There’s a bit of free time between the end of the Sixers’ first round series against the Wizards and the start of their second round series against the Atlanta Hawks. So, with that time, I thought it a good time to connect with fans and see what’s going on in their minds. Without further adieu, I answered some of your questions.

Miscellaneous Questions

Jason Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA on Twitter), hands down. He’s taught me how to develop sources as a reporter, how to network on the NBA beat, and how to correct mistakes without doubting myself. I would not have gotten this far without his guidance. My journey doesn’t carry on from here without his guidance, either.

I’ve actually asked Doc Rivers about opportunities for Paul Reed a few times, and the answer is always something along the lines of “I’m not focused on giving Paul Reed minutes”. That translates to “No”. Rivers has a well-known reputation for being unwilling to give rookies minutes. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a recent exception to that. For the most part, Tyrese Maxey has been out of the rotation this year, even with fans stopping short of protesting for Maxey to have a significant role. So, Rivers doesn’t typically trust guys who have little-to-no previous experience in the NBA. To each his own. I don’t think you’ll see much of Paul Reed unless it’s an emergency.

That’s not something I’ve ever thought about, to be honest. I do think that Joel Embiid is the better player, though. I get it, Jokic has had a superb season. But, he’s not the two-way player Embiid is. Scratch that, he’s not close to the two-way player Embiid is. So, seeing as Jokic’s MVP favoritism has essentially taken the shape of an attendance contest, that tells you that the actual basketball case for his MVP season is not as strong as Embiid’s is. I’ll say it again so as to not be misread–Jokic has had perhaps the best offensive season of anyone in the league. But, there are two sides of the court. Embiid has been the best two-way player this season. So, in the sense of them being mentioned as an MVP favorite and a distant second, no, I don’t particularly care for that storyline.

A Look Ahead To The Offseason

If the Sixers get to the Finals and lose in a respectable battle, I think the bigger risk is trading one of them and having it backfire. Should they fall short of the Finals in embarrassing fashion, I certainly think you could see Ben Simmons moved. If they fall short of the Finals and it’s a respectable battle, I think there’ll be conversations. But, there’s so much to unfold before a reasonable prediction on the nature of those conversations can be made. I would focus more on the context of losing rather than the binary of ‘win or lose?’. 

Daniel Theis would be perfect. But, his asking price might be more than what the Sixers can afford to give and still execute their other plans. Further, if Dwight Howard wasn’t just teasing during his Friday media availability, he might be returning anyway.

The Hawks Series

Embiid played both of those games. But, I think it just speaks to the value of having an MVP candidate. If the favored team’s best player is unavailable, regardless of whether he’s even in the MVP dialogue, the story is going to change. If the Sixers don’t have Embiid, I would pick the Hawks to win in 6 games. But, I’ll write more on that in the very near future.

I don’t think you’ll ever see Rivers cut into Harris’ minutes regardless of what emergency arises. He’ll play the lineup that maximizes his team’s defense. Sometimes that will include a three-man unit of Howard, Simmons, and Harris. Sometimes it will include two of the three and Thybulle. Again, context always matters. But, I would be shocked if you see some sort of radical adjustment like sitting an All-Star snub when that player might not even be struggling to perform to begin with.

Onyeka Okongwu. He missed a big chunk of his rookie campaign with injury. But, he was one of the five reserve players in Atlanta’s rotation against the Knicks. My logic is that, if Embiid can’t go or is ineffective, Okongwu will be able to come in and continue the dominance on the offensive glass that Clint Capela will likely assert to begin with. That tandem of Capela and Okongwu could give Philadelphia relentless problems on the glass.

Defending The Hawks

There’s no good answer to this. In my series preview (which will be published in the very near future), I will detail some defensive coverages that should theoretically mitigate Trae Young’s damage. But, I really don’t think the Sixers can afford to go full switch mode with a team that suits credible playmaking on the wings. So, the most reasonable assignment is ostensibly Bogdan Bogdanovic. But, that matchup doesn’t inspire much confidence. Lou Williams would seem like the sensible assignment from Atlanta’s second unit. However, I wouldn’t be thrilled with that matchup, either.

I have to give the Defensive Player of the Year candidate his props. He truly can guard 1 through 5. So, Ben Simmons is at the top. Matisse Thybulle has to be second, given his ability to disrupt playmaking guards who like to probe the pick-and-roll. Third would be George Hill. He’s displayed tremendous intelligence as both an on-ball and off-ball defender since joining the Sixers, and he’s a point guard, himself. Fourth has to be Danny Green because of his ability to poke the ball free and veteran intelligence to anticipate Young’s foul grifting. Fifth would be Embiid. While he’s a credible perimeter defender, he’s this low for me because I’m not sure I believe he’ll be able to keep up with Young on a torn meniscus.

