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Playoffs again show that Sixers need a second star to go with Joel Embiid | Off the Dribble

NBA finalists Phoenix and Milwaukee have each benefited from three stars in the playoffs.

Sixers center Joel Embiid shoots over Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Sixers center Joel Embiid shoots over Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Sixers fans. We’re wondering if you are feeling any better now that Atlanta is going fishing after losing in six games to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals?

Frankly, it still likely won’t take the sting away from the Sixers’ Eastern Conference semifinal loss to the Hawks. Would the Sixers have stood a chance against Milwaukee?

Sure, a chance, but the Bucks won their series in six games and didn’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo for the final two.

Either way, it’s on to thinking of next season for the Sixers. In doing so, the two NBA finalists, Phoenix and Milwaukee, should serve as an example.

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Looking for a dance partner for Embiid

It’s no revelation to suggest that the Sixers need a second star to go with Joel Embiid. For so long, it was thought that Ben Simmons was the player.

The postseason, and not just this year, has shown that Simmons isn’t suited for that role. What Phoenix and Milwaukee have shown is that a team needs two definite stars and a near star as a third option.

Phoenix has two definite superstars in the backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, while the third star is emerging center DeAndre Ayton.

If the thinking that it may be too early to call Ayton a star, try these numbers this postseason: 16.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg and a .706 field goal percentage. We know he scores a lot on lobs, but Ayton has more than held up his role as a great No. 3.

The Bucks have Antetokounmpo, with sidekick Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. The knock on Middleton before the postseason was that he wasn’t a true No. 2. This postseason he has played like a No. 1. In the final two games that Antetokounmpo missed against Atlanta, Middleton averaged 29 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists, while averaging 6.5 free throws and shooting 92.5% from the foul line.

in those two games, Holiday averaged 26 points, 11 assists, 7.5 steals, and 2.5 steals.

That’s what a top No. 3 does, perform like a No. 2 or No. 1 when needed.

Holiday might be the best No. 3 player in the NBA, especially with the way he also plays defense.

So that brings us back to the Sixers. Simmons is not a No. 2 and one could argue that Tobias Harris isn’t a true No. 3.

Harris was an excellent No. 3 in the regular season but even he said that the regular season is misleading and described it as “fools gold.”

“Postseason is just a different ballgame than the regular season,” Harris said on the night that the Sixers were eliminated by Atlanta. Regular season, running and gunning, is not real defense. Postseason, every possession counts.”

In the playoffs Harris had his moments, but played poorly in Game 5 and 7 losses to Atlanta, when he shot 10-for-35, including 2-for-10 from three-point range.

Still, Harris has a better shot at being a team’s No. 3 player than Simmons does at being No. 2.

There will be a lot of names likely associated with the Sixers. this offseason.

Would Portland really trade Damian Lillard if the star guard insisted he wanted out?

A story more than a week ago on Yahoo sports that Lillard could want his way out of Portland gained a lot of traction. With three years and a player option left on his contract, it would take a huge bundle to acquire Lillard.

We don’t think he will be traded, but if so, here is what the Trail Blazers should demand from the Sixers: Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, and at two first-round picks. This deal worked through the ESPN trade machine.

If the teams made that move, the Sixers would certainly have their second superstar, although their defense would take a major hit.

Whether it’s Lillard or Washington’s Bradley Beal or some other superstar who might be available, one suspects that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will look to provide Embiid with a legitimate running partner.

It won’t be easy and may not happen, but that should be the top priority for the Sixers.

Starting five

Keith Pompey doesn’t mince any words in explaining why he thinks “The Process” was a failure for the Sixers.

Pompey writes that the Sixers should target Damian Lillard in a Ben Simmons trade.

Mike Sielski writes that Marc Zumoff’s rise to becoming the Sixers’ voice proved the value and power of dreaming big.

Former Sixers coach Larry Brown believes the Sixers have plenty of offseason work to do, but he doesn’t believe in blowing up the team.

Sixers CEO Scott O’Neill resigned last week and Marcus Hayes has all the details.

No top-10 scorers in the finals

It’s not always the team with the highest scorers who end up playing for a championship. This year, none of the top 10 playoff scorers are still competing. Dallas’ Luka Doncic is the leading scorer (35.7 ppg) and his team didn’t get out of the first round.

Here are the top playoff scorers.

In fact, only two of the top 10 scorers ended up with teams that advanced to the conference finals: Kawhi Leonard (who didn’t play in the conference finals due to injury) and Trae Young.

That is not to suggest that teams don’t need high-scoring players to win in the postseason.

The highest-scoring player who will compete in the championship is Milwaukee’s Antetokounmpo, who is 11th averaging 28 points per game.

Phoenix’s highest scorer, Devin Booker, is 13th, right behind Embiid. Booker is averaging 27 points per game.

Important dates

NBA Finals

Game 1: Tuesday, Milwaukee at Phoenix, 9 p.m., ABC

Game 2: Thursday, Milwaukee at Phoenix, 9 p.m. ABC

Game 3: Sunday, Phoenix at Milwaukee, 9 p.m., ABC

Game 4: Wednesday, July 14, Phoenix at Milwaukee, 9 p.m. ABC

Game 5: Saturday, July 17, Milwaukee at Phoenix, 9 p.m. ABC*

Game 6: Tuesday, July 20, Phoenix at Milwaukee, 9 p.m., ABC*

Game 7: Thursday, July 22, Milwaukee at Phoenix, 9 p.m., ABC*

*if necessary

July 19: Deadline for early-entry players to withdraw from the NBA draft (5 p.m.).

July 29: NBA draft.

Aug. 2: Teams can begin negotiating with free agents (6 p.m.).

Aug. 6: Teams can begin signing free agents (12:01 p.m.).

Aug. 8-17: MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Passing the rock

Question: Should we bring in hometown boy Kyle Lowry? — Tim Starr from Facebook.

Answer: Thanks for the question, Tim, and it’s a really good one. It’s easy to say that they should bring him in, but a lot will depend on what it will cost. Lowry is a free agent who made $30.5 million last season according to He is still an excellent player, but at 35 has started to show a little age. This year he missed 26 games but did average 34.8 minutes, which was more than anybody on the Sixers. Plus, he was very productive, averaging 17.2 points and 7.3 assists, while shooting 39.6% from three-point range.

If Lowry still wants to make in the $30 million range, it may be out of the Sixers’ reach. The Sixers would likely have to do a sign-and-trade with Toronto if this is the case. To answer your question, I would bring him in if it could be worked out financially and without giving up a young player like Tyrese Maxey in a sign-and-trade.