Sixers Give and Go

What should Sixers' rotation be for playoffs?

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What should Sixers' rotation be for playoffs?

After Sunday night's All-Star Game, we still have three days to kill before the Sixers are back in action. 

Today, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick discuss who should be part of the Sixers' playoff rotation. 

Tuesday, they'll look at how the Sixers can overcome the Celtics, and Wednesday they'll review their expectations for the rest of the season.

Hudrick

Brett Brown has said that his rotation will be at 10 players for now and will go down to nine when the playoffs come. You could make the argument that number should perhaps be eight given how elite the starting five is.

Looking at the five bench guys now, Brown has mentioned that veteran Mike Scott is a lock as the backup four. You figure T.J. McConnell will also be in as the backup point guard. Brown also seems determined to see how much he can use Boban Marjanovic. The other two guys off the bench should be James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons, without a doubt.

Jonah Bolden has been the odd man out, but that may not continue into the postseason. He lost his job as Joel Embiid’s backup really by no fault of his own. He’d been doing a nice job as the backup five and makes a ton of sense as a rim protector that is capable of switching onto guards and can hit the occasional open three.

As we saw in the game against the Celtics, Marjanovic is a liability against bigs like Al Horford and Daniel Theis with the ability to hit shots from the perimeter. Marjanovic was exposed big time in the pick-and-roll, already a sore spot for the Sixers.

With McConnell, he seems more like a matchup-type player as he can be exposed by bigger guards. That’s where the Jimmy Butler point guard experiment comes into play. If I were Brown, my playoff bench would be Scott at the four, Bolden at the five and then either Ennis or Simmons as a backup wing while Butler runs the point. The nice thing about having useful, versatile pieces is you can match up against other teams and also swap players that maybe don't have it on a given night.

If the starters all play around 40 minutes, that leaves about 40 minutes — 13 apiece — for three players. That should be manageable given the strength of the starting unit.

Levick

The playoff rotation is going to have to be largely matchup-dependent. That’s a good thing.

The Sixers now have the personnel to adapt off the bench to most situations. For instance, if you’re playing the Bucks and have to deal with the threat of Brook Lopez as a three-point shooter, you’d likely prefer Jonah Bolden’s quickness and ability to defend away from the rim over Boban Marjanovic. If you’re playing the Hornets, Jonathon Simmons could get more minutes as a physical defensive option against Kemba Walker. T.J. McConnell might play a more prominent role against the Celtics, a team he thrived against last postseason.

Furkan Korkmaz should not be part of the equation; Simmons, Ennis, McConnell and Mike Scott all offer more reliable value. Korkmaz is dependent on hitting three-point shots, and he hasn’t done that consistently. And unlike Korkmaz, Simmons, Ennis, McConnell and Scott all have playoff experience.

We also shouldn’t forget about Zhaire Smith. According to general manager Elton Brand, the expectation is still that he’ll play this season. If Smith gets back on the court and his stint with the Blue Coats goes well, he deserves a shot to show what he can do this year at the NBA level. And if Brett Brown likes what he sees, Smith’s perimeter defense and athleticism could be an intriguing playoff option. 

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Give and Go: What can Brett Brown improve on for new season?

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Give and Go: What can Brett Brown improve on for new season?

Each day leading up to Sept. 21, the official start of Sixers training camp, we'll dissect the biggest storylines facing the team ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Today, Matt Haughton and Noah Levick tackle what head coach Brett Brown can improve upon for the new season.

Haughton
Brett Brown did a lot of things right in his first season with a full complement of legit NBA players. The coached pushed the right buttons last season to help the Sixers claim the No. 3 seed in the East and their first playoff series win in six years.

It’s just that it took a bit of time for Brown to find the correct buttons to put the team in gear.

If you recall, the Sixers started out 2017-18 with a starting lineup that included Jerryd Bayless with Dario Saric coming off the bench. When JJ Redick cracked a bone in his left leg, it was Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot only for him to him to disappear from the rotation later down the line. And of course there was the constant question every game of whether Richaun Holmes would see the floor or not.

It wasn’t until Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova joined the Sixers that Brown was finally able to slot every role just the way he wanted. It’s no coincidence those additions sparked the Sixers 19-3 finish to the regular season.

The better Brown is at the outset of identifying how the players mesh together and determining their roles will be key to the team getting into a rhythm much earlier.

