As we get closer and closer to a return to NBA action, the potential to finally see this year’s Sixers team go to work in the playoffs is becoming a reality. A squad that was built primarily around the idea of postseason success, everyone should be 100% healthy and ready to go should the season resume sometime in the coming months.
NBA teams usually run anywhere from an eight to ten-man rotation when it comes to the playoffs, and the 76ers are no exception. Last year during their series against the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors Brett Brown routinely ran out a stable nine-man rotation, occasionally swapping in different players based on the circumstance.
With a first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat likely looming this year, here is how you should expect Brown and the Sixers to organize things:
The Starting Five (1-5)
Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Joel Embiid
This should come as no surprise. While this group obviously has its flaws, it gets the Sixers five most talented players all on the court at once. Whether they’re playing the Celtics or the Heat, the Sixers will rely on their excessive length and size down low to win games.
Simmons’ and Embiid’s production massively drops off when they share the court with Horford, so expect this starting group to primarily start and finish games. The majority of the 48 minutes should ideally have Horford operating more as a “backup center” while Embiid and Simmons dominate together like we all know they can.
Dropping Tobias Harris down to the power forward position has also worked extremely well at times.
The Sixth Man (6)
The first surprise in this year’s rotation, Shake Milton should be the team’s number one option off the bench. A player who was essentially ignored for a majority of the season, Milton absolutely came alive towards the closing weeks of the season. He can operate as the primary ball-handler while also spotting up on the outside as a three-point shooter, the perfect type of guard to pair next to Simmons.
Eight to ten minutes into the game, Milton can be the first player off the bench to give Embiid a rest. Horford can slide to center while Milton provides both floor spacing and speed to an overall stagnant offense.
Defensive Specialist (7)
While Milton can come on to replace Embiid and allow him to stay fresh, rookie Matisse Thybulle should expect to be the next name called off the bench. His elite defensive skills and athleticism provide some serious energy on the basketball court. Plus, as we all know, defense wins championships.
Josh Richardson and Ben Simmons will likely be tasked with guarding the opposition’s primary ball-handler, whether it’s Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, or even Jayson Tatum. However, these two simply can’t do that for 48 minutes straight. Thybulle should receive a large number of minutes as one of the primary on-ball defenders for the team.
When Simmons or Richardson need a breather, Thybulle is the guy to call on.
Whoever’s Hot (8-11)
Furkan Korkmaz, Mike Scott, Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks
The final spot or two in the rotation really projects to be a “feeling” type decision for Brett Brown. The Sixers obviously lack overall floor spacing when it comes to their starting five, so having a fresh rotation of three-point shooters coming off the bench makes a ton of sense in this scenario.
Korkmaz and GRIII will primarily be used as floor spacing options when giving a guy like Tobias Harris a rest. Burks was initially added to be the team’s primary backup ball-handler, however, he may have seen his role vanish via the rise of Shake Milton.
Mike Scott was the team’s primary sixth man during last year’s postseason, and he provided some extremely solid minutes at the PF position. However, he’s been ice cold from three this year and has been woeful defensively. Brett Brown had experimented a bit using him as a “small ball five”, which may be something Brown tries again considering the team’s lack of depth at the center position.
Back of the Bench (12)
The veteran center will likely suit up for each playoff game, but should ideally not see the court. The Sixers are relying heavily on Al Horford to eat up a lot of the backup center minutes, and O’Quinn would be there just in case an injury occurred.
While Raul Neto, Zhaire Smith, Mariol Shayok, and Norvel Pelle are all currently on the 76ers’ roster, I expect them each to log close to zero minutes in the playoffs. Pelle has a small chance to see some action if Brett Brown decides he likes him better than Kyle O’Quinn as a third center option.
Guard: Simmons, Richardson, Milton, Burks
Forward: Harris, Thybulle, Korkmaz, Robinson III, Scott
Center: Embiid, Horford*, O’Quinn
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports