Joel Embiid

Is the Sixers' new-look starting 5 better or just new?

Is the Sixers' new-look starting 5 better or just new?

The Sixers’ starting lineup will look completely different in 2019-20. It remains to be seen if the new look will be better.

Gone are Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick. In are Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Still, the Sixers have one of the most talented starting units in the entire NBA with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Horford and Richardson.

In this year’s edition of Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players of 2020, all five players are ranked fairly … for the most part. (You can check out the whole list and criteria for yourself.)

Not only are all five starters in the top 100 but they’re also all in the top 75. 

The lowest ranked is Richardson at 71, sandwiched between Harrison Barnes and Thaddeus Young. This feels like a good spot for J-Rich, though he was listed in the same exact spot for 2019 and certainly improved. He’s an ascending player that the Sixers may be getting at the perfect time of his career as he enters his age-26 season.

Next was Harris at 49, just ahead of Gary Harris of the Nuggets. Like Richardson, this seems fair, but Harris saw a nice jump. Harris was No. 65 on the list last year. Also, like Richardson, Harris is still improving and just turned 27 this summer. The pair of Tennessee alums have had a similar rise in the NBA and it’ll be interesting to see what they can do in a full year with the Sixers.

There are teams with impressive star power on the list. Both L.A. teams have two players in the top 10 — the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard (2) and Paul George (8) and the Lakers with LeBron James (3) and Anthony Davis (6). The Rockets have James Harden (5) and Russell Westbrook (12).

But one of the most notable facts is that the Sixers have three players in the top 25, the only team that can make that claim.

Simmons rose three spots from 26 to 23 while Horford dropped two spots from 16 to 18. Embiid also rose a couple spots from No. 9 to No. 7. (Perhaps the only thing that seems out of line is Anthony Davis being ahead of Embiid at No. 6, but I digress).

When you consider that Richardson and Horford are taking the place of Butler (11) and Redick (67), it’s an interesting trade off. The departed players are ranked higher but their value to the Sixers — something that SI outlines isn’t part of the equation when making the list — is different. Sure, the Sixers will miss Redick’s shooting, but Richardson’s defense is immensely better. Butler’s ability to create his own shot was huge for the Sixers, but Horford being able to play next to and back up Embiid may prove to be invaluable. Plus, it doesn’t seem out of line to say that Horford will be better for the Sixers’ locker room.

So is the Sixers’ starting five better? According to SI’s list, no.

But games aren’t played on paper — or on the internet — so we’ll find out for real starting Oct. 23.

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How many Sixers will make the 2020 NBA All-Star Game?

How many Sixers will make the 2020 NBA All-Star Game?

With training camp getting closer, there are plenty of topics to discuss involving the 2019-20 Sixers. Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick.

In this edition, we ask: How many All-Stars will the Sixers have this season?

Hudrick

The Sixers have one shoe-in All-Star with Joel Embiid. He’s the best big man in the Eastern Conference and, in one writer’s opinion, the best in the NBA. If he's healthy, he's in. I also have a hard time believing Ben Simmons won’t participate in his second All-Star game. If he brings that jumper we’ve seen over the summer to the regular season, he’s a lock.

The question will be about Tobias Harris — and possibly Al Horford. 

Harris probably should’ve been an All-Star last year but couldn’t crack the Western Conference’s deep roster despite a stellar first half with the Clippers. Now in the less talented East and with a bigger, more defined role in the Sixers’ offense, Harris should notch his first All-Star appearance. Harris has a chance to be the second-leading scorer on the East’s best team. That was good enough to get Khris Middleton into the game last season.

As for Horford, it should be an interesting debate. He hasn’t put up All-Star numbers recently, but he’s still one of the better bigs in the conference and is only one year removed from his 2017-18 selection. It could be a similar situation to Horford’s 2014-15 Hawks where four of the five starters of that 60-win Atlanta team were All-Stars. If the Sixers get off to a hot start, they could be looking at four guys getting in.

The prediction here is Embiid, Simmons and Harris all get in, but don’t be surprised if Horford sneaks in as well.

