Sixers Mailbag 3.0: Rotation Shake Ups, Playoff Expectations, Injury Concerns, and More
1.) Which Bench Player Will Have the Biggest Impact in the Playoffs?
This is a tough question, especially with recent slumps from a couple key bench players. The obvious candidates for this would go to Shake Milton, George Hill, or Matisse Thybulle who each have strong cases for different reasons.
For Shake, his ability to completely take over games off the bench could put away a playoff game with ease. When he gets hot it can save a game where the starters are struggling, or put a game out of reach when the starters give him a lead. There’s a reason why Shake has seven games this season with twenty or more points. The problem with Shake is he’s inconsistent, and if he gets cold he becomes a liability on the court.
On top of that, George Hill finally entering the fold not only gives a bid to him for this selection, but damages Shake’s chances. Hill has the playoff experience and veteran leadership to help facilitate great offense from the second unit as a true point guard. He’s also a reliable shooter, shooting 38.5 percent from three on his career.
Despite all this, my pick goes to to Matisse Thybulle for one reason. Defense wins championships, and ‘Tise is one of the best in the business. Playoff rotations are complicated, teams usually try to mix starters in with their bench to give their stars easy matchups. Being able to get Simmons rest and plugging Thybulle in his place should prove massive for the Sixers. Thybulle has shown he can matchup well against some of the best scorers in the league throughout the season, and that’ll give the Sixers the edge in games constantly in the playoffs.
2.) Does Tyrese Maxey Deserve Playing Time Outside Garbage Time When the Sixers Get Healthy?
Thanks to Morey the Sixers have a good problem of too much talent on the roster and not enough minutes. Outside of Mike Scott there isn’t a player on this team I don’t think deserves minutes, including Tyrese. Tyrese has shown flashes of a future great point guard, especially as of late with Simmons, Curry, and Harris missing their fair share of time. Maxey possesses great speed, and can handle the ball easily while using it. He shows no fear in attacking the rim with that speed, and already has a very reliable floater to go to while on the move. He seems to be the player Sixers fans were hoping to get with Fultz.
The problem comes with who do you take minutes from. The obvious candidate is Shake, who has been in a slump recently. The problem is, I believe Milton is much better poised to play as a shooting guard alongside George Hill than Maxey. For Maxey to be productive, he needs to facilitate the offense with the ball in his hands, which he can’t do alongside Hill. Rivers can’t sit Hill either, who is a proven veteran leader who can facilitate the offense well for Philly. That’s why Morey went out and traded for him. So in the end, as great as I think Maxey will be for the Sixers in the future, I don’t see him cracking the lineup this season now that Hill is on the team. The best guard combination for the Sixers in the second unit is Hill/Milton for this season, next year I fully expect Maxey to be running the Sixers second unit and more.
3.) Do Any of the Sixers’ Starters Injuries Worry You for the Future?
The past couple games we’ve seen Tobias Harris miss three straight games with a knee injury and Ben Simmons miss three games with what is deemed a “non-COVID illness.” Not only does this harm the Sixers’ chances of securing the top seed in the East, but it does raise some concerns in their overall health. From an outside standpoint, both players seemed to be just getting rest days at first. Once they started missing consecutive games against playoff teams the Sixers needed wins against, I became concerned.
Luckily, Tobias returned to action last night. As Sixers fans we’ve all been through the ringer that was “Day-to-Day” knee injuries over the years, and I can’t lie and say I began to think it was happening all over again with Harris. So to see him suit back up last night was a relief. Simmons on the other hand just puzzles me. Not only has he missed three games with this “illness” but he didn’t even travel with the team to Milwaukee. My guess is there’s something more to that on a personal level, but I am positive he’ll have everything sorted as we approach the final ten games of the season.
To be honest the “injury” I am most worried about for the future remains to be Embiid’s knee. He’s a big guy, and has admitted that the knee isn’t fully stable in interviews. He’s still sporting a huge brace to protect it, but I still fear in the back of my mind that one bad move on it could end his season. If the difference between the #1 and #2 seed wasn’t looking so drastic, or if the Sixers had a comfortable lead to secure the top seed I’d be alright with resting Embiid’s knee until playoffs. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality we live in, and we all will just have to continue praying his knee stays healthy going forward.
4.) What is the Lowest Acceptable Finish for this Sixers Team?
This is the strongest Sixers team we’ve seen since the Jimmy Butler trade without a doubt. There might not be the same amount of star power on this team as the 2018 squad, but this team is much deeper and has a much better coach. With that being said, this Sixers squad needs to surpass the 2018 team’s finish for this to be considered a good season. That means an Eastern Conference Finals appearance is needed at the least, and the series has to go deep.
If the Sixers lose a seven-game series to the star studded Nets lineup, the season isn’t a failure. Anything short of that is a failure. I am fully confident this team has the ability to win the championship this year from what I’ve seen with a fully healthy team, especially in such a wide-open season. But if we’re talking floors, a team with an MVP candidate center, two of the best defenders in the league, and veteran leadership in multiple positions needs to make the ECF at the least.
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia 76ers.