Despite their 67 bench points added last night, the Sixers currently rank 28th in the NBA in bench scoring with 33.2 points per game. While there have certainly have been bright moments with the youthful bench squad, it is clear that there are still holes that need to be addressed before the trade deadline passes by.
It is rare for a team to rotate more than 7 or 8 players deep in the playoffs, so finding the right players to continue production while the starters are resting is extremely important.
Let’s take a look at the Sixers current bench squad and evaluate their potential role in a playoff series:
Current Sixers Rotation:
Leading the bench unit is 6th man, Shake Milton who averages 13.9 points per game and brings with him an immediate spark. His absence has been greatly felt in the 10 games he has missed this season and the overall bench unit suffered without Milton in there.
Last year’s bubble acted as a fine first playoff experience for Milton as he started all 4 games of the depressing Celtics sweep averaging 14.5 points, 2.8 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in that time.
While the Sixers should still feel confident in Milton’s role on the team, it should be acknowledged that he has a lot on his plate. At this point last season, Shake was told that he had no role in the rotation and looked on the verge of heading back to the G-league, so things have changed quickly for the 24-year old.
Regardless, Milton has handled every challenge thrown at him so far, however, adding a “true point guard” to the bench would allow Shake to more freely fill the scoring role that is more natural to him. Either way, Shake should be expected to play a major role in this year’s postseason run.
The Sixers have already seen the good and the bad with Dwight Howard so far this season. Adding him on a veteran’s minimum heading into the season was a solid move for the team and looking ahead to the playoffs was one of the primary focuses of making the deal.
On the positive side, Howard has shown the veteran leadership he adds to the team by staying late to get shots up with the young members of the team and actively pushing Ben Simmons to continue on his development. Just about every player has spoken positively about Dwight throughout the season and he has seemingly made a positive lockerroom impact.
While he may still be in phenomenal shape and move much better than expected for being 35-years-old and in his 16th NBA season, Dwight is extremely limited at this point in his career. In total on the season, Howard is averaging 5.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in 16.2 minutes per game.
Dwight has provided energy and has been great on the boards this season. This is especially true on the offensive end as he averages 2.6 offensive rebounds per game. Outside of this, the veteran has been effective at catching lobs and scoring put-backs but that is just about the extent of his offensive game.
He also has become increasingly frustrating in his lack of discipline. Reckless shoving and after-the-play antics have become a nightly occurrence for Dwight as he averages just under 9 personal fouls per 48 minutes and ranks 3rd in the league in technical fouls. His playstyle has also proved to clash with Ben Simmons, which is one of the leading reasons why Embiid and Simmons often sub in and out of the game together.
Dwight will still play a role in the playoff rotation, but it may be better served in limited minutes. Throwing him in the game to add energy for a few minutes at a time is the best way to get the most out of Dwight, and adding another big man with more polish to their game would allow him to serve this role rather than a primary backup.
Thybulle serves an extremely unique role for this Sixers team. While he may have looked out of the rotation early in the season, he has used his 6’11 wingspan and defensive prowess to climb back into Doc Rivers’ good graces.
The second-year player will likely be used pretty much purely in a matchup-based role as the playoffs go around. Depending on who the Sixers find as their opponent, it is just as likely Thybulle will play 30+ minutes as it is that he never leaves the bench.
This still makes Matisse greatly valuable as it seems likely the Sixers will be forced to take on the Brooklyn Nets in order to come out of the East. Shutting down the three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving seems to be an impossible task, but Thybulle proves to be a better option than most teams possess.
Doc Rivers recently compared Thybulle to the team’s “Secret Sauce” due to what he can bring on the defensive end. Matisse is averaging 3.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.4 steals, but his impact has been felt far more than these numbers indicate. Thybulle has shown an increased willingness to shoot the three but is only knocking them down at 26.2% rate so far this season.
If Thybulle can become consistent in his long-range shot, he could legitimately be one of the best 3-and-D bench players in the NBA. However, at this point he should be looked at purely as a matchup option on the bench and this is a role he can be extremely effective in.
Every solid bench needs a guy that can come off the bench and absolutely catch fire. Furkan Korkmaz fits the complete description for his willingness to shoot the ball but he may be a notch below in talent from what a true championship-contending team may require.
Korkmaz is the anti-Matisse in a lot of ways as he provides the offensive spark that is expected out of a typical bench wing. Korky has not shot the ball particularly well this year as he is averaging 7.6 points per game and hitting threes at just 32.3%.
The biggest area of growth that has been seen in Furkan is on the defensive side of the ball. While he will never be a DPOY candidate, he is no longer the liability on this end of the floor that he came into the league as. Korkmaz has done a much better job of using his surprising 6’7 frame to stay in front of defenders and has been much more locked in on this side of the ball.
The progression Furkan has made so far in his career is extremely promising. He looks to be shaping up into a legitimate bench role player now at 23 years old. Korkmaz has played in 9 career playoff games in his time with the Sixers. As the current roster sits, Korkmaz will likely be leaned on for playoff minutes. It is still to be determined if Furkan is capable of filling the shoes that he will be forced to wear if changes are not made.
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