10-4) Last week: 3
Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 25.8 points per game and shooting 56 percent from the field, which is ridiculous. That’s the highest shooting percentage of any player averaging at 17.5 points. Milwaukee leads the East in a bunch of pretty important categories, including points per game; three-point makes; three-point percentage; points in the paint; rebounding; and defensive rating. Though Milwaukee has returned to earth after a 7-0 start, they still look like a real contender.

3. Boston Celtics (8-6) Last week: 2
The Celtics have the highest percentage of open shots (closest defender four to six feet away) and wide open shots (closest defender six-plus feet away) in the league. It’s inevitable that they’re going to start hitting more of those shots. Still, the 1-4 road trip Boston just returned from is a concern. They keep starting slow, spotting their opponents huge first-half leads, and Gordon Hayward isn’t yet anywhere near what he was pre-injury. 

4. Philadelphia 76ers (9-7) Last week: 4
It’s hard to argue that the Sixers didn’t get better through the Jimmy Butler trade. They added one of the best two-way players in the game, a star who gives them the shot creation and perimeter defense they were lacking. In order to compete with the Celtics, Bucks and Raptors, the Sixers needed a player like Butler. But it’s likely going to take some time to integrate Butler and make the most of his talent. As the season progresses, there's a good chance the Sixers rise up these rankings.

5. Indiana Pacers (8-6) Last week: 5
Victor Oladipo’s Most Improved Player campaign was no fluke, and the Pacers have a solid, deep supporting cast — seven players average more than 9.4 points per game. While the league is playing faster and taking more threes, Indiana is the doing the opposite. They’ve taken the second-least threes in the East, and play at the slowest pace in the conference. 

6. Charlotte Hornets (7-7) Last week: 8
The Hornets actually have the third-best point differential in the East. They turn the ball over less than any team in the NBA. While Kemba Walker has struggled in his last three games (20.3 points per game on 32.3 percent shooting), he’s one of the best scorers in basketball. Charlotte is a clear step or two below the top tier in the East, but they’re not an easy opponent.

7. Detroit Pistons (7-6) Last week: 7
Reggie Bullock’s buzzer-beater gave the Pistons a great comeback win on Wednesday night in head coach Dwane Casey’s return to Toronto. Detroit has the most second-chance points in the East. 

8. Miami Heat (6-8) Last week: 6
Outside of Josh Richardson, there’s not a ton to be excited about for the Heat. As a team, they don’t do anything exceptionally well.

9. Orlando Magic (7-8) Last week: 11
The Magic have won five of their last seven, and are feeling good about themselves after erasing a 16-point deficit in Wednesday’s win over the Sixers. 

10. Washington Wizards (5-8) Last week: 12
Three straight wins have given the Wizards a needed boost, even if none of them were against very good competition. On paper, Washington is still better than their record. After finishing fourth in assists last season, the Wizards are 21st in that category.

11. Brooklyn Nets (6-9) Last week: 9
Caris LeVert’s injury on Monday night was devastating for the Nets.
   
12. New York Knicks (4-11) Last week: 10

The Knicks have lost their last three games by an average of 22.3 points. Rookie Kevin Knox replaced Frank Ntilikina in the starting lineup on Wednesday.

13. Bulls (4-11) Last week: 13
Zach LaVine is in a shooting slump, which is bad news for the Bulls. Chicago has been outscored by 8.1 points per game, 28th in the NBA.

14. Hawks (3-12) Last week: 14
Atlanta played the Lakers and Warriors close on the road, but the Hawks have a six-game losing streak heading into a very difficult stretch (their next four games are against Indiana, the Clippers, Toronto and Boston). Trae Young has the the second-worst three-point percentage of any player with at least six long range attempts per game.

15. Cavaliers (2-12) Last week: 15    
It feels like just about everyone on the Cavs is injured. Cleveland somehow beat the Hornets by 24 on Tuesday, then lost to the Wizards by 23 on Wednesday. They’re the only team in the East without a road win and have the worst defensive rating in the NBA.

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All of Brett Brown's decisions under more intense scrutiny than ever

All of Brett Brown's decisions under more intense scrutiny than ever

Now that the Sixers have completed much of the process, the pressure rests on Brett Brown to deliver the team to the promised land.

The arrival of Jimmy Butler has brought a renewed vigor to the Sixers' season and represents an important step in The Process. The roster is much better than it has ever been under Brown’s leadership, and a fan base excited for the young Sixers to compete for a championship is ready to see dividends from their investment.

For Brown, signed through the 2022 season, the pressure may never be greater for him to win and win now.

Brown’s time managing a subpar roster made him one of the master tinkerers in the NBA, oftentimes piecing together rotations with players never intended to win games. Now comes another test of his coaching acumen, making these pieces fit.

The concerns regarding the rotation came up in Jimmy Buckets’ debut last night. Despite a strong start from Embiid (4 for 5 shooting, 11 points, three threes), Brown kept to his regular rotation, taking him out of the game halfway through the first quarter, seemingly stalling his momentum. And a hot shooting Wilson Chandler didn’t see the floor during critical moments of the fourth quarter. Those rotational issues will only get more complex, as it seems general manager Elton Brand isn’t finished making moves just yet.

For young teams in the NBA looking to make the leap from exciting lineups to competing rosters, it’s not unusual for front offices to bring in a different coach to continue the team’s growth. The Golden State Warriors replaced head coach Mark Jackson with Steve Kerr after three seasons in Oakland, even after Jackson took them from 23 wins to 51. Kerr was a major key, however, as the Warriors went on to win three of the next four NBA titles.

We're seeing this season the value new head coach Mike Budenholzer has added to the Bucks. The Raptors seem to be taking a forward step with Nick Nurse replacing Dwane Casey.

If Brown is unable to deliver significant progress this year for the Sixers, the new-look Sixers front office could look at some point to upgrade the position with a more win-now head coach.

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