The 76ers are starting to get back into the swing of things and it’s been nothing short of a roller-coaster. Ben Simmons turned the ball over 11 times in one game and Markelle Fultz single-handedly saved the team from a disastrous second-half collapse, two events that we weren’t sure would happen even once this season. In this roundtable, we discuss the 76ers’s placement within the Eastern Conference, JJ Redick and Markelle Fultz’s minutes, a Ben Simmons game that was arguably worse than scoring one point in a playoff game, and how Brett Brown has handled everything from the off-season until now.
The Process Disciples joining us today to recap another week of Philadelphia 76ers basketball are:
- Eric Rose (@ericrose6)
- Max Mangigian (@PhillySportsMax)
- Kyle Allan (@kallan441)
- Ryan Calpin (@calpinr_)
Q: After tough losses to both Boston and Toronto, where do the 76ers stand in the east?
Rose: At the very best, the 76ers are the third best team in the East, which is about what I expected. Now, this is only assuming that the early season hiccups for the team are just them getting into the swing of things like they did last year. However, the problems the Sixers faced last October and November stemmed from youth, it being Ben Simmons’ first season, Markelle Fultz’s whatever that was, and trying to fit in a bunch of new pieces who have never played together. Because of the lack of big moves this summer, the early season issues we’re seeing right now are unacceptable. This is nearly the same roster that played in multiple playoff series together and there is no explanation for how lost the team looks and it’s growing into a real concern. Because of all of this, I currently have the 76ers as the fourth best team in the East, behind Boston, Toronto, and Milwaukee, with Indiana being right there as well. There’s no doubt in my mind that the team is more talented from top to bottom than the Bucks and Pacers, but with Giannis playing the way he is and Indiana’s defense second in the league in points allowed per game, there’s no reason I can see to put the present-day Sixers firmly ahead of either of them.
Calpin: I think that the losses are almost irrelevant. A lot of people knew and felt coming into this season that the Celtics were the number one team in the East and then Toronto. People knew the Raptors could be the best team as well because we all knew what Leonard was capable of. Now we see it. He is back and he has a chip on his shoulder and he makes this deep team even better. In my opinion the Sixers are the third best team in the East. Sure, they haven’t played well to start the season and it’s no different than last year’s slow start. We need Dario and Markelle to play better, the offense needs more flow, and we probably need more depth. But regardless, with the slow start and the tough losses included, they are still the third best team in the East.
Allan: I think the Sixers are the fourth best team in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics and Raptors are clear front-runners in the Eastern Conference with Milwaukee being a surprising powerhouse thus far. They were undefeated until their last game against the Celtics and that is pretty crazy to think when they were an up and down team last year. Giannis has been playing out of his mind thus far and has really taken a leap forward this season compared to his game last year. The 76ers’s youth has clearly stood out thus far and the teams that they are looking up at have multiple star veterans leading the way so that is something the Sixers desperately need to look at before the trade deadline.
Mangigian: The Sixers stand clearly behind both Boston and Toronto in the East, and it hurts to watch. At best, I would venture to say Philly is third in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks look convincing as well. As painful as it may sound, it looks like it will be another year of growing pains for the young pieces in Philly. Some outside help next season could change this team’s outlook quickly, but for now, it’s on the guys in the room to step up. While it is only the regular season, two early losses to potential playoff match-ups casts a dark cloud on the outlook of the 2018 Philadelphia 76ers.
Q: Should JJ Redick continue to come off the bench?
Rose: No. As much as it hurts my heart because he’s one of the most likable Sixers we’ve ever had, Dario Saric should not be in the starting lineup with how atrocious the beginning of the season has been for him. A starting five of Fultz, JJ, Cov, Simmons, and Embiid is far more balanced and spreads the floor significantly. While JJ’s presence off the bench has limited opposing teams from pulling away from them when the starters sit out, I think JJ’s impact would help the Sixers get back into their post-All Star break form where early leads were snatched and held onto throughout the game. Dario’s current splits of 35/23/81 just simply do not work next to Fultz and Simmons while they still refuse to become perimeter threats and having Redick’s 39% from deep out there on the floor provides the spacing that Dario cannot at the moment.
