On the eve of game one of the Sixers’ opening round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, I thought it appropriate to offer one final mailbag before things get really busy. Many people asked questions, and here are my answers.
How many three-point shots did Ben Simmons attempt during games from the bubble?— IanD (@iandalinka) August 14, 2020
He attempted one three-point shot in the third seeding game, against the Wizards. He attempted two in the first scrimmage, against the Grizzlies. All season, I have championed the belief that it does not matter whether a player who is objectively elite at literally every other aspect of basketball attempts three-point shots. If you want to evaluate him solely on that, you are entitled to do so. Just a very, very small-minded way of looking at the game.
Your top 5 available coaches to replace Brett Brown?— ChuckAF (@ChuckAFAF) August 14, 2020
Tough to say. I’m beginning to suspect that, if they beat the Celtics without Simmons, Brown might get the nod for another season. I think the timeline that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon us may make it difficult for the organization to really retool the brains behind the operation when it’s largely unknown as to when next season will begin. Having said that:
Ime Udoka (who, I think, is in very good positioning, well-regarded and in demand around the league)
Jerry Stackhouse (following the mold of Nick Nurse)
Tim Legler (no smoke to this, I just think he’s a brilliant basketball mind)
Jay Wright (there is belief that the team’s ownership group has had a desire to bring the Villanova coach in for some time, but I ultimately doubt it will happen)
I would also keep tabs on the roles that players’ agencies have in organizations now. Take World Wide Wes, who is now with the Knicks as an executive, for example.
Any chance Jay Wright leaves Nova for the Sixers?— Zachary East (@ZacharyEast12) August 14, 2020
I doubt it, at least with this iteration of the team. I think what happened with John Beilein and Cleveland this season will scare some of college basketball’s more popular coaches with NBA traction. That isn’t to say that Jay Wright would suffer the same fate, but I think coaches will use that as a cautionary tale when evaluating their options. I wrote this in a column earlier in the year, but I was told that Wright moved houses to be closer to campus, if that gives any indicator. From a basketball standpoint, Wright has championed a three-guard offense consisting of lethal three-point shooters. The Sixers don’t have that. Doesn’t seem like the right opportunity for a coach who has won a pair of national championships doing it his way.
With benefits the most on the roster with Ben's absence?— MRCROCKPOT TPL (@mrcrockpot) August 12, 2020
Excellent question. I believe Matisse Thybulle, especially against Boston, will benefit with Simmons being unavailable. The Sixers know the importance of having mobile, athletic, versatile, and disruptive wing defenders on the court against the Celtics. I expect Thybulle to be the first man up with Simmons on the mend.
Is there a realistic chance that Elton Brand is fired this offseason? Also are they going to attempt to move Al Horford (and/or) Josh Richardson?— Pierre (@PierreB3_) August 16, 2020
Tough one. I could see ownership opting to tear the organizational structure down this offseason in a desperate attempt to rebuild the team’s value to potential buyers. I also could see them feeling extremely uncomfortable with Brand making decisions about how to handle Horford’s deal. So, maybe they call on someone with more experience to clean it up before last summer’s marquee signing becomes unmovable. On the other hand, who knows how long the offseason will be? There is thought that 2020-21 could begin in early December, leaving the window of time to fill roles unbelievably small. One credible source told me that March could be the target month for initiating next season (thinking about how to bring fans back and reap that revenue). If such is the case, it is certainly possible that the organization’s leadership starts fresh.
I believe Horford’s existence in Philadelphia will last just one season. So, yes, that means Horford will be moved. One NBA agent told me that the Kings and Thunder had legitimate interest in the big man’s services. As to how those organizations feel now, I have no idea. It would not shock me at all if Richardson (and/or Thybulle) become a cost of unloading Al Horford. Other franchises may look at the two young wings as incentives to take on Horford’s contract.
Is there any chance sixers use Norvelle Pelle and shayock in this series— Cam “Super Max” Guy??♂️?? I am (@killa_cam86) August 16, 2020
I have a sneaking suspicion that Thybulle starts instead of Horford in the Boston series, which wouldn’t bode well for Norvel Pelle’s playing time. If a big gets in foul trouble, or the Sixers come out flat and Brown is desperate to try anything to build some energy and momentum, I could certainly see Pelle being an option. I do not, however, believe that the rookie big man will be a recipient of significant playing time if things play out normally in the series.
Shayok is alluring because he has a variety of moves to create separation for jumpers, but he is neither athletic nor quick enough to be a serviceable defensive player. I’m not even sure he gets minutes in the blowouts.
Top 3— Vin (@vinfosh) August 16, 2020
Realistic Trade targets
I think this draft is unique because there are a plethora of wings that could help the Sixers when they pick late in the first round. Ultimately, I think Grant Riller, Desmond Bane, and Tyrell Terry are three prospects that fit the Sixers’ needs very well.
The Sixers will need to take a look at the available free agents and find ways to work the margins. That means looking for inexpensive pieces to fill the rotation. This time, though, the goal should be to find pieces that minimize the damage that the opposition does when Embiid and Simmons are off the floor. To me, that means a backup point guard (Jeff Teague), a shooter (Marco Belinelli), and a rim-protecting backup center (Willie Cauley-Stein) (again, I don’t expect Horford to be back next season).
I don’t think there are many realistic trade targets. As good as the Thunder were this season, I think they want to rebuild some and hand the keys to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Maybe that means a Horford-Paul swap is in play, maybe it means Horford and other assets for Paul is possible.
There seemed to be a disconnect between Kings head coach Luke Walton and shooting guard Buddy Hield. If that relationship is going stale, maybe a trade involving Horford and Hield is possible. An NBA agent I talked to mentioned that trade scenario multiple times in my conversations in him, so maybe there’s smoke there. If it were my front office, I would work night and day to conceive a trade that brings Zach LaVine to Philly. LaVine has implied on numerous occasions that he would like a fresh start with a winning culture. Although, his feelings might be different with Chicago undergoing major changes in its braintrust.
injuries played a role, but sixers were also the sixth seed all year. How bad is it gonna hurt when jimmyB makes it out of the first round and sixers don’t? You really slandered him all year and starting to look like he might actually be better off. Jimmy thrivin, Philly burnin— BabySportsGuru (@BabyGuru5) August 16, 2020
It’s not going to hurt me, I’m just a journalist and reporter. My opinions on Jimmy Butler are known. I don’t quite understand why Heat fans care what I think about Jimmy Butler. I will tell you this, it takes twenty seconds of research to conclude that Jimmy Butler would not have saved the Sixers. He has exhibited unbelievable regression as a jump-shooter, and he won’t even dare attempt three-point shots anymore. Things have been good for him in Miami; they’ve surrounded him with great shooters and have been able to hide his clear regressions as a scorer. Philly needed him to be that scorer, and it wouldn’t have been a happy marriage between him and the franchise this season. Who knows if that decline doesn’t further itself next season, too.