Category Archives: Sixers

What Happened to RoCo Last Night?

One of the more baffling aspects of the Sixers starting line up is which Robert Covington (RoCo) comes to play.  Some nights, RoCo is a great catch and shoot guy from deep. A classic, and very good 3 and D player on the wing. Last night — as we saw for spells last season — RoCo  struggles to find the range.

This comment is apt

Covington will go a long way toward deciding whether this starting five works or not. If he’s a below-average shooter, the Sixers are going to need to move Fultz to the bench in favor of Redick for spacing purposes. But if Covington finds his shot, the Sixers could wind up with the NBA’s best starting lineup.

This is more urgent if Dario can’t find the range either. Last night he could not — missing all of his attempts from 3. Last night’s loss to the Celtics was just one game. And you have to give the Celtics credit. They play very good team defense. And the quality does not go down when Rozier and Smart come off the bench. But some issues are starting to crystallize. And finding reliable shooting from the Sixer wings is one of them.

Stay tuned!

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Here Comes the Sixers/Celtics!

It was just last year, but it seems like a century ago when the Celtics surprised the Sixers in the NBA playoffs and then lost to the Cavs who then lost to the Warriors, who won the NBA title … yet again. It was a great season that ended pretty much the way everyone expected. With Kevin Durant, the Warriors are a better team than anyone else. Errr … even without Durant, the Warriors are probably still a better team than anyone else.

So what about this season? The Warriors have everyone back and now also have Boogie, who may be ready to play around mid-season. You would have to be bonkers to deny that the Warriors have the inside track to winning it all again.

At the same time, there are some rather interesting stories to watch. How will LeBron do in LA? Ditto for Kawhi in Toronto. Will the Rockets be able to challenge the Warriors again?

And last but not least, will the Sixers this year be able to play for the title? That means beating the Celtics and perhaps the Raptors to win the Eastern Conference playoffs. We get a first glimpse of the challenge when the Sixes tip off against the Celtics next Wednesday.

What to watch? All eyes will be on

  • Markelle Fultz – if Fultz can light it up for the Sixers, they have a chance. If he cannot, they don’t. It is that simple Fultz had a good pre-season. He showed that his outside shot is back and made shots off the dribble. He played aggressive defense.  If anything it was too aggressive, as he collected fouls as if he was trying to. Now comes the real test. Fultz needs to demonstrate that the Sixers can rely on him to break down defenses and score.
  • Joel Embiid – Joel is in better physical condition than he was last year, and he has been working hard on his inside moves to the hoop. If Joel’s play is significantly more efficient than last year, the Sixers can dominate inside. That will be fun to watch for and it is critical for the Sixers to have a chance.
  • Ben Simmons – Ben’s game is pretty damned good where it is. But he can take a huge step up if he starts shooting from the outside Last year he did not.  If Ben adds this dimension to his game, it will open up the inside more for Joel.  He doesn’t need to become a sharpshooter, but he does need to get more respect from defenders.
  • Bench play – The Sixers lost Belinelli and Ilyasova. Losing Belinelli is ok because with Fultz starting, the Sixers can play JJ Redick in Belinelli’s place. JJ is a much better player than Belinelli. Same shooting touch, if not better, and better off ball movement. What is not to like? And btw, the Sixers now have Shammet and Korkmaz who both can light it up from outside. All of these players are better than Marco was on the defensive end of the court.  So no worries about losing Marco. What about Ersan? Muscala and Chandler will be relied on to take Ersan’s place. We don’t know yet whether they will be able to handle that role. Stay tuned on that one!

Side shows — Dario and Roco need to play at levels we have come to expect from them. Ditto for TJ McConnell.

Bottom line — If Markelle, Joel and Ben come together this year, the Sixers have a starting lineup that matches any other in the league — even the Warriors.

As for the first game of the season next Wednesday – the Celtics will try to showcase their big guns – Irving and Hayward. But neither has played for a long time and they are likely to be rusty. I think the Sixers will win this first encounter. That does not mean, however, that the Sixers are the better team. Barring injuries, the Celtics will get better as the season goes forward. As they do, the Sixers need Joel to dominate Al Horford in the paint, and Markelle to find and make open shots in order to beat them.