Sixth would be Maxey because of his low center of gravity and, thus, theoretical capacity to stay in front of Young. I think Young’s low center of gravity is a major advantage for him, and it figures to subtly give Philly problems when he’s on the move. Seventh would be Tobias Harris because he’s just not quick enough, although his ability to anticipate with his hands is much improved. Eighth would be Shake Milton because he’s prone to committing fouls and just has no confidence at all right now. Ninth would be Seth Curry because he’s just not agile or athletic enough to stay in front of Young. Tenth would be everyone else in any order you want.

Mount Rushmore

Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson, Robert Covington, Henry Sims. My understanding is that not many enjoyed watching Henry Sims play basketball. But, I thought he could play a little bit. Granted, I was much younger then and my understanding of good basketball was not what it is now.

Mad Max

This has been a popular topic of conversation in many of my conversations with colleagues, family, and friends. Right now, I’m somewhere between Bradley Beal, Jamal Murray, and De’Aaron Fox. Seeing as I mentioned Beal, the ceiling would be a slightly less murderous shooter, but a better athlete with burst leverage. I think he’ll settle somewhere around above-average on pull-up twos, average from beyond the arc, and elite at making plays around the rim.

There’s a fair amount of evidence in recent history that points to rookies’ efficiencies on drives to the basket being a barometer of true star potential. Maxey connected on 51 percent of his 3.4 field goal attempts per game on drives this season. That efficiency was second best of all rookies to attempt at least 3 field goals per game on drives. Maxey scored more than 4 points per game on drives–tied for fourth most of all rookies this season. That sounds promising. 

I think people see ‘guard that can shoot off dribble and comes off bench’ and automatically build a Lou Williams model. I think Maxey will settle below Williams as a perimeter scorer, but well above him as a finisher. My guess is that they probably top out as fairly similar playmakers off the dribble.

The Embiid Injury 

dev [private] on Twitter

Dev’s [he and I go way back, but I’ll assume his account is private for identity reasons and so we’ll keep his name protected] question is “does this injury affect how the team views embiid long term“.

All signs point to that answer being no. The sense I get is that they view him as a generational player and are willing to take the bad (the injury management) with the good (everything he does). The hiring of Doc Rivers suggested a dedication to a happy medium between making sure both Embiid and Simmons felt that their respective satisfactions were of the utmost importance to the franchise. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that the meniscus changes Embiid’s standing with management.

This is a fascinating line of thought. Sure, one could see that positive perspective. On the other hand, perhaps the argument could be made that the fact that this has happened again is a referendum upon Embiid’s intelligence as a basketball player. There’s certainly an element of bad luck in these circumstances. It’s valid to say that he wasn’t able to control the circumstances of his previous injuries. But, he’s had a number of injury scares because of his willingness to go up with such force in crowded spaces. What evidence is there that he’s learned from those past incidents? I’m not saying that’s my line of thought. Rather, I can imagine others thinking that way. 

Regarding the one-legged jumper, that could be a crutch if his knee isn’t healthy enough to bang around in the paint. Embiid converted something around 47 percent of his midrange jumpers this season. That value is 6 percent better than his previous career best and his career average. But, while Embiid has exhibited a seismic shift in his efficiency in the midrange, I’m not convinced relying upon that all game long is helping the team’s prospects of achieving its ultimate goal.

Dame Time

*THIS IS PURE SPECULATION* Daryl Morey has shown a desire to wait silently while stars grow frustrated with their current situations. If Lillard decides Portland cannot help him achieve his ultimate goal, you’ll probably hear rumors about Philadelphia. That fit would be perfectly sensible. Philly has a star chip and other desirable assets to redeem, too. Again, blockbuster changes will depend upon the context of this season’s results. But, that’s the type of move that has cemented Morey’s reputation. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was tracking that situation.

Nothing about this deal would make sense, but I would love to see Golden State go with a three-guard lineup with Curry, Lillard, and Thompson. The trade package would be a major loss for Portland and the fit in Golden State would be awkward, but that Warrior offense would be potent

If there’s a team in need of a shake-up should they be eliminated in the first round, it would be the Los Angeles Clippers. Maybe there’s something to be done centered around a swap of Paul George for Lillard. There would probably need to be pick compensation that Los Angeles cashed in to get George, but that feels like a reasonable star-for-star swap idea.