This is the fifth edition of the weekly 76ers mailbag.
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 tweeting your inquiry with the hashtag #PompeysMailbagFlow.
Let’s jump right into this week’s questions:
Question: Should the team keep Al Horford on the bench long term? — @sixxersreport
Answer: Thanks for the question. You’ve been a regular in asking questions. The support is appreciated. #MuchLoveFlow.
Yes, the team should keep Horford on the bench long term. Now, you might lean toward starting him if they’re facing a team, such as the Indiana Pacers, that starts two 6-foot-11 post players, such as All-Star Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. But aside from that, there’s no turning back in regards to demoting Horford from the starting lineup.
Look, it’s not his fault. But he and Joel Embiid are not a good fit in the starting lineup. In addition to that, the spacing resembled that of the Schuykill Expressway during rush hour when the duo and Ben Simmons were on the floor together. And let’s be real: The Sixers aren’t going to demote Embiid and Simmons to the bench. So this is a perfect role for Horford. He can become the leader of the second unit, where his skills will be put to better use.
Q: Will Brett Brown be coaching his final season with the Sixers if poor showing in playoffs? — @JohnBerlingis
A: Yes, it does appear to be that way. As I wrote in my first newsletter, the perception is that he’ll be the scapegoat if the Sixers don’t reach the NBA Finals or even perhaps the Eastern Conference Finals.
This team has a perennial All-Star starter in Embiid. Tobias Harris is making $180 million and playing at a high level. Simmons is about to make $171 million and just played in his second straight All-Star Game. The Sixers acquired Horford and Josh Richardson in July. Even though the pieces don’t quite seem to fit, Brown has the tough task of somehow trying to make it work.
Again, it’s not his fault that the pieces don’t fit and that the Sixers are paying Horford $97 million guaranteed over four seasons to come off the bench. But as the coach, he will get the blame for this team’s not living up to the preseason hype because of another second-round playoff exit. That’s why his job is on the line.
Q: How does the trade and lineup change alter our matchups with Milwaukee, Boston, Toronto and Miami? — @3_flagrant
A: Great question, but I don’t think the additions of Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III via a trade from the Golden State Warriors and demoting Horford make as much of a difference as people think.
Let’s face it: The Sixers will go as far as Embiid and Simmons take them. They will be tough to beat if Embiid plays at an MVP level. As we saw in Thursday’s 112-104 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, he can take over a game and will the Sixers to victory. Now, Simmons will have to keep teams honest and at least take a few perimeter shots in what will be a more half-court game in the postseason.
As I wrote in my first answer, yes, their spacing is a lot better without Horford in the starting lineup. But a lot of this team’s success in the postseason will depend on Embiid and Simmons. In other words, the Sixers’ two All-Stars need to play like All-Stars for them to win regardless of who’s on the floor with them.
Plus, the addition of Burks and Robinson is solid. But they don’t all of a sudden give the Sixers the advantage over the Bucks, Raptors, Celtics and Heat, the four teams ahead of them in the standings.
Burks and Robinson are solid role players who need a lot of minutes to make an impact in a game. The question is, will the Sixers have available minutes for them in the postseason? Burks scored 19 points in nearly 30 minutes of action Thursday. But a lot of those minutes could have been a result of not having Simmons, who missed the game with lower-back tightness. Robinson, however, was on the floor for only 14:07.
Plus, Miami and Milwaukee also upgraded their rosters with the postseason in mind. So they also are different. But in the end, the Sixers’ success will depend on Embiid and Simmons.
Q: Why is everyone, including Philadelphia media, trying to sabotage the 76ers and break up our young nucleus by saying they don’t play well together? Since both have been together two trips to second round of the playoffs. Looks like they’re fine to me. — @BryantBrown19
A: OK, playa. I see what you are doing. You’re just going to call the local media out (LOL). But on a serious note, I wouldn’t say everyone, including the Philadelphia media, is trying to sabotage the Sixers. People are just making observations in what has been a disappointing season considering all the preseason hype. We can’t overlook how Simmons dominated when Embiid was sidelined with his left-hand injury. We also couldn’t overlook the poor spacing they had. And we definitely couldn’t overlook Embiid’s comments about not getting the ball.
Trips to the second round are expected when you have home-court advantage in the first round, as the Sixers did in the last two postseasons. So I’m not giving them love for that.
However, I do believe Embiid and Simmons can play together, and the Sixers would be foolish to separate them. The team just needs to surround them with shooters. Believe me, all the outside noise will be silenced if that happens next season.
Q: What’s your best guess at what the playoff rotation will be? — @MLParlayDog
A: What’s up, Dog? Sorry, but I couldn’t resist, considering your Twitter handle. Just don’t bite a brother if you see me. Only kidding.
As to your question, I think we saw a glimpse of the rotation Thursday night against the Nets. The only differences are that Simmons will be in the rotation and Raul Neto and Shake Milton won’t be, in my opinion.