KISSIMMEE, Fla. – This is the 25th edition of the weekly 76ers mailbag.
Each week, Inquirer.com followers may submit questions to be answered.
Missed out on the party this week? No worries. Submit question(s) for next time by following me on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers and tweeting your inquiry with the hashtag #PompeysMailbagFlow.
Answer: Hello, sir. I hope you are well. You really put me on the spot with this question, but it’s a great one.
Let me start by saying that I was on board with the Sixers tanking, initially. I believed it was the best way to get a franchise player to help with the team’s rebuild. Now I didn’t know the Sixers were going to extend it three-plus seasons.
In regards to it effecting the organization’s culture, we would be naïve to say it wasn’t a major effect. The Sixers lacked leadership and veterans -- at least during the early years -- of the tanking process. That’s why Jahil Okafor went off the rails with the Thanksgiving Day morning fight in Boston, having a gun pulled on him in Old City and speeding over the Ben Franklin Bridge as a rookie. From the start of “The Process,” the young lottery picks were treated like NBA All-Star even before they played in their first games. As expected, that gave them a sense of entitlement and lack of NBA reality. They didn’t have the standout veterans to show them the sustained work ethic needed to be great or about the dos and don’ts off the court.
Standouts like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons could do whatever they wanted to do. Heck, they still do.
So, yes, the tanking definitely has a lasting effect on the team. With that said, the Sixers still lack the of culture of winning if we are going to be honest. The culture has improved with the additions of Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson. But while the players now publicly boast about an improved culture, it still has a ways to go.
A: What’s up? I understand your question. I really do. But I will say this: It’s hard to make a notable contribution when your role most of the time was to stand in a corner to space the floor and shoot threes. Think about it, that’s how the Sixers utilized Harris when they had their full roster.
He’s at his best when playing in rhythm and involved in the game plan. I always think back to when the Sixers snapped their 19-game series losing streak to the Oklahoma City with a 108-104 victory on Feb. 28, 2019 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Sixers played without Joel Embiid.
On that night, Harris showed why he was the headliner of the Sixers’ multiple-player deal with the Los Angeles Clippers before the February 2019 trade deadline. He finished with 32 points, the highest scoring total of his first eight games as a Sixer. Three nights earlier, he scored 29 points in the Sixers’ victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans.
But against the Thunder, he made 5-of-7 three-pointers and 11-of-19 shots overall. His best stretch of the night was an 8-0 run after the Thunder knotted the score at 93. He sandwiched two three-pointers around an eight-foot turnaround jumper. All that happened, because Harris was involved in the game plan, not stationary in a corner.
I’m pointing this out because it’s hard for him to make a contribution by standing in a corner most of the night.
A: Thanks for the question, Jake. Please forgive me, but I wanted to write, “Thanks, Jake from State Farm.” On a serious note, I think the Sixers will go with a nine-man rotation. We know that Harris, Al Horford, Embiid, Josh Richardson and Shake Milton are the starters. Right now, I see Alec Burks, Mike Scott, Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle making the rotation. Glenn Robinson III could push for a rotation spot if healthy. He’s been hampered by a left hip pointer.
If he’s able to play, I see coach Brett Brown probably using three of the four regularly and the last spot going to a situational player.
A: Thanks for the question, Chris. I actually asked Brown that question earlier in the week. Right now, he’s sticking with Milton as the starting point guard. Burks gives the Sixers a scoring threat off the bench, which they will need. Burks’ flexibility is another reason why the coach is comfortable keeping him in his reserve role. His ability to create his own shot also makes him valuable as a shooting guard.
Producing double-digit performances off the bench is nothing new for the combination guard the Sixers acquired in a trade from the Golden State Warriors in February. Burks is 11th in the NBA this season with 33 double-digit scoring games off the bench. He ranks second among current Sixers reserves with eight double-digit games in a Philly uniform.
A: Thanks for the question, Larry. That’s a tough question because it actually depends on who and when you ask them. Think about it, it looked like a great move, for the most part, during the three scrimmages.
Simmons was by far the best all-around player on the floor in the first two scrimmages. The two-time All-Star participated in pick-and-rolls, scored in the post, and brought the ball up and ran the offense on occasion.
Brown wanted the ball in his hands after opponents’ missed shots. Simmons’ role is to get to the rim and dunk or find another shooter. Meanwhile, he wants Simmons to take off without the ball after opponents’ made baskets during a more slowed-down pace, with Joel Embiid inbounding the ball.