Calpin: I believe that he should. I think he fits the mold of the first guy off the bench for this team. He can help the second string guys really spark some offense. I understand Dario has been abysmal but in my opinion you don’t change lineups after the first two weeks of the season. He will get it together and I believe that Redick is just a better fit on the bench at this time.
Allan: I think that he should be coming off the bench in the same exact fashion he has this season. They need to see if Markelle Fultz can be the shooting guard of their future. So far, he hasn’t looked great, but he hasn’t looked terrible either. He has to find that killer instinct that even J.J. had and has had at certain points this season.
Mangigian: Absolutely. Despite Redick’s “demotion,” he is still averaging 30 minutes off the bench. Redick has been a huge spark off the bench for the Sixers to start the season, and his role hasn’t diminished. If Redick is inserted in the starting lineup, I would prefer it be over Saric, and not Fultz. JJ gets the important minutes at the end of the game anyway, so I am not sure what there is to complain about. With all the star power in the starting five without Redick, it makes more sense to save some shooting proficiency for the bench. I would continue to keep JJ on the bench in games for the foreseeable future.
Q: Are Ben Simmons’s 10 plus turnovers against Toronto a serious concern?
Rose: They’re definitely a problem and I’m not surprised Kawhi was the one who caused it. That game looked like what we saw against Boston in the playoffs last year and it was only a matter of time until someone with a high basketball IQ took advantage of Simmons’s glaring issues this season. The overall sloppiness of play and “Showtime” style will work against worse opponents, but you cannot rely on it against an all-time defender in Kawhi Leonard and he learned that the hard way. The only positive to come out of that game for Simmons was that, eventually, one of these performances will push him to make a concerted effort to improve beyond 8 feet. Somehow, the Celtics series didn’t do that, but maybe this one will.
Calpin: I don’t think it is a serious concern at all. He played against potentially one of the best defenders in the entire league. The Sixers and him included have all been extremely sloppy in most of the games so far. Outside of Embiid there really isn’t much to write home to. But that doesn’t mean that one game against one of the best defenders and one of the guys with the highest basketball IQ’s means it’s time to hit the panic button.
Allan: There’s a little bit of a concern because his worst outings have been against the teams that he will likely see in the playoffs like Boston or Toronto. Both of these teams have figured out how to clog the lane on a consistent basis and force Ben to shoot or kick out to the open shooter. With the 76ers shooting a little worse than they were last season, it really makes Ben’s job a little bit tougher. The Sixers have to figure out their balance of playing up-tempo and in the half court in order for Ben to see consistent success.
Mangigian: Ben Simmons’s worst games of the season were against Toronto and Boston, which is definitely concerning. Simmons’s inability to make teams pay with his jumper has allowed defenses to sit back and worry about other players. If Ben Simmons wants to become a super-star, he will have to work on what he isn’t good at, rather than relying on what he already does well. I was hoping Simmons’s shot would look better in 2018, but his shooting looks almost identical to last season. As for the turnovers specifically, I believe Simmons is simply trying to do too much with the ball in his hands, and it comes from his lack of a jump shot. Simmons and the Sixers have a potential long term problem, considering both Fultz and Simmons struggle to shoot mid-range jumpers.
Q: Has Markelle Fultz done enough so far to earn consistent minutes?
Rose: I think he’s been pretty good all things considered. At this rate, he should be taking nearly all of McConnell’s minutes (as heartbreaking as that may be). The three leaves a lot to be desired, but the confidence to take the mid-range has come back and the only thing that can bring more confidence is more minutes. Let’s face it, as long as the Warriors are in the league, there should be maybe four teams in win-now mode. I’m not sure if the the current Sixers roster is constructed in a way to be one of those teams. Now, if we make a trade for someone like Bradley Beal or Jimmy Butler, then the timeline changes a bit. But, if the trade deadline comes and goes with no major moves, then wasting away the former #1 pick’s minutes for a guy who may not even be on the team next year is just poor decision-making. *READ: the above was written before the Clippers game – the answer to this question is just yes. Fultz saved the team from a complete third quarter collapse and showed more confidence and aggression than ever. Give him all the minutes.*
Calpin: I think that he should be earning more minutes. He should be playing the key minutes down the stretch especially if the Sixers aren’t going to make a major move for a key player and move Fultz. He needs to be in those situations because why else did you draft him? Certainly not to give up on him in his first 25 games. Give him the consistent minutes and give him more minutes in clutch moments specifically. He needs that experience now because let’s face it, the East stinks. The Sixers will make the playoffs and that is when the season really starts and you are going to want your former number one pick ready to go for his first postseason.
