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Rebounds in season opener by Ben Simmons, who also scores 19 points

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Archive for the ‘76ers’ Category

5 things that could go right/wrong for Sixers

Posted by Eric Fisher On October - 14 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

The success of the Sixers’ season could hinge on several key factors. We present some of them here in 5 things that could go right or wrong for the Sixers.

5 Things that could go right

  1. Joel Embiid continues to dominate, putting him in contention for the MVP Award.
  2. Markelle Fultz finds his jump shot and displays the ability that convinced the Sixers to take him first overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.
  3. JJ Redick remains a consistent threat from outside, proving that last season’s resurgence wasn’t a one-year fluke.
  4. Ben Simmons develops a reliable mid-range jump shot, preventing teams from following the Celtics’ playoff game plan to reduce his impact.
  5. The Sixers gain on the Celtics and the Raptors aren’t as good as expected after making major offseason moves.

5 things that could go wrong

  1. Joel Embiid sustains another serious injury, leaving the Sixers with a huge void.
  2. Markelle Fultz continues to struggle with his outside shooting, his confidence and his overall game. The Sixes are a worse team with Fultz on the court.
  3. JJ Redick declines as he ages, making last season’s resurgence look like an aberration.
  4. Ben Simmons continues to struggle with his shooting, both from the field and the free-throw line, enabling teams to follow the Celtics’ playoff game plan in order to dramatically reduce his effectiveness.
  5. The Celtics and Raptors both improve, pushing the Sixers down to third place in the Atlantic Division and blocking their path to the Eastern Conference Finals.

 

Sixers Preview: Taking the next step

Posted by Eric Fisher On October - 14 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

The development of guard Ben Simmons (pictured) and center Joel Embiid will be critical to the Sixers’ attempt to become championships contenders this season, but they will need contributions from many more players to reach that goal.

*****

For the 76ers, this season is about taking the next step. Last season they returned to the playoffs and won a series. This year they are expected to at least reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Anything less than reaching the conference finals and being a championship contender would be considered a disappointment.

Reaching the conference finals would be a team accomplishment. But the Sixers’ team goals are heavily dependent on the improvement of the team’s core of young players.

Let’s examine the players whose development will determine whether or not the Sixers achieve their goals during the 2018-19 season.

Joel Embiid: No player is more important to the Sixers’ success than Embiid. If he remains healthy, which he finally did for most of last season, when he averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds during 63 games, he is an MVP candidate. Embiid turns the ball over too frequently, but he can dominate at both ends of the court. Any serious injury to Embiid would jeopardize the Sixers’ chances of advancing deep in the playoffs.

Ben Simmons: If Simmons displays the ability to consistently make mid-range jump shots, it would be a pleasant surprise. What’s more important is that Simmons (15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.2 rebounds last season) is able to control games with his ball-handling, both by pushing the ball on the fastbreak and running a set offense. Simmons must improve his free-throw shooting (56 percent last season) so teams can’t use the “hack-a-Shaq” strategy on him late in games.

Markelle Fultz: Almost anything Fultz contributes would be considered an improvement. Last season he only played in 14 games while struggling with a shoulder injury and his confidence. Head coach Brett Brown has mentioned possibly starting Fultz at the beginning of games, but having him come off the bench in the second half. It’s difficult to have Fultz come off the bench to provide a spark because his outside shot is so erratic. Furthermore, he only made 47.6 percent of his free throws. The No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft will receive every opportunity to prove he can stay on the floor without hurting the team. Whether he takes advantage of that opportunity might determine if the Sixers tread water this season or take the next step.

Dario Saric: There hasn’t been much discussion about Saric during this offseason. It’s almost as if he’s the forgotten man. Although he’s not as essential to the Sixers’ success as Embiid or Simmons, he’s an extremely important part. The versatile Saric (14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds last season) contributes on offense and defense. He can rebound, pass and drain 3-pointers. If Saric continues to get better, it should raise the team’s overall performance.

JJ Redick: Unlike the Sixers’ young players, Redick doesn’t need to improve. He merely needs to remain the same. The veteran guard had, arguably, the best year of his career last season, averaging 17.1 points while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range and 90.4 percent from the free-throw line. It might be a mistake to assume that Redick will be able to repeat that performance this season. If he can match last season’s performance, it will be a huge boost for the Sixers. If his performance declines at all, the Sixers will need to find someone else to hit the big outside shots that they received last season from Redick. Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli aren’t around anymore to drill 3-pointers. Another concern is that the Celtics seemed to exploit the 34-year-old Redick on defense during their playoff series. More teams might attempt to follow the Celtics’ game plan this season.

Robert Covington: Covington (12.6 points) needs to develop more consistency on offense. He can make 1 of 10 shots from 3-point range one night and 5 of 7 the next night. It would be helpful if Convington could be more versatile on offense, taking the ball to the basket more often instead of just shooting from the outside. Most importantly, the Sixers need Covington’s defense to remain a constant. For the team to take the next step, however, a more consistent performance on offense from Covington would be an important ingredient in their success.

T.J. McConnell: McConnell’s value was never more evident than during last season’s playoff series with the Celtics. The Sixers were a much better team with McConnell on the floor. The issue is who comes off the floor when McConnell is playing. Obviously, he can give Simmons a break at point guard. But can he play with Simmons? If a lineup with both McConnell and Simmons can be effective, McConnell could replace Covington, Redick or Fultz when he enters games.

Zhaire Smith: After he suffered a foot injury during the Sixers’ first summer league game, there were questions about whether Smith would contribute this season or continue the recent tradition of Sixers first-round picks missing their rookie season – or at least having their availability severely curtailed by injuries. Technically, Smith wasn’t the Sixers’ first-round pick. He was drafted by the Suns, and then traded to the Sixers in a draft-night deal that sent Villanova product Maikel Bridges to the Suns. Smith isn’t expected to play until at least December. If he makes a significant contribution this season, it should be considered a bonus.

Landry Shamet: Although Smith isn’t ready at the start of the season, Landry Shamet might be ready earlier than many people suspected. A combination guard, Shamet (6-foot-5) has the versatility the Sixers prefer, and he made a solid showing during the preseason. He could come off the bench to relieve Simmons or he could enter games to play on the wing in place of Covington or Redick.

THE REST

With Richaun Holmes traded away, more responsibility falls upon veteran center Amir Johnson (4.6 points, 4.5 rebounds). Forward-center Mike Muscala could help, although he seems more in the mode of Ilyasova than a true center. Wilson Chandler should help with shooting on the wing. Swingman Furkan Korkmaz, who played in 14 games last season, could play a larger role this season, but Sixers fans shouldn’t expect too much despite Korkmaz’s occasional summer league and preseason offensive outburst. Anything the Sixers get from forward Jonah Bolden would be a bonus.

Brett Brown: Brown did a marvelous job keeping the Sixers pointed forward while enduring one of the worst stretches of basketball in NBA history. But now there are higher expectations, and Brown is expected to deliver. He got the Sixers to the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, but was outcoached by Brad Stevens in the series. After serving as interim general manager after the Bryan Colangelo debacle, Brown’s job isn’t on the line, but the Sixers are expected to continue moving toward a championship. If they don’t go further in the playoffs this season, there will likely be more pressure on Brown the following season.

PREDICTION: The Sixers – assuming Embiid stays healthy – roar through the regular season, competing with the Celtics for the Atlantic Division title. But their flaws are once again exposed in the playoffs, but not until they reach the Eastern Conference Finals.


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