Meanwhile, it is not yet possible to say how the Raptors will do. With Kawhi playing a star role, this is a totally different team from last year.

Onward!

Should the Sixers Go After Jimmy Butler?

If you haven’t heard the news, Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler wants to be traded before training camp starts. He has listed 3 teams that he would prefer – the Knicks, the Nets, or the Clippers.

The Sixers did not make the list. So should the Sixers go after him anyway? As Liberty Ballers points out, the “yes” argument is simple. Butler would fit in perfectly both on offense and defense with the Sixers team.  It would be an immediate talent upgrade.

There are a few reasons, however, why the Sixers may want to sit this one out. First, like Kawhi, Butler has only one year left on his contract. At the end of the season, he may bolt, or he may demand an expensive four year deal. The price might be worth it for the first couple of years, but towards the end of the term, Butler may be dead weight. Second, Butler looks to be a bit of a hand full. The signs are that he does not get along well with younger players, and that he wants to be “top dog”. That may be why the Lakers are not on his preferred destination list. Sure they are in LA, but LeBron is there along with a bunch of young goof balls.  You cannot know for sure if Jimmy will be content to work with Joel, Ben, and Markelle. Here is that concern spelled out

“Then you have the off-the-court drama. Butler forced his way out of Chicago. Now he’s forcing his way out of Minnesota. Maybe the common denominator here is Butler himself. Do you really want to bring a disgruntled, 29-year-old player, that’s never seemed happy playing second or third fiddle to anyone, here to play with two of the brightest young stars in the NBA?”

My take? A lot depends on what the Timberwolves want in return for Butler. RoCo? Saric? Hmmm … I would be reluctant to give them up in light of the risks involved. On the other hand, I would be willing to give up the 2021 Heat first round pick plus a sub. or two.

Would that do it? That depends on a number of intangibles. How quickly do the Timberwolves want to do a deal? The T’Wolves cannot be too happy about the situation. This pretty much explodes their dreams of the awesome trio of Butler, Towns and Wiggins. Now they need a new star.  Will they get that from the Knicks, Nets or Clippers? Probably not. Will any other team with enough salary cap space be able to unload serious talent for one year of Butler? Good question. Or will the T’Wolves think about rebuilding? Give up Wiggins as well for a fresh rebuilt around Towns? If they go that route, the 2021 Miami pick starts looking pretty good.

What do you think?

RoCo plus for Jimmy Butler?

So the Sixers whiffed on LeBron, Paul George and Kawhi. That , however, is not the end of the story. The Sixers still need another top talent to get to the top of the heap.  And there are some possibilities to fill that need.

Jimmy Butler would normally not be available. The T’Wolves did not and do not want to give him up. But Butler turned down their contract extension offer. That may signal that he is ready to move on. It might also mean that he just wants to create a bidding war for his talents in 2019.

If (Butler)  waits until the 2019 free agency and re-signs with Minnesota, he could sign a five-year max contract extension worth $188 million….  And if he leaves to sign elsewhere, Butler would easily garner max contract consideration of four years worth $140 million.

In other words, Butler would have given up the chance to earn around $40 million if he signed the extension. He did the smart thing by saying no.

So, it may boil down to money issues.

If the T’Wolves think that they have a shot at Butler sticking around, they may not make a move and hope to re-sign him next summer. On the other hand, if they are less confident, they may want to do a trade now and get what they can for Butler rather than see him walk.

So would the T’Wolves talk with the Sixers? The Sixers have some very nice assets to talk about. Not Simmons, Embiid, or Fultz. And most likely not Dario either. But RoCo? RoCo is a great defender, with a 3 shot that can be dangerous. He also has an attractive contract. Butler would essentially be a RoCo upgrade, so the Sixers would probably have to throw in something more. The 2021 Heat first round pick?

That looks pretty interesting. And it might appeal to the T’Wolves. RoCo’s play compliments Wiggins pretty well, and that pick would convey just when the one and done rule is out the window. It looks already like 2021 will be a strong draft, and the Heat pick may go high.

Would you do the deal if you were the Sixers GM? Hmmm … I  would be seriously tempted, even if Butler would come with a big price tag. Th e starting line up – Simmons, Fultz, Butler, Daric, Embiid. That is pretty high powered. JJ goes to the bench, where he teams up with TJ, and Chandler, etc. That also looks not so shabby.

