Sixers Give and Go

What's the Sixers' ideal rotation for 2019-20 season?

What's the Sixers' ideal rotation for 2019-20 season?

With training camp beginning Tuesday, 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: What's the Sixers' ideal rotation for this season? 

Hudrick 

Brett Brown has been criticized for his “rotation” for years and I’ve always thought that was silly. If your players aren’t good and your bench isn’t deep, your rotation isn’t going to be great.

This season, Brown may have the most talented and deepest roster he’s ever had. He has a starting five that should play big minutes and his reserves are a mix of useful veterans and intriguing young players.

Given the chemistry they’ve developed and their talents, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are likely to have all their minutes together — something Brown did more of at the end of the regular season when Embiid was available. The trio of Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson will likely stick together, allowing Horford to slide to the five, Harris to the four and Richardson to a wing spot defensively.

Mike Scott and James Ennis are clearly your first two off the bench. They’re seasoned and offer defensive versatility that meshes well with the members of the starting unit. After that, there are jobs to be won.

I like Trey Burke a little more than Raul Neto but either player should slot in nicely as Simmons’ backup and both can play alongside the 6-foot-10 point guard. Brown also mentioned the possibility of Richardson taking over some point guard duties. Kyle O’Quinn will be a more effective version of Amir Johnson, a veteran big that will be ready at a moment’s notice, whether because of load management or injury.

Then it’ll be the battle of the young guys. Matisse Thybulle, Zhaire Smith, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden will all be fighting for minutes. Ideally a battle between first-rounders in Thybulle and Smith for wing minutes makes the most sense. Both are immensely talented on defense and a little raw on offense.

Brown mentioned at his luncheon Wednesday that nothing is set in stone — especially during the first third of the season. The top seven seem like they are. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Burke be No. 8 and either Thybulle or Smith be No. 9.

Levick 

As far as personnel, I think Mike Scott, James Ennis, Zhaire Smith and a backup point guard — Raul Neto in some spots, Trey Burke in others — should be regular bench players during the regular season. Big man Kyle O’Quinn should also be part of the mix, especially on load management nights for Joel Embiid, and it would be nice to see rookie Matisse Thybulle get some opportunities, too. For me, Jonah Bolden, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton would be the odd men out on most nights.

Brett Brown acknowledged at a luncheon with members of the media Wednesday that “there’s probably five, six guys, you know, seven guys that are gonna have to fight for stuff."

"Always, at the end of the day, the gym tells me," he said. "They will show me, they will tell me, and somebody’s going to put their hand up and grab a spot."

There are a lot of pieces to juggle, and Brown will likely need to trim things down a bit before the playoffs. He’ll have chances to experiment, though, and with that in mind, here are three lineups I think have intriguing potential:

Simmons
Richardson
Harris
Scott
Horford

All starters minus Embiid, with Horford sliding to center and Scott at power forward. I’d expect this group to play together a good amount when Embiid sits, and I like the idea of giving Horford the chance to anchor the defense. You could also put a more conventional wing like Ennis at the three and use Harris at the four if you think Harris could be exploited defensively against a particular opposing small forward. 

Simmons
Smith
Ennis
Horford
Embiid

This group is, like many the Sixers will employ this season, a strong defensive unit. The pairing between Simmons and Horford is one I think could thrive. They’re two 6-foot-10 guys who can run, handle the ball and pass it very well. There are some exciting possibilities between the two with dribble handoffs early in the shot clock and pick-and-rolls with Simmons both as the ball handler and as the roller.

Richardson
Smith
Harris
Scott 
O’Quinn 

Since he’ll likely be a complementary player on offense with the starters, how about allowing Richardson to run the show a bit in these sort of lineups? And with Harris at the wing, you have a strong pick-and-roll player who can initiate, freeing Richardson to move around some off the ball, as well. 

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If healthy, how many games should Joel Embiid play in 2019-20 season?

If healthy, how many games should Joel Embiid play in 2019-20 season?

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: If he stays healthy, how many games should Joel Embiid play this season? 

Hudrick 

This is an easy one to me. The Sixers play 13 back-to-backs this season — many of which feature a lesser opponent in the second half — so that’s at least 13 games Embiid is not playing. That’ll upset people who bought tickets for the games he’ll miss and some analysts who simply detest the “load management” era of the NBA.

Well … tough.

The Raptors won the Finals in large thanks to their load management plan with Kawhi Leonard. Leonard didn’t play in 10 of his team’s 12 back-to-backs last season — he played 60 regular season games total — and was fresh come playoff time. Sure, he was coming off an injury that caused him to miss significant time but we all know Embiid’s injury history. This is the right way to go.

