The Sixers are preparing for the third of three scrimmage games before the NBA regular season resumes. After comfortably overcoming the Memphis Grizzlies in their first game, the Sixers allowed the Thunder to storm back against them Sunday afternoon. While both games were only scrimmages it’s still disappointing that in both games the bench lost control of dominating leads.
There has been much to be excited about though over these games. From Ben Simmons shooting threes to Matisse Thybulle looking like an All-NBA defender, this team is looking ready for not only the regular season but the playoffs as well.
Unfortunately, the Sixers may be without two key players. Joel Embiid missed the last scrimmage with calf tightness and trade deadline acquisition Glenn Robinson III suffered a hip injury against the Thunder. Both will have their status updated before the game against the Mavericks.
What will this last scrimmage show us though? Is there more to this Sixers’ team that we need to see? Is it just about showing consistency or will we see something from this squad they’ve yet to show?
Will Tobias Harris find his shot?
Tobias Harris has been an incredible leader ever since the NBA season underwent its hiatus. Both as a leader to the team on/off the court and as a vocal presence in the city of Philadelphia. He has shown that is worth is near invaluable and he will be key as to whether the Sixers sink or swim in the playoffs.
In the first two scrimmages, Harris has been solid. After notching a double-double in his first game, Harris scored a solid nine points in limited action but his impact against the Thunder was larger than his traditional numbers. Harris finished the game a +12 and was strong defending the Thunder’s talented offense. What Harris hasn’t done in either of the scrimmages is shoot the three.
A combined one-for-five in those games, Harris has continued to struggle shooting for the Sixers. While he hasn’t been terrible overall from the field, his three-point shooting is supposed to be his primary attribute. It’s disconcerting to see Harris continue to struggle from deep but these are scrimmages and it’s expected that there be plenty of dust to knock off.
It would be encouraging though to see Harris find his stroke against Dallas giving himself and the fans confidence in his shot entering the resumption of the season. If Harris can catch fire everyone will feel more comfortable about the rest of the season.
Clearly Harris can affect the game in many other areas but three-point shooting is already an area the Sixers struggle in. The team can hardly afford one of their primary snipers struggling to shoot.
How much time will the starters see in scrimmage finale?
Nearly all of the starters saw a rise in minutes from game one to two. It makes sense for Head Coach Brett Brown to ramp up his starters’ minutes the closer they get to the regular season. Harris and Simmons will likely lead the team in minutes yet again while Milton and Richardson will also see a steady increase in minutes.
What’s curious is the Embiid/Horford situation. If Embiid is truly healthy, Brown will likely want him to play decent minutes but if there is any concern for Embiid’s calf, he may play few, if any, minutes. Either way, expect Horford to play sizable minutes as he will either be starting or backing up/playing with Embiid.
Again, this is the last scrimmage before the regular season resumes. This is the time to work out those final kinks and to further build on-court chemistry. Brett Brown will likely schedule minutes closer to the regular season than either of the previous games.
Expect Harris and Simmons to play somewhere in the 25-30 minute range. Enough time to further push them back to game shape without risking fatigue. Horford will also likely play around 25 minutes whether or not Embiid plays. The team needs Horford, like it or not, and they can’t afford him to be rusty or unsure of his role. Finally, expect Josh Richardson and Shake Milton to play between 20-25 minutes. Both have been extremely solid during the first two games and will be key contributors in the post-season, both just need to continue to play their role knocking down open shots and defending the perimeter.
Will Ben Simmons shoot a three-pointer? (and how many?)
Finally the question on everybody’s mind; will Ben Simmons shoot a three-pointer and how many? Sixers’ fans were thrilled to see Simmons shoot not one, but two three-pointers in the opening scrimmage against the Memphis Grizzlies but expectations were quickly tempered against the OKC Thunder. Despite playing 26 minutes and taking 10 shots, not a single one was from deep.
The fan-base (and more importantly the team) cannot continue to take this wishy-washy approach to shooting from Simmons. While maybe he doesn’t have to shoot at least one three a game, it certainly would be encouraging and beneficial if he did. It’s not just about adding another skill to his game if Simmons is actively shooting the half-court opens up for the rest of the team.
It’s not just about Ben Simmons and that’s likely the reason Joel Embiid has been so outspoken about Simmons’ lack of shooting. Ben Simmons shooting means that the defense has one more responsibility defensively and that would be huge for a Sixers’ offense that struggles in the half-court.
It’s more than the “will he, won’t he” with Ben Simmons. For his benefit and the team’s, fans, coaches, and his teammates have been clamoring for this shot and Simmons has done well when he’s willing to put himself out there. Whether or not he decides to do that against Dallas will be an interesting storyline.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports