Sixers fans will be excited to have TJ McConnell back in the building.

Well, game day is upon us. The Sixers kick off their seeding games tonight against Indiana. They are playing for a tie in the season series against the Pacers and a chance to move up to the fifth seed in the East. In yesterday’s media availability, Brett Brown down-played the significance of his team’s first affair in Orlando. But, the importance of this game is undeniable. As the clock ticks down to tip-off, I thought it would be a good opportunity to invite questions. So, here’s the first Sixers mailbag of the Orlando bubble, and my first Sixers mailbag ever. I plan on doing one every two weeks (as long as they’re in Orlando). If you have questions, DM me on Twitter (@KrellTPL), email me (austinkrell@thepaintedlines.com), or just reply when I tweet about a mailbag opportunity.

Now, the floor is yours.

It’s not that deep. When you’re in a bubble situation like these players are, you’re going to see them naturally gravitate towards the teammates with whom they are the closest. Thybulle is considered to be Tobias Harris’ “rook”, so, naturally, they’re going to be pretty close. Joel Embiid is also known to keep things low-key when he’s not on the court. He spends significant time playing video games in his free time, so he might not be out and about with Thybulle. But, again, it’s not that deep.

I touched upon this topic a week ago prior to the first scrimmage, but the role he played in those scrimmages seemed fairly indicative of how Brown would deploy him in a limited role. It seems both the Sixers and Burks, himself, are most comfortable with him providing an offensive spark as a ball-handler in the pick-and-roll. I would look for his usage to come as a shot-creator out of the pick-and-roll in short bursts off the bench.

You might see him deployed a bit off of the basketball, but a significant portion of his scores came on self-provisioned shots this season. While the off-ball role is something to consider, he’s clearly more comfortable (and, perhaps, effective) as a creator. The issue is, however, that the Sixers have two other true guards who can handle, create, and don’t have tunnel vision for the basket, like he does. His opportunity cost isn’t high enough to justify giving him significant minutes over Josh Richardson or Shake Milton.

Also, he is a significant liability on defense:

This is just a microcosm of why Burks can’t be trusted on defense. You can’t get back-cut this severely in crunch time and expect a significant role in the playoffs.

Beyond Embiid, Simmons, and Harris, I don’t think any player on the roster should be sure that his minutes are locked in. It should fluctuate depending on performance and need. If Thybulle has an impressive showing in the eight seeding games, 18 minutes per game feels like a fair estimate. If he reverts to his overly-aggressive fouls, inconsistent shooting, and poor ball-handling, then I think you might see those minutes get chopped to 10-or-fewer per game when the playoffs start.

Great question, and an incredibly difficult one to answer confidently. The Sixers have the second easiest schedule of the 22 teams in Orlando. The Thunder have the eleventh easiest schedule. Obviously, you don’t want to wish injury on anyone. But, I think the Thunder are better equipped to handle a potential injury than the Sixers are. That’s a factor that should be considered. Additionally, the pick would convey to the Sixers if the season ended today, as the pick is slotted outside of the top 20. The Thunder are 40-24 and the Sixers are 39-26, so their record leads the Sixers’ by 1.5 games. As of now, it seems very much 50/50.

Let’s not overstate what transpired since Trey Burke was waived. He had a tremendous showing last night in Dallas’ first seeding game. “Flourishing” is an exaggeration. He’s gone through heat waves throughout his career. What it comes down to is that Rick Carlisle utilized him heavily in the pick-and-roll. Burke was put in a good position to score off-the-dribble or make easy passes. The Sixers are towards the bottom of the league in pick-and-roll usage. The difference is that Dallas’ offense is constructed to utilize a shot-creating point guard. The Sixers’ offense is not.

Now, to the DMs we go.

Pierre (@PierreB3_): Who are your top 3 Sixers draft targets?

The short answer is anyone who can dribble and shoot in the same sequence.

From the evaluations my colleagues at The Painted Lines have done, Tyrell Terry would be an excellent option, but he translates more as an off-ball shooter. Desmond Bane is also a strong fit, as he possesses a dribble package that he’s comfortable with utilizing to create space for shots. Bane also has the guts to pull–and hit–from questionably deep spots. Pure shooters don’t have consciences. They don’t remember the misses, only the makes. Bane fits that mold.

I evaluated Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickley, myself, and I believe in the value he can add as both an off-ball shooter and a creator. He’s not high on big boards because he’s under-sized for the shooting guard position, but his vision isn’t strong enough to maximize his play if slotted at point guard. So, scouts are unsure of how he translates to the NBA. I think he’ll be available in the second round, and would certainly take a flier on him. He has sniper potential and the athleticism to get to the rim or create off-balance jumpers within the three-point line.

Jordan Nwora is a reasonable prospect to shed a late second rounder on, or even pick up for Summer League (Fall League?) and training camp on a non-guaranteed deal. The Louisville product is an excellent shooter and, when he tries, is elusive as an off-ball mover. His athleticism and defense, however, are significant detractors. When he’s not shooting well, he’s unplayable, too. 

Dan (@TheDanTimko): How do you think Joel’s conditioning after a quarantine will play a part in the bubble?

I’m not exaggerating when I say Joel’s health is everything to the Sixers. Whether you want to believe that every injury he suffers is directly related to conditioning is totally up to you. Personally, I don’t think his natural body type is a good indicator of his conditioning. He’s never going to look like a model of fitness. But, there’s no question some of his habits in the past contributed to his conditioning. That conditioning may have led to nagging injuries.

I don’t think his conditioning has ever been as bad as those outside of the organization have made it out to be. I do believe, however, that he came into the bubble in better shape than expected. Now, the only way to get into and stay in basketball shape is to play basketball. He only played 13 minutes in the first scrimmage, and tonight will be the first minutes he’s played since that scrimmage. I don’t expect him to be in top shape tonight. But, if he can stay on the court throughout the seeding schedule, his conditioning will improve. If he can get to the playoffs healthy and in great shape, all bets are off.