Though head coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday he doesn’t expect to have a settled rotation by the Sixers’ first game, we can at least approximate the depth chart before group workouts begin.
Individual workouts started Tuesday, and we already have a few clues to guide us.
The Sixers are at the NBA maximum of 20 players in training camp. They’ll need to trim down to 15 plus two two-way contracts by the regular season.
PG: Ben Simmons, Shake Milton, Tyrese Maxey, Derrick Walton Jr.
Rivers isn’t sure yet whether Simmons is technically a point guard, but he expects him to handle the ball a lot, wants him to play “free” and considers the two-time All-Star a “great decision-maker.” That’s good enough for us to pencil him in here.
Milton shared the floor with Simmons in the Sixers’ post-hiatus starting lineup. However, after Rivers immediately named Milton when asked about second-unit playmaking guards, it appears he’ll start the season in a key bench role.
The idea of Maxey next to Simmons is intriguing because of the 21st pick’s speed and impressive on-ball defensive tools against smaller guards. These aren’t ideal circumstances under which to prove he deserves regular playing time as a rookie.
Walton, a sharpshooting 6-footer who played 23 games for Rivers and the Clippers last season, is on a non-guaranteed contract.
SG: Seth Curry, Matisse Thybulle, Terrance Ferguson, Justin Anderson, Dakota Mathias (Two-way contract)
SF: Danny Green, Furkan Korkmaz, Isaiah Joe, Ryan Broekhoff, Lamine Diane
Curry’s offensive game is more diverse than meets the eye, and Rivers wants to take advantage of that.
“I think we’ll expand (Curry’s) role,” he said. “I think what most people don’t realize is that Luka (Doncic) had the ball in his hands actually more than James Harden had the ball in his hands. When you have a dominant player like that, you don’t touch the ball as much. … Playing against him in the playoffs, we were as scared of his shot as we were scared of his drives — his drives killed us. He’s a clever basketball player so we plan on using his strengths, bottom line.”
Nobody expected Rivers to dismiss Korkmaz as a viable player on Day 1, but he sure had a lot of good things to say about the Turkish wing.
“I love what he can do,” Rivers said. “Obviously it’s tough not having had a practice yet, just doing individual workouts. But Furkan is an extremely skilled basketball player with size. Shoots the ball, can dribble the ball, can play pick-and-roll, moves. He has a very high basketball IQ, you can see that. Still young. I think Furkan is going to be a very big piece to what we do this year.”
Korkmaz said he expected to play more than he did against the Celtics during the Sixers’ first-round playoff loss last season, a series in which he went 0 for 7 overall from the floor and looked vulnerable defensively. Regardless of how high Rivers is on him, one presumes such a performance again wouldn’t be sufficient to earn major postseason minutes.
During an offseason that included stops in Washington and Arizona, Thybulle focused on his three-point shot, calling it “an emphasis for the rest of my career.” He made 35.7 percent of his threes last season, nearly identical to league average, but was just 27.8 percent from long range following a mid-season right knee injury. The 23-year-old is impressed by Rivers’ track record and excited to play for him, but he knows there will be competition for important roles.
“Even though it’s a clean slate for most people and sure, I might have a little bit of an advantage because I was here last year, it’s a new coach,” Thybulle said Wednesday. “I feel like I have to prove myself again. We’ll just see what happens.”
The Sixers will hope that the 33-year-old Green can still convert threes and force turnovers better than the typical small forward. Though he had a relatively off shooting season with the Lakers, Green recorded a 2.1 steal percentage and 0.9 block percentage. He’s been above average among wings in both those categories every full NBA season he’s played, per Cleaning the Glass.
Anderson has a partially guaranteed contract for this season and looks a solid bet to be on the opening night roster.
A close friend of Joel Embiid’s, Anderson received frank feedback when he went to the G League last season.
“… Talking to my agent, sometimes because of my passion and what I’ve shown earlier in my career and my charisma and being upbeat, it can push the limit,” he said. “So once I got to Long Island’s G-League team, a lot of credit goes to (Long Island Nets general manager) Matt Riccardi, who sat me down right away and told me straight up what the league says about me, what the rap is about me and how we’re going to fix it and how we’re going to change it. To this day, he still shoots me checking-in texts.
“He was extremely happy with what I did to help that Long Island team. That just gives you confidence to continue to pursue and keep going, because I know I belong, but it’s shaping the jagged edges, I guess you could say. I think I’ve done a great job with that. So it’s just about continuing to push forward.”
PF: Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, Paul Reed (Two-way contract)
There’s not much depth behind Harris, who Rivers guided to the best stretch of his NBA career on the Clippers and plans to use in more pick-and-rolls.
Scott is in the final year of his contract and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s involved in trade discussions before the deadline. An unvarnished, likable veteran stretch four, Scott played 52 games with Rivers' 2018-19 Clippers. We’ll see whether he can establish a playing role this year.
Reed’s two-way contract allows him to be with the Sixers for as many as 50 games and also play for the Delaware Blue Coats. The G-League season might take place in an Atlanta-area bubble, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
C: Joel Embiid, Dwight Howard, Tony Bradley
Al Horford, Norvel Pelle and Kyle O’Quinn have been replaced by Howard and Bradley. Fresh off his first NBA title, Howard wants to be a mentor to Embiid. Bradley aims to learn from both of them, as well as grow his shooting range.