Sixers basketball is back! The team tip off against the Washington Wizards tonight to kickstart an NBA campaign that has been anticipated by many. The end of the process is here and the start of the process to contend now begins. But what should we be looking out for in tonight’s game?
By now, we all know that the iconic Joel Embiid isn’t too happy about his minutes restriction being enforced for at least the start of the season. Last season’s Rookie Of The Year contender was dominant when he was on the court, the problem was that minutes restrictions and another injury cut what would have been a historic season short. It was a small sample size, but enough to see just how dangerous Embiid could be. If the Cameroonian big-man enters this year with a chip on his shoulder due to yet another roadblock in his way, then we could be primed to see yet another dominant game in Washington tonight, with the recently re-signed cultural hero looking to make a statement.
It’s easy as one, two, three:
Last season, the Sixers ranked 25th in three point percentage (34%) whilst attempting the seventh most three point attempts per game (31.2). It’s not the first time that the team have faced this deficiency, in fact it’s a trend that’s continued over the last three years. The Sixers shoot a lot of three’s and sink few.
Enter J.J Redick. The insertion of one of the league’s most prolific three-point shooters should give the team an added boost from outside the arc and it certainly looked that way in preseason. The problem is that shooting depth is minimal. The Sixers team is based on bigger bodies who can pound the rock inside but have such incredible amounts of agility that dominating the post is a breeze. Every team knows this, and if the Sixers can work out away to find consistency from Stauskas, Saric and company, then the team may have an offense versatile and diverse enough to go toe-to-toe with most teams in the East.
Who pounds the rock?
Joel Embiid? Ben Simmons? Marekelle Fultz? While one first overall pick will be starting from the bench, the other is out to avenge a season that never was. The question is, if the Sixers do want to be a team who dominate inside the paint, who is going to be the player with the ball in his hands most of the time? Will the silky passing of Ben Simmons outweigh the strengths of Embiid and Fultz?
Simmons has the ability to play like a point guard and if the way he looked in preseason is any indication, he is going to thrive in such a role. The problem there is that it unbalances the scales a little and could arguably marginalize their offense against teams who are designed to protect the rim as opposed to playing small. If Simmons is going to flourish as the target-man here, he’s going to HAVE to start taking Jumpers and be more confident in his shooting from range…something we saw very little of in preseason.
The questions on the bench:
The enigma of Jahlil Okafor may be one of the most incredible debates in recent memory. How can a player so physically gifted have his career nullified at THE AGE OF 21? The center looked leaner, meaner, and more keener in preseason and if Embiid’s minute restriction is damaging, the former Duke product could have a huge opportunity to shine.
While we’ve already addressed the situation concerning Markelle Fultz, there is then the question of how much of a role T.J McConnell has to play, one year removed from a stunning campaign in which he embodied everything it means to play for a Philadelphia team.
There will be minutes to fight for…but who gets them? Let the fun begin!
Washington are an incredibly talented team…and one that boasts a lot of chemistry. With John Wall and Bradley Beal both healthy, the Wizards have an opportunity to once again emerge as a dominant threat in a weak Eastern Conference. Tonight’s matchup will shed light on one very important area; chemistry.
This is a young group…a very young group. Two of the team’s key role players are making their ROOKIE debuts tonight, while the other is looking to complete his first full healthy season in the league after a huge contract extension. The presence of J.J Redick helps, but the team haven’t been through the ups and downs that Washington have, or grown in the way have.
Can youth really win in the NBA? We’re about to find out…
Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports