CHICAGO — This is the fourth of the weekly 76ers mailbags.
Each week, Inquirer.com followers can submit questions that may be answered in our mailbag series.
Missed out on the party this week? No worries — you can submit your question(s) for next time by following me on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers and submitting questions to me followed by #PompeysMailbagFlow.
Let’s jump right into this week’s questions:
What’s up, Jeff? Long time, no type. Since you’re asking the first question, I’ll start off with a “Hail to Pitt!”
Let’s be honest, yes, the thought of playing with Butler, again, had to cross Embiid’s mind. That was evident during their Instagram replies about the Sixers perennial All-Star center being seen as a villain on Monday night. But I don’t think lack of enough support would lead to Embiid wanting to rejoin his former teammate with the Miami Heat. It would have a lot to do with his role with the Sixers.
Let’s face it. Embiid’s numbers are down due to no longer playing with Butler and JJ Redick. Redick helped stretch the floor with his sharpshooting. Meanwhile, Butler and Embiid thrived in pick-and-rolls. For much of the season, the spacing has been awful in Philly due to their departures this summer. Embiid appeared to be happy Tuesday night. But yes, I could see him wanting to go elsewhere if the lack-of-spacing issues continues and he becomes frustrated again.
But Embiid is regarded as the franchise player with the Sixers. The offense runs through him. That might not be the case in Miami, where it’s Butler’s team.
So Embiid would have to think long and hard about going some place where he might go from being the star to the costar.
Smith’s opportunity to play basically went to zero once the Sixers acquired the duo in the Feb. 6 trade from the Golden State Warriors. Now, things could change if someone gets injured or coach Brett Brown decides to rest several of his rotation players during a game or two late in the season.
I’m not saying this to slight Smith. However, let’s keep it real. The second-year player has only played in seven games this season, starting with Jan. 25 against the Los Angeles Lakers at Wells Fargo Center. Those first five appearances had a lot to do with the Sixers showcasing him for a possible trade. The other final two appearances had to do with the Sixers emptying their bench in a lopsided loss (Milwaukee Bucks) and a double-digit win (Memphis Grizzlies). He’s been inactive in the two games since the duo’s arrival.
Robinson and Burks are expected to have key roles for the Sixers. Don’t rule out Robinson possibly starting at small forward with Al Horford now as the backup center. So the best Smith can probably hope for is to be traded this summer or to make an impression on the Sixers coaching staff during that time. For now, he probably won’t be on the active roster playing behind Josh Richardson, Robinson, Burks, Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle and Shake Milton on the shooting guard/small forward depth chart.
I think it will depend on how the team is playing. Right now, one would have to assume that he would be buried deep on the depth chart with a bunch of guards/wings ahead of him. You would also have to assume that Brown wants to get Robinson and Burks as many reps as he can to get them in rhythm with their new teammates. Plus, the Sixers are trying to move up the standings. So the remaining games are important until the Sixers are locked into a playoff seed. As a result, one would assume that if Shayok plays it would be just limited minutes, like mop-up duty in a blowout victory.
But never say never. He may impress the coaches at practice, and they’ll decide to get him some serious minutes. I just think that’s unlikely under the circumstances.
I do think there’s a good chance that Scott could be out of the playoff rotation. I don’t, however, think it would be because of Pelle. I actually think Pelle could be left off it as well, as long as Al Horford remains strictly the backup center. Pay close attention several of the games following the All-Star break. I think Robinson and Ben Simmons will see more action at power forward in certain lineups. How Robinson performs could help decide Scott’s postseason rotation fate. Ideally, the Sixers would be better suited reducing their rotation to eight players, nine at the most for the playoffs.
Even with a nine-man rotation, it could be hard for Scott to get regular minutes in the playoffs. But the Sixers have 27 games left. There’s still have some time to figure out the rotations. Scott could snap out of his slump, while another Sixer could go into a slump and lose the coaching staff’s confidence.
I would have to say yes and no. Yes in regards to keeping things under wraps. No in regards to the possibility of employing a zone against them if they meet in the Finals.
But they definitely kept things under wraps in Tuesday’s game. Most of the elite teams do in the regular season. There’s really not a lot of heavy game planning until the postseason. Remember when the Sixers played the Boston Celtics two seasons ago? The Celtics mostly played Ben Simmons straight up in the regular season. However, they sagged off in the postseason basically daring him to shoot uncontested three-pointers. A lot of people kept wondering when a team would do it. It just happened to be the Celtics in their playoff series. So you can bet that the Clippers will play the Sixers differently if those team meet in the NBA Finals.