The Sixers continue their early season schedule tonight with a game against the Detroit Pistons (2-0) and look to continue their winning ways. After the opening night loss to the Celtics, the Sixers have beaten the Bulls and Magic to improve to 2-1. The big issue coming in to tonights game is that Ben Simmons won’t be playing because of a back injury that he suffered early in the game against the Magic. This looks to put Markell Fultz at the point guard spot to open the game and that’s the best thing that the Sixers could do, considering that Fultz is basically the same player as Simmons, albeit he doesn’t look as good as Simmons. (Frankly, nowhere near close to Simmons.) Mike Muscala will make his Sixers debut after missing the first three games as he recovered from a sprained ankle. He should provide more rounded play to the team over Amir Johnson.
The real issue the Sixers are facing revolves around Markelle Fultz and how he should properly be used on the team. The second unit is where he fits in best and everyone can see this, short of Brett Brown. When he’s on the court with Simmons he’s become a stand alone, do nothing and hasn’t shown real movement or ability to play without the ball. Teams are not afraid of him taking jump shots and that seems to be the one thing that Fultz is afraid of. He’s been given quite a few open looks in the teams first three games and has chosen to not take them. It’s sad to see a former #1 overall draft pick, not live up to their hype or potential, but Fultz is at a risky part of his Sixers career right now. He needs to step up and start taking the open jumpers. He was drafted as a point guard by a team that already possessed the guy that was supposed to be the new prototype point guard. (Don’t get me started on the mistakes of Bryan Colangelo.) You’re not getting him starters minutes, save for the next game or so with Simmons out, so you should utilize him in the backup role.
The Sixers would be best suited to put JJ Redick back in the lineup as their starting shooting guard. Let Fultz run the point on the second team. While Muscala will add some depth to the lineup, the true addition will be when Wilson Chandler can return. Until then, why not let TJ McConnell, the Sixers version of Rudy, get some time off the ball. He moves well without the ball and if last year is to be believed, TJ can shoot the three. Last year, in limited attempts, McConell shot at 43% on 27-62 shooting. Granted, that’s a small sample size when you have players that take that many shots in seven or eight games, but he still connected when needed. Why not let Fultz find him for some open jumpers? If Fultz isn’t going to take them he can find someone that will.
Joel Embiid always gets hype to play but when there’s someone of Andre Drummonds reputation opposing him, Joel steps his game up. He’s started off the season close to 28/11/3 to go along with two blocks per game. I wouldn’t expect anything less than that tonight and it may be more with Simmons likely to sit.
The Sixers have a chance here, early in the season, to really get themselves together. The key, as it’s been stated all off-season, is how Markelle Fultz will acclimate himself to the team and how he’ll perform. It hasn’t been great so far, but tossing aside his rookie year that was wasted, he’s just getting started. What needs to happen is for coach Brett Brown to recognize what he has and utilize the lineup correctly. If he doesn’t, then the team will fail and Fultz will be another name in a long list of draft mistakes.