Allan: As Eric Rose said above me, all things considering, he’s done a pretty nice job thus far. From what the kid came from last season till now is a big leap. He has shown confidence for most of the season, but he still has to find that killer instinct. I think the Sixers are still trying to mold him into being the off-ball guard versus being the guy with the ball in his hands a majority of the time. He probably hasn’t had that happen in a long time, if ever, so it is still something he is getting used to.
Mangigian: As a team that has its fair share of growth to go, Fultz has earned his minutes, and will continue to earn them this season. With early signs of the Sixers looking unimproved from last year, it makes sense to ride with Fultz’s growing pains rather than sit him for TJ McConnell. Once Fultz gets some shots to consistently go in, he could have a dramatic impact on the team. Markelle, in my opinion, just played his best game in the NBA against the Los Angeles Clippers. He may not have lit up the stat sheet, but Fultz changed the outcome of the game with his energy on both ends of the floor. When the Sixers blew a 20 point lead, Fultz came in and attacked the rim, and it got Philly back on track. Fultz finished that game with a team best +16 while Simmons was -2. Let this team ride or die with its young stars on the floor.
Q: Has Brett Brown done enough as the head coach over the summer and into the start of this season?
Rose: I’ve been a long-time Brett Brown supporter and tend not to blame him for every little thing that goes wrong throughout the game. Sometimes it feels like fans think the coach is playing 2k and can control what is physically happening on the court, like Ben’s one thousand turnovers against Toronto were somehow Brett’s idea. The major thing I have an issue with at the moment are the rotations, and one specific lineup that keeps poking its head out is Markelle Fultz and TJ McConnell out there together. There is simply no world where this makes sense. Both of these players absolutely must be surrounded by shooters to succeed and neither of these players are shooters. There’s just no rationale that makes this duo okay and makes the offense about as predictable as can be. The more I see this lineup, the further I fall off the Brett Brown bandwagon. I’m not ready to jump yet, but the impatience is rising every time I see something so obvious not be corrected. Thursday night’s game against the Clippers seemed to be a sign that Brett has caught on to the ineffectiveness, seeing as we saw very few lineups with two point guards who don’t shoot, but let’s make sure it wasn’t a fluke.
Calpin: Yes. I will not waiver. I will not join the basketball community and guys who think he should be fired after every loss or every wrong rotation that seems to happen. He has gone through hell and back building what HE has built over the last five plus years. Let him shine, he is a great coach and I am happy that he is at the realm.
Allan: I think he has done all he can with what he is given to work with. The front office really has to look deep into what they want as the core of this team in the future because I think in order to get over the hump they need to really improve their bench depth and obtain a big named player. The youth on this roster just isn’t ready to win right now, but the style of coaching he displays fits perfect for this team. He loves the up-tempo game and to have Ben Simmons at the forefront of that brings a ton of potential to what the Sixers can do.
Mangigian: Brett Brown is a players coach, and has been through it all with the Sixers. Brown is doing all he can with the players he has, however he is not exempt of criticism. In the season opener versus Boston, the Sixers looked unprepared. That is on the coach. Brad Stevens had a much better game-plan for the 76ers than Brown had for the Celtics. At the end of the day however, it is on the players to take care of the basketball, and scheme cannot prevent Simmons from being a turnover machine. In the first week of the season, I had questioned some of Brown’s rotations, but they’ve already been changing in week two. With Landry Shamet playing solid basketball, it has allowed Brown to be more creative with his rotations, and it’s helping the Sixers balance their talent on the floor. Brown, like Simmons, struggled the most against Boston and Toronto, and they will have to grow through that.