This is the sixth 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: Do people really think the process worked??? Please tell me they don’t! — @ddsharp77
Answer: Thanks for asking the question and starting things off, DD. That’s actually a great question to begin with, based on what has been for the most part an underachieving season for a hyped-up NBA title contender.
The answer is yes: People really do think the process worked. Here’s why: The process was all about tanking with the hope of drafting multiple All-Star-caliber players to build around. The Sixers were successful in doing that, selecting Joel Embiid third overall in 2014 and Ben Simmons first overall in 2016. Now, folks will point out that several of their other top draft picks during their multiple seasons of tanking didn’t pan out. That is true. The Sixers made several, several, I mean several, draft miscues. And let’s be honest: Someone’s grandmother could have selected Embiid and Simmons. Embiid was the third player available in what was regarded as a three-person draft. So he fell to the Sixers. And Simmons was the consensus first overall pick heading into his draft.
It didn’t take a lot of thought to select them. Luck or not, the Sixers did get All-Stars in Simmons and Embiid.
So the process of tanking to get top picks and draft franchise-type players worked. I can go on and on about a lot of other things the franchise did during that time that didn’t work. But when it comes to drafting a pair of All-Stars, you have to give them credit for that.
Now, I realize that all those years of tanking has led only to back-to-back second-round exits and the current group of underachievers. That’s on the coach and front office, not the plan.
Q: How far do you see the Sixers going in the playoffs? — @Miltnificent
A: Oh snap. What’s up, Milly Milt? Thanks for participating, Mr. Diehard Eagles and Sixers fan. This is another good question. Right now, I see this team losing in the second round, assuming Simmons (lower back) and Embiid (left shoulder sprain) come back healthy and play at a high level. If not, this squad might go out in the first round, depending on the matchup.
That’s not a knock; it’s just reality. If the playoffs started today, the Sixers would be the fifth seed, paired in a matchup against the fourth-seeded Miami Heat. The Heat would have home-court advantage. Even though Miami is struggling, it could be tough for a Sixers squad that is 9-21 on the road to advance from that series.
If the Sixers somehow can rise to the third or fourth seed, I see them winning in the first round. But I have them exiting in Round 2 for the third consecutive season unless they make drastic improvements.
Q: What’s up [with] Zhaire Smith? Is he just done here in Philly? — @PitcherellaJ
A: Another great question. Thanks for asking, Vince. Let’s just say a lot would have to happen for Smith to have a solid future with the Sixers.
They unsuccessfully shopped the second-year guard before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. Since then, he has been re-assigned to the Sixers’ NBA G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.
Now, Furkan Korkmaz is a prime example of why teams shouldn’t give up too soon on players. Korkmaz went from a guy whose option the Sixers didn’t pick up to one of their best players off the bench. So there could be a little hope for Smith.
However, I just don’t think the coaching staff has enough confidence in the Texas native to put him in the rotation. Some might point out that he was in the rotation leading up to the trade deadline. But that had a lot to do with trying to showcase him to other teams for a potential trade.
A: What’s up, Steve? Thanks for the question, and I see that you are observant. Harris was a major part of the offensive game plan in Thursday night’s 115-106 victory over the New York Knicks, scoring 34 points. But a lot of that had to do with Embiid and Simmons’ both being sidelined. When the team is healthy, the game plan is to basically run everything through Embiid. He gets most of the play calls. Now, Simmons has the ball in his hands as the point guard. So he’ll be able to still impact the game.
However, for the most part, Harris is over in the corner trying to space the floor while playing with those two. Richardson is solid in pick-and-rolls. However, he’s also a get-in-where-you-fit-in type of role player when paired with Embiid and Simmons.
Q: With Simmons projected to be out a while, and Embiid looking like he could be as well, how realistic of a chance do the Sixers of reaching the 4th seed? Could they just as well fall to the 6th seed? — @BillTedWRLD
A: Thanks for the question. Regarding the fourth seed, I think a lot of that could depend on how Harris plays during their absence. It appears that Embiid will return sooner than Simmons. So I expect Harris to play at a high level once Embiid returns.