Hmmm … something to consider.

Sixer Paradise 2018-2019

Get ready. September is around the corner. Training camp. Pre-season games, and then the season opener against the Celtics. Before anything bad happens, here is what paradise looks like.

  • There are no serious injuries
  • Markelle Fultz breaks out, showing off a re-built jumper and makes 40% of his 3’s. He will slash and dash defenses like a man on a mission, play decent D, and raise everyone’s eyebrows. That will silence those who say the Sixers should have taken Jason Tatum. As Hamlen says, Fultz will play at an all star level. Here is a tease

    • Ben Simmons hits mid-range jumpers consistently and starts setting up for 3’s. It will be ok if he only makes these around 35% of the time. Defenses will have to put their top defender on Simmons, and that person will have a good night if he can deny Simmons a triple double with 20 plus points.  Simmons will make the all start team. Again, a teaser
      • Joel Embiid commits less than 2 turnovers per game, ups his outside shooting, commands the paint on defense, and is a candidate for MVP.
      • RoCo gains consistency from 3. and maintains his defensive stopper status
      • Dario and JJ do their things.
      • the bench defense is upgraded with Zhaire Smith (when he comes back around mid-season), Fultz or Saric, Mike Muscala, and Wilson Chandler. The bench offense hits the level it had with Belnelli and Ersan. Belinelli’s shooting and movement is taken over by Fultz and JJ and Dario. Ersan’s rebounds, shooting and ok defense is upgraded with Muscala and Bolden.  Embiid gets solid backup from Amir Johnson and Muscala (better than what Richaun could offer last year):

If we get all of the above, it will look like this

      • the Sixers win over 60 games, defeat the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, and make it to the NBA finals. They may lose to the Warriors there, but they will make it a good series
      • The 2019 Kings pick conveys as the number 1 overall. The Sixers use that pick to bring in another young stud
      • The Sixers bring in one of the elite free agents for 2019-2020

The above would be mind blowing. Can it happen? Yes. Stay tuned!

The Sixers Motivation Report

Before we get to the Sixers, we might first ask the question what is the biggest challenge facing the Golden State Warriors this year? Answer – motivation. They are the best team in the league and they have proved it more than once. There is nowhere further to go up.

The Sixers are in a different position. The team has not won a league championship since the Reagan era. And they got stomped in last year’s playoffs by a depleted Celtics team. They have a lot to prove as a team. And Brett Brown has to prove that he can win.

But there is more to this story. Their three main players, Embiid, Simmons and Fultz each have their own reasons to be personally motivated.

Starting with Fultz, is there anyone more motivated in the league to prove himself? After his busted first year, Markelle Fultz has to show why the Sixers were right to trade up for him. Embiid? Embiid wants to be MVP: That sets a high goal, but then again, it may not be unrealistic for a dude with his talent. Finally, there is Simmons. He knows that he needs to take the next step up – developing a jumper. Three studs, all chomping at the bit.

I think this will be the main story of 2018-19. The Sixers have something to prove, and it will be a blast to watch them prove it.

Stay tuned!

Will the Raptors Eat the Sixers Lunch Next Season?

The Celtics get the most attention in Philly this summer. And there has been a lot of ink spilled over how the Sixers match up with the Celitcs. But there is another team out there that should not be ignored – the Raptors. The Raptors had the best record in the East last year, and they have picked up Leonard and Green.

How do they match up with the Sixers? Keith Smith has a nice article on this. The bottom line

  • Leonard and Green will be able to give the Sixers a hard time with their perimeter game – something the Celtics did in beating the Sixers in last year’s playoffs. So Simmons and Redick and RoCo might struggle.
  • But the Ratpros cannot match up inside with Embiid and Saric. It is not even close.  Embiid destroyed Valanciunas last year and he will be even more formidable this year. And the Raptors lost a key back up at the 5 spot in the Leonard trade. Saric will also be able to operate in the paint against Ibaka. This is a major mismatch.
  • And the Sixers may have an edge from the bench with Fulz, Chandler. and TJ. Errr … if Fultz shows us he is back.

Answer – at first blush, it appears that the Sixers may have the edge.