Sixers Mailbag 1.0: Potential Playoff Matchups, Buyout Market Targets, and More!
Welcome to the first installment of Sixers Mailbag, a fairly simple and overused concept that is now on The Liberty Line. Every week I’ll be pulling Sixers/NBA related questions from Twitter and answering them in an editorial style every Friday.
1.) Who Should the Sixers Target in the Buyout Market?
As of now, the two big fish on the NBA Buyout Market post-trade deadline are off the table. LaMarcus Aldridge signed with the Brooklyn Nets and Andre Drummond took his talents west, signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. With the trade for George Hill I don’t think the Sixers need any more point guard help, but there is definitely still a hole on the roster Morey should look to fill at power forward. With a completely healthy Sixers roster the backup behind Tobias Harris at power forward is Mike Scott. In his ninth season Scott is averaging just four points a game, and shooting an abysmal thirty-six percent from the field. That won’t cut it on a roster with a championship ceiling, and my buyout market target has much better numbers.
Magic forward Otto Porter Jr has been mentioned as a buyout candidate since Orlando began trading away their stars at the deadline. Porter is currently averaging just under ten points a game, while shooting thirty-nine percent from three. Both average around the same minutes, and attempt about the same amount of threes a game, with Scott shooting 3.1 on average and Porter shooting two and-a-half. Simply put, Porter is a taller, younger, and more potent offensive weapon than Scott and would certainly fit right in behind Tobias Harris. If the Magic decide to buy him out, Daryl Morey should be the first one to call.
2.) If the 76ers Don’t Acquire Another Big, Will Paul Reed Eventually Force His Way into the Rotation?
As much as I love the story of BBall Paul getting out of “The Mud” to secure an NBA contract, I don’t see him finding minutes in this rotation. Embiid is set to return for tomorrow’s game, which would move Dwight Howard back to his traditional role off the bench for Joel. Think about it this way, when the Sixers roster was healthy, how much did you see Tony Bradley in games? Only when Doc emptied the benches in blowout games. In games that Embiid played, Tony Bradley averaged just above a minute playing time as the third-string center. If the Sixers big men can stay healthy for the rest of the season, I don’t see Paul Reed forcing his way into the rotation any more than Tony Bradley did.
3.) If You Had to Choose One Player/Coach that’s Had the Most Impact on This Team this Year (Other Than Embiid), Who Would It Be?
This is a great but tough question. The term “impact” can be taken a couple different ways. Do you mean “impact” as a locker room presence/glue guy? Or just straight up who’s been balling the best outside of Embiid? I’m going to take the latter approach and say Tobias Harris. Tobi is coming off a down year where he got his fair share of criticism, with the Sixers front office catching heat from fans for his contract as well. Harris is currently averaging more points, assists, and rebounds than last season, while shooting better from the field and deep. Specifically, Harris is shooting nearly fifty-two percent from the field, while averaging twenty points and just over seven rebounds a game. Now obviously you can say that these numbers elevated because Embiid has missed seventeen games this season, most recently missing the last ten in a row.
What I’d argue though, is that without Embiid, Harris has stepped up immensely to keep the Sixers at the top of the East. Last year, if Joel missed a game the Sixers and Harris would look terrible. This year, during that ten game stretch, Harris helped the Sixers go 7-3 without Embiid. In those ten games, Harris’ averages jump to a crazy fifty-four percent shooting from the field, and twenty-two points a game. Two of those games saw Harris record a double-double as well. Even outside of the stretch without Embiid, what made me choose Harris was his evolution into a reliable closer for the Sixers. When Jimmy Butler left for Miami, a hole was left in the closer spot. Embiid obviously can close out games, but teams began to double him out of the post late in games. Now, the Sixers have two guys that can get the ball in an isolation situation, and get a much needed bucket with Harris and Embiid. The game that comes to mind from this season for me was the Lakers game before the All-Star break. The game where down one, Harris took the ball into his own hands and hit a game winning jumper at the elbow. Combining his improved play with his new ability to close games for the Philly, Harris is my most-impactful Sixer outside of Embiid.
4.) Should the Nets Be Worried About Matching Up with Us or Should We Be Worried About Matching Up with Them?
I think that a potential Sixers-Nets postseason matchup will come down to a couple things. First off, with current seeding this is most likely an Eastern Conference Finals matchup. As of now, neither team has faced off at full strength yet. The closest we got was when the Nets came to play the Sixers at Wells Fargo prior to the All-Star break. Even then, the Nets didn’t have Durant or Irving in that game. On paper, this matchup scares me for both sides. For the Sixers, it is a complete wild card thanks to Ben Simmons. He can arguably matchup well against any of the Nets big three. I think we’ll likely see him guard Harden like he did earlier in the season. So that leaves Curry or Green to guard Irving, and Harris on Durant. That’s where things get problematic. I don’t know if Green can keep up with Irving all that well, and I certainly am scared of the Durant-Harris matchup. I do think Thybulle could come in early to handle Irving, which puts me at ease especially once the bench players begin to mix with the starters.
On the flip-side, there is zero doubt in my mind that the Nets have absolutely nobody to guard Embiid. DeAndre Jordan has already proven he can’t guard Embiid in past outings. Blake Griffin has never truly had to guard Embiid one-on-one since that was normally Drummond’s job. Same goes for Aldridge. Even if they decide to try and double Embiid, the Sixers have the outside shooting to punish them. Until we see both squads go at each other, I think it is really hard to say who has the bigger task. For now, I think it will come down to whether the Sixers can contain two of the three stars from Brooklyn and if the Nets can scheme a way to contain Embiid without giving up open looks off double teams.
5.) Is the Media Underrating Just How Large of a Threat the 76ers are Due to the Star Power of the Nets and Lakers?
I think that is a perfect way to put it. Kevin Durant and Lebron James are undisputedly two of the five best players in the NBA, and they have been for awhile. Wherever those two play will garner attention from the mass media. The Lakers will get even more because they are the returning world champions, and they play in one of the biggest sports markets. I think what put the Nets over the top was adding James Harden at first, and then adding all of these former elite talents in the buyout markets.
The narrative of these teams, the players on them, and another KD vs Lebron bout is just easy television. On top of that, Embiid going down with an injury took him out of MVP conversation, which pulled the Sixers even more out of mainstream media. Past that the only conversation with Ben Simmons is always “he needs to develop a shot.” I think the mainstream media loves to stick to their narratives from the beginning of the season, and this year’s did not involve the Sixers. It’s okay though, a team that won the championship recently with this amount of media attention happened only two years ago with the Raptors, so the narratives never really matter.
6.) What’s the Deal with Jazz Fans Living on Sixers Twitter?
I thought a silly but good question like this one was perfect to end on. This is a proven fact, that for some weird reason tons of Jazz fans are obsessed with involving themselves in Sixers Twitter on a nightly basis. My theory takes us all the way back to the 2017-18 season, also known as Ben Simmons’ rookie season, also known as Donovan Mitchell’s rookie season. One of the biggest debates of that year revolved around the two and the rookie of the year award. Week in and week out Sixers and Jazz twitter would wage war on each other, with the trenches being the comments of mainstream media, and the ammo being the stat lines of Simmons and Mitchell. It got so big that Mitchell was spotted wearing clothes bringing into question Simmons’ rookie status. As many of you know, Simmons was drafted the year prior, but didn’t play a game due to a foot injury putting him out for the season. Simmons ended up rightfully winning the award, and Jazz fans had an absolute meltdown.
Ever since, a select group of Jazz fans have become obsessed with pointing out every flaw within Simmons and the Sixers game. I think it has been especially heightened this year since both teams are playing their best ball in years.