The 76ers are more interested in solidifying their rotation than in climbing up the Eastern Conference standings.
That makes a lot of sense when you consider the NBA restart’s neutral-site setup. Chemistry and playing at a high level could decide which teams avoid early exits from Walt Disney World’s bubble-like atmosphere once the playoffs begin on Aug. 17.
“Worrying too much about moving up, because you could play this team or avoid that team, I stay away from that,” coach Brett Brown said Sunday before the Sixers’ second day of training-camp practice. “I think sometimes you’ve got to be careful for what you wish for. It always ends up if you are healthy and are you playing well.
“So whatever equals those two things, and rotation for sure is a huge part of that. That’s where my head is at.”
Ideally, an NBA team wants to have an eight-man rotation in the postseason. It might start out with nine, but will reduce it to eight as they advance.
Brown used eight players in last season’s Game 7 loss to the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the playoffs.
Don’t be surprised if the Sixers have a starting lineup of Shake Milton, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson, and Ben Simmons. In that scenario, Al Horford and Furkan Korkmaz would have two of the reserve spots in the rotation.
Brown was asked what he is he looking for in the eighth and final spot of the rotation.
“To call it a last spot, I wouldn’t call it that,” he said. “My mindset ... is I want to look at a set of 10.”
Brown thinks his rotation is going to shrink to nine players at some point in the playoffs.
The coach has a double-digit rotation in order to evaluate players he hasn’t seen compete since the NBA shutdown on March 11.
Decisions have to be made in regard to Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks, Mike Scott, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan, and Horford.
“It could be you give X player the 10th spot today and you sit somebody,” Brown said. “I don’t want to piecemeal minutes, and really give somebody a true opportunity.”
Korkmaz, the team’s best perimeter threat, and Horford, one of its best players, both have to be in the rotation.
Thybulle deserves to be in the mix for a couple of reasons: He brings a defensive element to the team, and, as a rookie, he would benefit from playoff experience.
Meanwhile, Burks can score if he gets hot. Robinson is arguably the most versatile and athletic reserve.
Scott could see some action in certain situations. If someone gets in foul trouble or an opponent is playing zone, the Sixers might want to use the stretch four’s shooting stroke.
Despite that, Thybulle might have the inside track to join Horford and Korkmaz as rotation regulars. Robinson, Burks, and Scott could either battle for the ninth spot or play based on the situation.
Figuring that out takes precedent over a postseason seeding.
One could argue the Sixers benefited the most from the restart being at a neutral site. That’s because the seeds won’t matter much due to no home-court advantage.
Folks may point out the Sixers’ league-best home record of 29-2. Yet, they were dismal on the road at 10-24. The Sixers are currently seeded sixth and would have likely had to open their first-round playoff series on the road under normal circumstances.
Lack of home-court advantage might have made it hard for them to avoid a first-round exit.