Toronto was able to execute that plan because the rest of the team picked up its play in his absence, going 17-5 without Leonard. GM Elton Brand went out and signed veteran big man Al Horford to play with and back up Embiid. He also signed veteran center Kyle O’Quinn to ostensibly serve as the team’s third center. Those are serious upgrades. The Sixers will also have a full season of Tobias Harris and an evolving Ben Simmons to pick up the offensive load.

It’s also a plan that I believe Embiid has matured enough to accept. He mentioned during his exit interview that he just wanted to be on the court so badly that he lost sight of getting proper rest. He specifically mentioned the example of Leonard for how the team could treat his load management going forward.

The actual number of games will likely hover around 60. What’s way more important is having a healthy Embiid to try to help win 16 games when it matters most.

Levick 

Embiid was leading the league in minutes through the first month or so of last season. He played 54 of 58 games before the All-Star break. A similar volume of minutes this year would be highly inadvisable if we’re being charitable, foolish if we’re being frank.

The addition of Al Horford should lessen the Sixers’ reliance on Embiid. The big man has spoken before about feeling like his team needs him, like he’s letting everyone down when he sits. As a competitor, he also just does not like resting. At one point, he joked, “If these guys ever tell me to take a game off, I might kill them.”

The Sixers were 8-10 without Embiid last season. With a “backup” of Horford’s quality — and Kyle O’Quinn as further insurance — the decline when Embiid rests won’t be close to as bad. 

As far as a good number of games for the Sixers to shoot for with Embiid, there are plenty of factors to consider, among them the fact Embiid says he gets out of shape quickly when sidelined, where they stand with playoff seeding and how to best peak in time for the postseason. Embiid saying he's lost 25 pounds is no doubt a positive and will perhaps alleviate some of the concern about his fitness immediately deteriorating when he rests. Assuming complete health — a big assumption, of course — somewhere around 65 games seems ideal. 



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Who will be Sixers' backup point guard in 2019-20 season?

Who will be Sixers' backup point guard in 2019-20 season?

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: Who will be the Sixers' backup point guard this season?

Hudrick 

This a tough call and should be a legitimate competition.

I like Trey Burke’s game and his ability to get his own shot. It’s a strong NBA skill and not one many of the other Sixers have. He also doesn’t turn the ball over — he’s averaged less than a turnover a game in 17.3 minutes a game the last three seasons combined. He also shot 37.4 percent from three during that span, meaning he could also play next to Ben Simmons. If it were me, Burke would get the first crack at the role.

But Raul Neto seems like the more likely candidate to get backup point guard duties. Neto is a pure floor general who will bring a calming influence that should delight Brett Brown. He started playing professionally overseas when he was 16 and has 20 games of playoff experience under his belt. Neto’s only issue the past couple seasons has been durability, but when healthy, he’s a decent offensive playmaker and shooter (37.7 percent for his career from three).

It should be nice for Brown to have options for once. I still like Shake Milton’s game and would like to see him get a little time as the backup point this season — despite a tough summer league experience. I could also see Josh Richardson getting a few minutes as the team’s primary ball handler. He had the most ball-dominant season of his NBA career last season and averaged 4.1 assists.

Whichever player gets the role will also be aided by Al Horford, an outstanding passer for a big man (4.6 assists per game the last three seasons) who can run some point forward.

Levick 

This is an interesting sequel to the Jazz’s starting point guard competition in 2015-16, when Neto won the job over Burke. I expect that to happen again, but for Burke to still be in the mix and even preferred over Neto in some matchups. Here’s my thinking:

Neto was signed before Burke and his contract is fully guaranteed, whereas Burke’s deal is partially guaranteed, according to reports. Those details don’t indicate the spot is automatically Neto’s, but they do suggest the competition might be slightly tipped in his favor to start.

Burke is a positive in several areas offensively. He’s excellent in the pick-and-roll, has a good assist-to-turnover ratio (3.6 assists to 1.3 turnover for his career) and can create offense out of nothing. Defensively, he’s poor, to the extent that you’d be worried whether he can be picked on in a playoff setting. The 6-foot-1 guard has a defensive box plus-minus of minus-3 or lower each of the last three seasons.

Neto isn’t great defensively, but you figure Brown would be inclined to trust him over Burke. He doesn’t have Burke’s “I’ll get you a bucket” sort of game, but the Brazilian can also put pressure on a defense. In just 12.8 minutes per game last year, he averaged 7.1 drives, shooting 51.9 percent on those possessions.

It’s a luxury to have someone like Burke who can explode for 42 points in a game or go on a solo scoring run, and he could become a necessity if Neto deals with injuries, as he has the last three seasons. Even in the event both are healthy, if the Sixers are struggling to score from the perimeter and/or facing a small point guard who’s a weak defender, Burke might be the guy.

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