We’re getting close Sixers fans. Sixers training camp starts Friday, September 21, 2018 with a media day, followed by three days of practice and then the annual Blue-White game on September 25th. As, I’m sure, everyone is getting excited about the upcoming season, there are still a lot of questions regarding the team and how they’ll perform.
What will become of Markelle Fultz?
After a forgettable and almost non-existent rookie year, the Sixers expect Fultz to be the player that they drafted first overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s worked on his shooting form and game all summer long with shooting coach Drew Hanlen. Hanlen seems to think that Fultz will be an All-Star right away and that there’s nothing to worry about. That remains to be seen, but if history regarding recent Sixers first round picks is to be believed, then there won’t be any problems with Fultz. According to Brett Brown, Fultz has put up about 150,000 shots this off-season, which works out to about 1,000 per day. Fultz also seems taller and has added muscle to his frame. This should all work out well for the Sixers who want him to be a vital piece of their puzzle moving forward.
Will Ben Simmons use a jump shot this season?
The other shooting question that has consumed the Sixers nation is that of Ben Simmons and his lack of a jump shot. While you watched Simmons last season, not having a jump shot didn’t really affect his play at all but, if he’s added a jumper to his repertoire, he will become a lethal player on the court. According to Brown, he’s not concerned as he’s seen Simmons and likes what he’s seen from his outside shot.
The real issue that people had was that he didn’t take those shots last year yet, no one really looked at it as Simmons didn’t need to take those shots. He wasn’t brought here to be a shooter. He was brought in to run the team and provide problems for opposing defenses and offenses. He accomplished that during his Rookie of the Year campaign. Simmons seems smart enough to know that he’ll need to use the jumper more as his career goes on, but he didn’t need it at all last year. With players like Dario Saric and JJ Reddick on the floor, he had two very good shooters with him and Robert Covington, who cooled off after a hot start was another starter that Simmons could count on. If the Sixers are going to be a more well-rounded team, they’ll need the jumper that Simmons didn’t use last year and they’ll need is soon.
What will Joel Embiid do this season?
Joel has all the skills to be one of the stars of the league for the next ten years. His health will dictate if that comes true. If we look at last year, we should have nothing to worry about. He was second team all defense, finished second for DPOY, became an All-Star and pretty much lit up twitter and the NBA shows with his personality. He’s the heart of the team and there’s nothing that says Embiid can’t be one of the best in the game. With more confidence, if that’s possible, and a whole healthy year under his belt, Joel should be more aggressive and look to dominate in a way that we haven’t seen since Allen Iverson was destroying teams. All-Star? Yes. DPOY? Possibly. MVP? It might be close. He should be up there for a lot of those awards at the end of the year but the one that he cares about is the championship trophy, so we can hope.
How will the Sixers rookies make an impact on the team?
It would be crazy to think that any of the rookies that the Sixers drafted will make a huge impact on the team since they’ve all experience some sort of injury this off-season. Zhaire Smith could miss the entire season with his fractured foot, following in the steps of our more recent first round picks. If he’s able to play at some point, I would expect some scoring but his impact being on the second team defense where his athleticism would really help.
Landrey Shamet and Shake Milton were brought in for one reason. They both can shoot. Shamet was 44% from three last season and Milton was 43%. That’s what the team was looking for. Spacing shouldn’t be a problem for those guys when they’re on the second unit and TJ McConnel and Markell Fultz are out there on the floor. If their injuries heal, and all points are that they have, then the Sixers may have grabbed two guys that fit perfectly as pieces of the puzzle. I wouldn’t look at any of them being in the Rookie of the Year conversation but, they can add the depth that the Sixers lacked as Boston ran them out of the playoffs last season.
What happens to Dario Saric?
It seems that Dario keeps showing us more over the past two seasons. He’s improved his three-point shooting, he’s been a valuable player on offense and while he’s never going to be a stud defender, he’ll be able to handle his duties in relation to the scheme the Sixers play. Getting 14-16 points per game and close to 7 rebounds is great for a guy who’s not looked at as one of the top options for the team. Saric will continue to grind out good stats and be an energy guy that the team looks at when they need him. Depending on his starts this year, Saric could grab some votes for Sixth Man of the year.
Now that I got all the nice stuff out of the way, there’s a few things that need to be addressed.
Kawhi Leonard plays for the Toronto Raptors. Well, he’s a member of the team, whether he plays is up to him but, all signs point to him being part of that team this year. He is not a Sixer. Let me repeat that for those of you that still comment on him. KAWHI LEONARD IS NOT A SIXER. To be honest, he never was going to be. I talked about it when the trades were all being put out there in speculation during the start of the off-season and it’s been reported again just the other day, that the Spurs wanted either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. They knew that they wouldn’t get either and the same goes for the Celtics who were not surrendering their top players for a headcase that hasn’t really played in over a year.
It’s time to let go of Leonard. He’s a Raptor and the Spurs never intended for him to be a Sixer. It’s not the Sixers fault. They didn’t fail to go get Leonard, they just followed the plan and knew that they weren’t surrendering their two top players for a guy who may or may not play. For all of his accolades a few years ago, Leonard is not a top five player in this league. He is a very good player, borderline great, when he wants to play, but he’s not played save a few games, in over a year. The way the fans would have you believe is that Leonard equaled a title in Philly and that’s simply not true and the sooner everyone realizes that, the quicker they can move on and realize that the team we have in Philly is something special as it is and will only get better moving forward.
FOR THE BRAND:
The Sixers are naming Elton Brand to the position of General Manager and I’m sure all the message boards will light up with how they didn’t go get someone “great” from another team and that they’re relying on a rookie GM to take over a team that’s obviously headed for big things in the next few years. The key for the Sixers was that they needed to keep this team and organization heading in the right direction and working together as the unit they’ve used the past couple of years. Brand has been a VP of basketball operations and GM of the Delaware Blue Coats.
He’s also a smart guy who recognized where his talent would be after playing and started moving towards his goal of running a team. He’s not going to try to change the Sixers and disrupt the “process” but, rather he’ll continue to help the team build and grow as a unit. After bringing in Bryan Colangelo a couple of years ago, this is the Sixers best choice. Colangelo was an outsider who the league wanted in the position so that everyone else wouldn’t keep getting fleeced by Sam Hinkie. He never really did anything for the Sixers and as we all saw when he was let go, he was a detriment to the organization. Elton Brand will be a successful GM for the Sixers and someone that the players will be comfortable dealing with.
Forget about the failure to bring in the big name stars that everyone seems to still harp on. The team said they were star hunting and they did, but they didn’t get one of the big names. Paul George never gave anyone a chance to bid on him. LeBron James already knew that he was going to LA. Leonard was a mess and an unknown that no team should have mortgaged their future for. Kevin Durant wasn’t ever opting out of the situation with the Warriors. So, why do we still get on the team, three months later, about not getting one of those guys? Forget about it. The team was built with one thing in mind and that was to have a sustained period of greatness.
If you’d look, without bias, then you’ll see that’s exactly what they’re doing and where they’re heading. Built from within and when the time comes, the superstars will be in Philly. What most people have failed to realize is that we already have two superstars and could be three if Fultz becomes the player everyone in the league thought he’d be. So, let it go. It’s time for a new Sixers season where we’re not wondering whether they’ll be healthy or be able to compete. We should be wondering how great they’ll be this year and how far they’ll go in the playoffs. All signs point toward them going far and being in the top tier of the NBA for a long time. Get on board now.
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports