SACRAMENTO, Calif. — This is the seventh edition of the weekly 76ers mailbag.
Each week, Inquirer.com followers may submit questions that might 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 tweeting your inquiry with the hashtag #PompeysMailbagFlow.
Let’s jump right into this week’s questions:
Question: What’s the latest on Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid? — @Bmg020964Bruce
Answer: What’s up, Bruce? Thanks for getting this week’s mailbag started with perhaps the one question on every Sixers fan’s mind.
Don’t be surprised if Embiid returns from his left shoulder sprain Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center. I’m hearing that’s the expectation. Apparently, the team doesn’t want to rush him back. So next Wednesday would give him 14 days of rest. You never know what can happen from now until then, of course.
Simmons is more of an uncertainty. You have to be extremely careful with a back injury. He could be out a while.
Q: If the Sixers decided they wanted to reshape the roster significantly, what are the chances of moving a piece like Al Horford without getting poor value in return? — @Hallublin
A: What’s up, Hal? I hope you are well. Thanks for asking another question. This is actually a great question. I think a lot will be based on how he continues to play the rest of the season. On Thursday, Horford looked like the Al Horford of the past. But that is a huge contract.
I’m not sure a lot of teams are willing to take in a soon-to-be-34-year-old with three seasons left on a four-year, $97 million guaranteed deal. If there is a team that does want him, I’m not sure it is willing to give up a significant max-level-type player in return. The fear is you’d be giving away someone in his prime for an older post player who might or might not break down in the coming seasons. People forget that Horford has been dealing with nagging injuries this season.
That’s why I believe the Sixers will have a tough time trading the big man unless he strings together a bunch of stellar performances in the postseason. Don’t get it twisted: Horford can still play. He is just not being used right and isn’t a good fit with Embiid and Simmons. Even still, his contract might scare teams away.
Q: With Ben Simmons & Do a 180 [Embiid] out, why don’t we see them leaning more on the guys they acquired at the trade deadline? I’m waiting to see them light it up. — @JJT12380
A: Thanks for the question, JT. I think you are starting to see signs of that. Initially, it was a feeling-out process. Coach Brett Brown kind of wanted to see what Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks could do and what were the best roles for them.
The Sixers are high on Burks and have been encouraging him to shoot. He scored 17 points, making 6 of 12 shots, in 18 minutes, 40 seconds off the bench in a 125-108 victory Thursday in Sacramento. Robinson was the sixth man in that game and logged the team’s third-most minutes (28:38), behind starters Tobias Harris (36:30) and Horford (36:21). Plus, Robinson scored a career-high-tying 25 points in a reserve role against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.
So the Sixers are starting to lean more on the former Golden State Warriors.
Q: Is having Embiid and Simmons out this certain amount of time beneficial for the team? Young players stepping up like Shake Milton or star caliber players like Horford and Harris? — @nicholas_gallo
A: I really like this question, Nicholas. I keep going back and forth on it. But I’m going to answer yes and no, although I’m leaning slightly more to the no side.
I do think it’s beneficial for Milton, Horford and Harris. Heck, you can even add Raul Neto and Mike Scott to that mix. Milton, Neto, and Scott were basically destined to be end-of-the-bench type players, guys who would have a tough time cracking the playoff rotation. Now, they’re showing the coaching staff that they can make big contributions.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Milton remains as the Sixers’ fifth starter when Simmons, Embiid, and Josh Richardson return from injury. Horford is also showing what he’s capable of doing when put in the right situations. And Harris is proving that he can do much more than stand in a corner.
However, the Sixers need to grow those players around Simmons and Embiid. They need to figure out a way to effectively use Horford and Harris alongside the two All-Stars. That’s what will give the Sixers their best chance to go deep in the playoffs.
That’s why I think it would be more beneficial for the Sixers to have their full complement of players healthy. Let’s face it: The Sixers will most likely go away from some of the things they’re doing now once Simmons and Embiid return.
Q: Shake will be a starter when Ben, Joel, and Josh come back? — @KelleForThree
A: I think he has to be. There’s no official word just yet. But the Sixers tried Furkan Korkmaz and Robinson in the fifth-starter role, and it just didn’t work. Milton is perfect for that role because of his ability to knock down three-pointers and stretch the floor. He also can assume a lot of the point-guard duties while Simmons is stationed in the high post.