Levick

I think the Sixers will have three All-Stars for the first time since the 1986-87 season, when Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks and Julius Erving were selected. 

Joel Embiid would likely need to have a steep regression or suffer a serious injury to be excluded. Ben Simmons joined the club last year and, regardless of the state of his jump shot this season, should be among the best 24 players in the game. His assist numbers might take a hit with the departures of JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler, whom Simmons last season assisted 1.7 and 1.2 times, respectively. However, I expect Simmons to improve defensively and give more consistent effort on that end of the floor for a team that has the talent and mindset to be excellent there.

In his ninth NBA season, I think Tobias Harris will crack the All-Star Game for the first time. Harris now has the license to assert himself offensively and, you presume, will now be one of the Sixers’ main options late in games. He should score more than the 3.7 points per game he averaged in the fourth quarter last season. Defense will probably be an issue at times for Harris against the wings he’ll be asked to guard, but Embiid, Al Horford and company should help paper over his deficiencies. 

Horford will be valuable in many ways, including as a competent three-point shooter, excellent interior defender, elite passer and astronomical upgrade over any backup to Embiid the Sixers had last season. Four All-Stars isn't out of the question for the Sixers, but I don’t foresee the 33-year-old Horford making his sixth appearance.

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Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons go lower than you might expect in ESPN's draft of top stars to build a franchise around

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons go lower than you might expect in ESPN's draft of top stars to build a franchise around

Hypothetical drafts are the sort of exercise always subject to scrutiny, especially when they’re not based on a ton of objective criteria.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Tim McMahon and Royce Young recently did a draft for the NBA stars they’d build a franchise around. Sixers fans likely won’t agree with where Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons fell on the list of 21 players selected — Embiid went 14th, Simmons 19th.

Marc Zumoff was not a fan.

The qualities Windhorst, McMahon and Young weighed the highest were “if they could select any player on a four-year max contract, elite-level skill and the length of the star's prime window.”

Embiid, a two-time All-Star at 25 years old and Simmons, an All-Star at 23, would seem to score well in those categories.

So, why’d they drop so low?

Windhorst said of Embiid that he was “a little bit surprised he goes in the lottery because of his injury history.”

While that’s a reasonable concern with Embiid, he seems a better, safer pick than several players above him.

Two who stand out are Zion Williamson (11th), a 19-year-old yet to play in an NBA game, and LeBron James (13th), a 34-year-old who missed a career-high 27 games last season. 

The rationale for Simmons going 19th is fair.

“He has a significant flaw in his game that we all recognize,” Young writes. “And he's still a dominant player. And so that speaks to how good he is at those other things. And yes, if he can round out the shooting, then we're talking about one of the top four or five players in the NBA, most likely.”

Some of the players who went ahead of Simmons, though, are perplexing.

Donovan Mitchell (16th) finished second to Simmons in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017-18 and didn’t make the All-Star team in his second season. Mitchell is a good young player, a high-volume scorer who knows he needs to improve defensively. He’s not better than Simmons, who’s seemingly on the cusp of making an All-Defensive Team, a special player when allowed to build up a head of steam, and quite a bit more effective in the half court than the “average” label Jared Dudley gave him.

Rudy Gobert is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, but you’d think Simmons would have an advantage over the 27-year-old Gobert in the upside category.

Taking a bigger-picture look, you can see why a group of writers who cover the NBA at large wouldn’t draft Simmons or Embiid very high. Their flaws — Simmons’ shot and Embiid’s health — are both near the top of the bullet points in any discussion about their value, and that’s valid. Nuances like Simmons’ development as a passer out of the post or the Sixers’ desperate reliance on Embiid last season naturally won’t be at the forefront of much national coverage. 

Ultimately, it’s just a list that’s going to be skewed by certain biases in the same way a Sixers writer’s assessment of Mitchell and Gobert won’t be as informed as that of someone who covers the Jazz on a regular basis.

Zumoff doesn’t care, and it would be surprising if Simmons or Embiid did either.

For what it’s worth, Windhorst mentions Jimmy Butler, but the former Sixer did not get selected.

You can find the full draft here



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