During the 76ers’ three scrimmages, Brett Brown said he learned a lot about his team as it gets ready to play for keeps. The Sixers will face the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m. Saturday in the first of eight regular-season seeding games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla.
One of Brown’s biggest tasks is to determine playing time for wing players off the bench, and he feels he has a much better handle on the situation after the scrimmages.
“I think that trying to uncover who are going to be some of those wing players that come in and assume major type of roles when the regular season comes around, I feel like we learned a little bit more in that capacity,” Brown said after Tuesday’s 118-115 overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
One of the things he saw during the scrimmages was Alec Burks’ ability to create instant offense.
That’s a lot of minutes for a scrimmage. Actually, it’s a lot of minutes for Burks in a Sixers uniform. He played 11 games with the Sixers after being traded with Glenn Robinson III from Golden State on Feb. 6. The 6-foot-6 Burks, who turned 29 on July 20, averaged 20.2 minutes with the Sixers before the season was suspended on March 11 because of the pandemic.
For Golden State, he averaged a career-high 16.1 points in 29 minutes per game. But he was on a team with the NBA’s worst record and had free rein to shoot. He is averaging 10.7 points for the Sixers.
Burks was a workhorse in the Sixers’ final dress rehearsal, especially since Brown opted not to play Ben Simmons in the second half.
“[Burks] had to assume a lot on that point-guard responsibility, given that I didn’t really want to extend [Shake Milton’s] minutes,” Brown said. “I thought he did that well and we learned a bunch of things from the minutes that he played.”
Burks is more suited to play shooting guard, but Brown has wanted him to have the ball more, so Burks has played point guard as well.
“What I’ve tried to do since we’ve been down here is just tap into his scoring ability, and for the most part, we’ve done that by giving him the ball,” Brown said. “… He’s effectively one of our backup point guards.”
Burks is strong off the pick-and-roll, able to shoot over smaller defenders.
Brown hasn’t figured out all the answers to his rotation because Robinson, a key two-way player, suffered a hip pointer during the second quarter of the second scrimmage and has been sidelined since. What is known is that the Sixers need bench scoring, a role that Burks is capable of handling. The Sixers rank 26th in the NBA in bench scoring, averaging 31.2 points, according to NBA.com.
Burks, Furkan Korkmaz, Robinson, and defensive specialist Matisse Thybulle are the wings off the bench. Korkmaz, who is averaging 21.8 minutes, struggled in the scrimmages, shooting 3 for 15 from three-point range.
Could that open up more minutes for Burks, and would Brown add additional minutes by using him at point guard?
“I think that what we’re seeing is he’s got an innate gift to score,” Brown said. “He can create his shots all by himself.”