Levick
Brown was excellent last season at accentuating his players’ strengths. He drew up creative plays to get Joel Embiid the ball in the post, made the most of JJ Redick’s ability as a screener, trusted a 6-foot-10 rookie in Ben Simmons to handle point guard duties and encouraged him to push the pace.

If the Sixers are going to take another step forward, Brown needs to be more effective at covering up his players’ weaknesses.

In the Sixers’ postseason loss to the Celtics, Brad Stevens exposed Simmons’ practically non-existent jumper, having his defense sag off the rookie. Brown countered by playing Simmons more off the ball and in the post, but Simmons still had a subpar series by his standards, finishing minus-63, the worst of any player in the series.

The Sixers’ season-long issue with blowing big leads also resurfaced against Boston in a devastating Game 2 loss in which they squandered a 22-point edge. The next day, Brown admitted having second thoughts about not calling a timeout to stop the Celtics’ second-quarter run.

Those sort of heat of the moment, in-game decisions are going to be difficult for any head coach in the NBA playoffs for the first time. But for Brown and the Sixers, who led the league with 16.5 turnovers per game, it’s a continuous struggle to find the middle ground between pushing the tempo regardless of the situation and sitting on a lead, between playing fast and free and taking care of the ball.

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Give and Go: Which Sixers rookie will have the best season?

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Give and Go: Which Sixers rookie will have the best season?

Each day leading up to Sept. 21, the official start of Sixers training camp, we'll dissect the biggest storylines facing the team ahead of the 2018-19 season.

In today’s Give and Go, Matt Haughton and Eric Mullin give their predictions on which Sixers rookie will have the best season.

Haughton
While I’m not necessarily counting on any member of this Sixers rookie class making a major impact, each player possesses what the team desires in first-year players: potential and versatility.

That’s particularly the case for 2018 first-rounder Zhaire Smith and 2017 second-round selection Jonah Bolden given their defensive prowess. Both players should be able to earn time in the rotation thanks to their strong play on D even as they seek to find their offensive games.

But with Smith coming off a fractured foot and plenty of available minutes in the frontcourt, Bolden is the guy.

The Australian product proved his defense is already one of his best assets over the past two summers with the Sixers. During the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas in July, Bolden averaged 1.5 steals and 1.0 block over six games. More important than the numbers, he looked the part of NBA defender, even helping put the clamps on No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton.

Bolden also has the advantage of being more mature at 22 years old and previously competing against grown men overseas in Serbia and Israel. 

If his offense — mainly his three-point shot — ever reaches a consistent level, Bolden could be a serious dual threat for the Sixers. But for now, the team will settle for a reserve big man that can hold his own defensively and chip in the occasional bucket.

Mullin
If Smith hadn’t fractured his foot, I think he’d be the easy answer here. But since it's usually not that simple with Sixers rookies and their health, let’s run through the three other choices.

The team’s other first-round pick, Landry Shamet, should have value as a floor spacer and shooter, but there are questions as to whether he can affect the game at all off the dribble or hold his own defensively.

Shake Milton has good size on the wing at 6-6 and shot over 42 percent from deep on a high volume of attempts at SMU. Though it’s tough to expect much from a late second-round pick who signed a two-way deal and will likely spend most of his time in Delaware this season.

Then there’s draft-and-stash Bolden, who had a summer league to forget before signing with the Sixers. Bolden has some intriguing tools and the optimistic projection for him is to be a rangy, three-and-D big, but he has to improve his consistency for that potential to be actualized.

The big question here is if any of these players will be able to crack Brett Brown’s regular rotation. Just going down the roster, there’s at least 10 players that will almost certainly get minutes to start the season (last season’s starting five, Markelle Fultz, Wilson Chandler, T.J. McConnell, Amir Johnson, Mike Muscala). And Furkan Korkmaz is lurking right behind. So unless a rookie(s) really pops early, it’s going to be tough to get consistent minutes.

Since Smith hasn’t been ruled out for the season (if he was it’d be a toss-up between Shamet and Bolden), I’m actually going to go with him and here’s why: He’s the best bet of the rookies to actually play in the playoffs, mainly because of his defensive ability and versatility. This Sixers team has high aspirations. Their most important games of the season are going to be deep in the playoffs. If Smith doesn’t make it back until around the All-Star break, but is the only first-year player to play himself into the playoff rotation, that would still be the best freshman campaign.

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