This is the 42nd 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 questions for next time by following me on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers and tweeting your inquiry with the hashtag #PompeysMailbagFlow.
Question: How does the team look this season in defending other team’s guard? It has been a weak point in past seasons. — @GorelickRich
Answer: Thanks for the question, Rich. I hope you have a great weekend. Under normal circumstances, I would think there hasn’t been a large enough body of work to truly judge how they defend other team’s guards, considering their starting lineup has only played together for seven games.
But all of their starters were available against the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 2 and the Washington Wizards four days later. On both nights, opposing guards gave them the business.
The Sixers had no answers for Hornets point guard Terry Rozier. He made 7 of 11 three-pointers while scoring a game-high 35 points. Then Washington’s Bradley Beal finished with a career-high 60 points on Jan. 6. Like Rozier, he also made seven three-pointers but on 10 attempts.
The Sixers didn’t have their entire starting lineup the next night against the Brooklyn Nets. Seth Curry missed the game with a sore left ankle, but Curry is known more as a sharpshooter than a defender. So you can’t use his absence as an excuse for Caris LeVert and Joe Harris torching them. LeVert had 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds while starting in place of Kyrie Irving. Meanwhile, Harris made 6 of 9 three-pointers to finish with 28 points in a reserve role.
On Wednesday, Jaylen Brown (26 points), Marcus Smart (25) and Kemba Walker (19) combined to score 70 of the Boston Celtics’ 109 points.
So yes, the Sixers are still having a tough time guarding other team’s guards.
Q: What’s the chance of moving Isaiah Joe to the starting lineup, thus keeping the second unit intact? — @bsmallg1
A: What’s up, Bryan? I understand your question. I don’t see that happening, though. I’m assuming you would start him in place of Danny Green. I think the Sixers get better use out of Green in the starting lineup as their glue guy. His job is to provide veteran leadership and knock down shots. For Joe, Doc Rivers said Wednesday that it would be tough for him to get in the rotations with key players back from injury. Yes, he has shown that he can play on this level. But at this moment, the Sixers look at him as a luxury off the bench. I just think the Sixers will be better off keeping the starting lineup intact for the time being.
Q: Will Embiid continue to be the lead MVP candidate even with minpr injuries and rest? — @HarrisonAndelm1
A: Hello, Harrison. Solid question. I think the rest will hurt him in the eyes of voters. No one can deny that Embiid is playing at an MVP-caliber level. A team’s success and how players perform in key head-to-head matchups go a long way with voters in determining the league MVP.
As it stands, Embiid missed what would have been an MVP-resume-building battle against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 8. He also missed a key head-to-head matchup against Andre Drummond and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In all, Embiid has missed three of the Sixers’ first 15 games. Meanwhile, perennial MVP candidate LeBron James has played in all of the Los Angeles Lakers’ games. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won the last two MVPs, has played in 14 of the Milwaukee Bucks’ games. So yes, Embiid’s availability will go a long way in determining if he’ll remain a legitimate MVP candidate.
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