The first look at the return of Sixers basketball left fans craving more and luckily there is not a long wait for them to take the court again. The Sixers will be taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder at 12PM for their second scrimmage in Orlando. There is a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the team after the debut of their new-look starting lineup on Friday. Hopes are higher than they have been all season for the Sixers and they are showing the early signs of peaking at a time when it matters most. There is still plenty to learn and it should be expected that Brett Brown rotates through the roster in a similar way that was seen in the first game but here are some storylines to follow:
Ben and Shake:
This is the most obvious storyline to watch for and most impactful on how high the Sixer’s ceiling is as a team. The first look of Shake at the 1 and Ben at the 4 was extremely exciting. The more minutes the pair can get on the court together to continue building chemistry the better as the pair played just 9 minutes and 43 seconds on the court together on Friday. Simmons looked aggressive and the willingness to shoot from 3-point range is certainly something that will be watched closely. It should be also be noted how much time Ben spends as the primary ball-handler as the Sixers seem fairly married to the playing Ben off the ball. In the first scrimmage, Ben spent time on the court with both Alec Burks and Josh Richardson running the point as well.
Competition for Bench Minutes
It has been a long time since this was the case, but the Sixers have an extremely deep bench this year. Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks looked much more comfortable in their roles and played well in the first scrimmage. Furkan Korkmaz was as trigger happy as ever and shot 1 for 4 from 3 point range. He also was impressive in his off the ball movement and his defense has been greatly praised by Brett Brown recently. Matisse Thybulle proved he is more than just a vlogger and had a poster dunk that put an exclamation point on the day. He had 3 steals to go with his 5 points and will look to improve on this to secure minutes for when real games begin. Much of the bench rotation is still up in the air so it is extremely important for these guys to play their best with each opportunity they get. Brown also has a tendency to play veterans and shy away from rookies during the playoffs so Matisse must especially prove that he is ready for the role.
Wake Up the Mike Scott Hive
Mike Scott has been the second biggest disappointment on roster this year and does not seem to be expected to play much going forward. This offseason Scott signed a 2-year deal for just under 10 million with the Sixers with expectations for him to provide valuable minutes off the bench. However, Scott has minutes get cut throughout the year as well as his PPG decreasing and his 3-point percentage falling from over 41% last year to just 35.8% this year. The former fan-favorite tried to make the most of his minutes in the first scrimmage and shot the ball as soon as he touched it in his first 2 possessions on the floor. Scott did not get subbed in until there were just over 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and played just 10 minutes total. This was fewer than everyone on the team except for Raul Neto, Marial Shayok, Kyle O’Quinn, and Norvel Pelle. Scott will look to impress and hopefully climb his way up the depth chart with the next few opportunities but as it as he looks to be an odd-man-out when rotations get condensed.
Al Horford’s Fit
Speaking of disappointments on the season, we got our first look at Al Horford’s rightful spot of coming off the bench. It was slightly surprising to see Big Al share the court with Embiid as Brett Brown said they had not spent any time on the same team at the practices leading up to the scrimmage. Al didn’t do anything special but looked more comfortable than he has in previous games. Brett Brown will likely be playing around with the best supporting cast to surround him within this next game. Horford and Matisse were the first two off the bench in the first scrimmage and it will be interesting to see if this rotation stays.
The Thunder will be a slightly better team than the Grizzlies have proved to be, so it will be good to see the Sixers step up the competition a little. Brett Brown said before the first game that he would get all 15 players in the first scrimmage, but it is unclear if he will do the same for this match-up. There is no doubt that Embiid and the other core starters will get a fair amount of rest but it will be interesting to watch if Brown begins to move toward forming the rotation that will be seen in the games that count. There is great excitement surrounding the team right now and this next scrimmage will be a great opportunity to continue to build on that.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports