Sixers Roundtable: The Okafor conundrum, accountability and veteran leadership

Welcome to the first Sixers Roundtable here at Philly Sports Network. We had our Sixers writers, Liam Jenkins, Yamil Rivera, Raheem Johnson and Tim Sullivan sit down and answer some of the questions that we’ve received from our readers.  With this will have a weekly go around where we can discuss the issues facing the team and its fans here in Philadelphia. Please let us know your thoughts and comments and if you have any questions that you’d like to see us addressed, let us know and we’ll put them in the next roundtable.

 

What can we expect from Markelle Fultz when he returns from injury?

RAHEEM – He will have an instant impact, only thing missing was the fact he couldn’t gain shooting form due to injury.

YAMIL – I expect to see a version of Markelle Fultz that is much closer to the Summer League version of himself. The one that was shooting, and more importantly, making threes. He averaged 20 points through two games in the Utah Jazz Summer League. He looked confident taking jump shots and finishing strong in the lane. His jumper looked slightly different than what we saw from him in Washington but it still got the job done. Hopefully all of the physical therapy pays off and we can see what Markelle Fultz can do when at 100%.

LIAM –  I think we will hopefully see a slightly more confident player. Time away from the game and the spotlight hopefully allows him to find his zen and focus on having fun on the court and driving for success as opposed to working on a broken down shot technique. It may take a while, but the progression curve should be in place.

TIM – Fultz should return and be the guy that was the consensus #1 pick in last years draft. After getting his shoulder pain under control, the shooting form will return.  Hopefully, it’s not something that the Sixers screw up and further.

 

Where do we think Okafor ends up and how soon can we expect a trade?

RAHEEM I hope Phoenix for Bledsoe, which has been brought up in discussions among NBA analysts, but New York and Chicago are also places he could end up.

YAMIL – I wouldn’t be surprised to see Okafor return home and play for the Chicago Bulls. Okafor’s trade value has seriously declined since last season and not many teams are interested in a ball stopping center who struggles on defense. The Bulls are in the middle of a rebuild and will take whatever young talent they can get their hands on. With Nikola Mirotic or Bobby Portis on the way out of Chicago, adding a young big with potential like Okafor would make a lot of sense. I suspect a trade for Okafor will get done sooner rather than later

TIM – I’m not really sure that Okafor gets moved as quickly as everyone thinks or would like. Embiid hasn’t played a lot of basketball and Okafor can score. He’s committed himself to getting better and in better shape so he could fit in with the team and it’s been lost on the those that run the Sixers. I would like to see him get minutes over Johnson, but that won’t happen as Johnson was the choice of Brian Colangelo. If he does get moved, it has to be for picks and/or a salary dump from another team.  Why would they screw with a young core and team chemistry by bringing someone in? Bobby Portis was the hot name this weekend, but he just punched a teammate because he wasn’t going to be starting. Is that really the guy you want here? Eric Bledsoe? He’s not needed as we have Simmons, Fultx and McConnell. Bledsoe wouldn’t add anything to the Sixers. Hopefully, they can get involved as a third partner that helps move players, but gets us back some first round pick and a player that we’ll obviously buy out or release.

 

Can Saric get out of the shooting slump?

YAMIL- Dario Saric has been shooting 35.6% from the field and 33.3% from deep this season. He has struggled out of the gates despite having cleaner looks than last season. Part of it could be due to fatigue since he played basketball almost all summer for his native Croatian team overseas. It could also be a confidence issue since he is now coming off the bench this season as opposed to being in the starting lineup last season. No matter the issue, Dario needs to break out of this slump. He is certainly capable of being a better shooter than what he has shown in the early season.

LIAM– When you look at how impactful Saric was last year, it’s hard to imagine this slump lasting a while. Simply put, he needs more minutes and talent around him in order to help cut the tie on it. Coming off the bench isn’t doing him any favors and if that changes every now and again then it shouldn’t last much longer.

RAHEEM – He will no question. Looked good last game playing with Simmons.

TIM– I think that Saric is tired. Physically. He’s been playing ball nonstop for the past two and half years with his commitment to his national team as well as the Sixers. He also needs to be on the floor where he can excel as a player and not be the focal point of the offense, as he is on the second team. The people he’s on the floor with in the second unit aren’t scaring anyone and they’re allowing other teams to focus on Dario. He needs to start and get in the groove. What I’d like to see if have them shut him down for a couple weeks and get him some much needed rest, but I know they won’t and he won’t have any of that either. He just needs to be on the floor with better players. It was obvious Saturday against the Mavericks, that he plays better with the starters.

 

Can Richaun Holmes surpass Amir Johnson as the backup center when he returns from his injury?

RAHEEM – He will but Amir being a vet will still get valuable minutes, his veteran leadership is priceless.

YAMIL – Richaun Holmes should replace Amir Johnson when he returns from his injury. He is more athletic than Johnson, is a better shot blocker than Johnson, and is a much better 3 point shooter than Johnson. Holmes stepped it up last season after Nerlens Noel was traded to the Mavericks. He finished the season averaging 9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1 block while shooting 35.1% from beyond the arc. Amir Johnson has averaged 5.1 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting an abysmal 14.3% from deep. There should be no hesitation on Brett Brown’s behalf inserting Holmes into the second unit over Johnson.

TIM – Holmes should slide right back in to that role when he returns to full health. He can’t be thrown right in, but they should give him some time to get back in to the flow of the game and have him get comfortable. I really don’t see Johnson going anywhere lower on the depth chart because he’s the guy that BC brought in and that they’re going to have to stick with since th team doesn’t want to look like it made a mistake that it obviously did. There was no need for Johnson here. He was brought in to make it look like BC knows that he’s doing. Which I don’t believe that he does. Holmes proved himself last season as a valuable asset to the team and should be given the time to get back in the flow of things.

 

How much blame should the Sixers take for the injuries that go either misdiagnosed or incorrectly treated for all of their players?

LIAM– There has to be a sense of accountability somewhere. This has outlasted the process and continues to be a PR nightmare. Maybe it’s all coincidental, but there has to be some ownership somewhere to prevent what should be one time thing happening again and again.

Tim– Both the Sixers and the players should be held accountable for the misdiagnosed/mistreated injuries. Bryan Colangelo seriously downplayed the extent of Joel Embiid’s knee injury last season. He was initially set to be out just a couple weeks but then it was revealed that he would end up missing the rest of the season. Joel let it be known that he was upset by the way Colangelo handled things. Now there’s the issue with Markelle Fultz. Fultz is the one who brushed off his shoulder injury and hid the extent of the discomfort from the team. Despite the team not knowing what was actually going on with Fultz, they knew something was going on. They should have sat him down for a few weeks to start the season instead of having him play through any discomfort that could have made the issue worse.

RAHEEM– All of it, Fultz could have sat and got healthy instead of add more insult to injury.

 

  1. What’s the best-case scenario for the Okafor situation?

YAMIL – Best case: Okafor gets moved to a team that will give him the opportunity to showcase his talent and the Sixers get a low first round pick or a player they can use right away. Worst case: Okafor doesn’t get traded, finishes out his contract with the Sixers and signs a short-term deal with a team that will use him as a reserve.

RAHEEM – We trade him for Eric Bledsoe.

TIM– Okafor gets moved for some draft picks. With him not being tendered on his rookie contract, there’s nothing left for him in Philly and it’s a disgrace how the former #3 pick in the draft was handled. Hopefully, the team can get something for him but the way the Colangelos operate, this looks like he’ll be gone and we’ll see nothing for him in return. This is their way or clearing out any hint of Sam Hinkie.

 

Is Brett Brown the right man going forward?

YAMIL- This is something I have struggled with for two seasons now. I think Brett Brown is a phenomenal player development coach. Just look at what he’s done with Richaun Holmes, T.J. McConnell and Robert Covington. However, the team struggles badly in late game situations. Yes they are young, but that excuse can only work for so long. The execution in late game moments is horrible and a large part of that is due to the coaching. For now, Brett Brown is a our guy. If the Sixers miss the playoffs this season, that might be something that needs to be changed.

LIAM – I personally feel that this is the year we find out. Now that Brown has the talent around him, can he win close games? Can he close out those underdog battles? Can he keep the locker room motivated? If he can, then absolutely.

RAHEEM– He is over qualified, especially seeing what he has been though with this organization.

TIM – Brown has given too much to this organization to be cast aside. He’s finally going to show what he can do with capable and quality players. With the way the team is playing to start the season, Brown has to get at least the next two seasons. The only reason for him not being here is that he’s a Hinkie hire and Colangelo doesn’t like that.

 

Is the rotation with Johnson/Bayless something that Brown feels pressure to put out there from the upper management?

RAHEEM– They are valuable vets, they play their part. Johnson adds tough defense and strong rebounding with good veteran leadership.

Bayless is shooting 46 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3 and 11.8 points a game. He is a close mentor to Ben Simmons and a good shooter.

 

YAMIL– No, not at all. Johnson does fit Brett Brown’s run and gun system of play better than Jahlil Okafor. I think Okafor should be given the chance to play with the second unit over Johnson, especially since he’s struggled a bit to start the season. Bayless is a player who fits perfectly with this team. He is a combo guard who can really shoot it from deep (49.1% this season). For now, there isn’t a better option. When Richaun Holmes returns, he should definitely be given more minutes over Amir Johnson.

TIM – Bayless is overpaid and underperforms. He’s changed himself in to a better three point shooter as his career has gone on but he’s still worth nothing on the defensive side, he doesn’t facilitate the offense and he’s not a veteran leader. He’s hopefully being showcased to be traded. Johnson will not be moved out of the rotation even though Holmes is much better. He’s the signing of Colangelo, so I can’t see them pulling him out or not giving him every chance to perform. Neither of them should be here next year.

 

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Born and raised in Fishtown, I write it.

One thought on “Sixers Roundtable: The Okafor conundrum, accountability and veteran leadership

  1. I tend to be critical of the shallow and amateurish offerings on the basketball internet, but collectively I consider this roundtable to be terrific. Insightful thoughts and criticism. Like most if you I don’t see Colangelo except for his sartorial quality to be at all anything special. I guess if Jerry wasn’t his dad he might be better suuted fir Joseph A. Bank.

    The main Sixer dilemma us having him as the gm and I don’t think Brown is an elite coach, passable though. The keys from here will be Fultz being the star I have expected and for Joel to mature si he can truly be like Shaq, Tim and Hakeem. His schtic is endearing but to become a true superstar he has to grow uo and be more disciplined. As anticipated though Ben is on his way. As he gets more aggressive he will be one if tge greats.

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