Brett Brown talked of lofty expectations for the 76ers’ season on Wednesday.
“I want to get the No. 1 seed” for the NBA playoffs, the coach said during a luncheon at Attico Rooftop in Center City.
The Sixers are expected to contend with the Milwaukee Bucks for the Eastern Conference’s top seed this season. They are coming off a 51-31 campaign followed by their second consecutive second-round playoff appearance. Kawhi Leonard’s fadeaway baseline jumper at the buzzer lifted the eventual champion Toronto Raptors to a 92-90 victory over the Sixers in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The Sixers no longer have starters Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick from that squad. However, they replaced them with five-time All-Star Al Horford and Josh Richardson, and upgraded their bench. They also re-signed Tobias Harris.
“I believe we have a championship-caliber team as it sits,” Brown said.
The coach noted that Joel Embiid, a two-time All-Star center, will be the team’s go-to guy. Richardson, acquired from Miami in the Butler trade, will guard the opposing teams’ primary ballhandlers. Horford will slide from starting power forward to center on the nights that Embiid, who has battled injuries, rests with load management.
Brown is impressed with the confidence and improvement All-Star point guard Ben Simmons has shown in his jump shot. He has been working out with renowned trainer Chris Johnson on this shot this offseason.
And the coach marveled at the size of his starting lineup. Harris, Simmons, and Horford each is 6-foot-10, and Embiid is 7-2. Shooting guard Richardson is 6-6.
“When we all leave the room," Brown said, "you should write this with a really thick crayon and hear me loudly: We will end up playing smash-mouth offense and bully-ball defense. We have a team that can do that.
“So are we going to be casting a bunch of threes? That’s not our identity.”
The Sixers ranked 19th in the league in three-pointers attempted at 30.2 per game. However, they were eighth in three-point percentage at 35.9%. Redick had a huge hand in their success, hitting a team single-season franchise record 240 while shooting 39.7 percent. He signed with the New Orleans Pelicans in free agency.
In other news, Matisse Thybulle will be available for the start of training camp next Tuesday. Thybulle, a first-round pick (20th overall) in the June’s NBA draft, rolled his right ankle while working out at the team’s practice facility Monday. He was held out of Brown’s coaching clinic that night for precautionary reasons. He was re-examined Tuesday and worked out on Wednesday.
The team also signed Haywood Highsmith to a new type of contract called Exhibit 10. This is a one-year deal for the minimum salary that stipulates if the player is waived, he will be offered a $50,000 bonus to sign with the team’s G League affiliate and stay on the roster for 60 days rather than going abroad. Highsmith played for the Sixers and the G League Delaware Blue Coats last season.
In addition to announcing their players are healthy heading into training camp, the Sixers announced a number of changes to their staff.
Scott Epsley has taken over the medical department after having served as the team’s director of physiotherapy and clinical diagnostics. He joined the Sixers staff in 2016.
Also, the Sixers announced the promotions of Sergi Oliva (to vice president of analytics and strategy), Vince Rozman (VP of scouting), Phil Jabour (director of scouting), Danny Mills (director of international scouting), Kevin Owens (scout), Dave Sholler (senior VP of communications), Adam Petaway (lead biomechanist strength and conditioning specialist), Remy Ndiaye (player development specialist), Matty Lilly (Blue Coats general manager), and Ruben Boumtje (Blue Coats assistant GM).