Friday night the 76ers hosted the NBL’s Melbourne United for their first preseason action of the season. With the team’s Blue and White scrimmage postponed on Tuesday due to inclimate weather conditions, there were a number of questions that had their answers delayed until Friday. Here are some takeaways from the first sample of 2018-19 Sixers basketball:
All of these should be prefaced by acknowledging that the opponent was maybe G-League quality, but we saw some things that could translate to any competition.
Ben Simmons is a magician:
We still haven’t seen a jumpshot, but it didn’t even almost matter. You remember when you were younger and played 1-on-1 with someone older and bigger than you and you would just get clowned every time? Ben Simmons was the older kid and he showed no mercy to his Aussie brethren.
Imagine being Melbourne United. This team sat on a plane for 22 hours and 25 minutes, filled with anticipation for being able to promote their ability, their team, their league, and their country. They finally get to Philly and are ready to take on one of the most promising teams in the best league in the world.
Then, all of a sudden, Ben Simmons steals your inbounds pass and does this.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 28, 2018
It doesn’t get much more disrespectful than that.
There are very few things to complain about in regards to Simmons’ performance last night, finishing with 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 14 assists in just 26 minutes. He still has a strange tendency to miss dunks, a scene that gave Sixers fans Game 3 flashbacks, but outside of that and the reluctance to shoot, we saw pure dominance from start to finish
Markelle Fultz does it all – except for the one thing we want him to do:
Fultz was the biggest headline coming into the night with NBA fans eager to see his rebuilt jumper in action and what we got was the tiniest taste you could ask for. We saw a couple of mid-range jumpers, only one of which went in, but we didn’t see one attempted three-pointer all night.
In Fultz’s defense, he really only got one or two opportunities to take one, but there’s still cause for concern over whether there’s still a confidence issue or it was simply a matter of him not trying to force something when there may be a better option on the court.
— NBA (@NBA) September 29, 2018
Outside of that, however, Fultz was tremendous. We saw his patented spin-move that no one can seem to stop despite everyone knowing it’s coming. We saw seemingly great chemistry with Joel Embiid, with Fultz getting the assist on a couple of Embiid’s buckets. His court vision and overall awareness for where to be and when looks Simmons-esque at times, both offensively and defensively. Enough of this was shown off at the end of last season to assume this wasn’t a product of the opponent, but it’s fair to take it with a grain of salt.
Once again, though, we were left with another cliffhanger.
JJ Redick off the bench could add a whole new dynamic to Philly:
Redick didn’t have his best shooting night, just 4-11 from the floor and 2-7 from deep, but the gravity he brings by just being out there opens up the floor immensely. Redick being a more-consistent Marco Belinelli off the bench could bolster the second unit into one that could maintain or build a lead while the stars take a rest.
Now, this all depends on what Fultz shows because NBA defenses will know how to take advantage of Simmons and Fultz being out there. It would certainly not be a shock to see Redick as the starting two-guard when October 16th comes around, but he could absolutely do some damage as the team’s sixth man if it comes down to it.
It was definitely preseason:
The Sixers were extremely sloppy in their first preseason game of the year, turning the ball over 17 times against Melbourne. There are plenty of possible reasons for this. Whether it was a product of playing against an NBL team and not taking them seriously, shaking off the rust from the offseason, or just reverting back to the pre-Christmas 2017-18 Sixers, it will need to be corrected.
Preseason is never really a great product, but there were definitely some things to take away from the performance considering the number of question marks Philly has heading into the season. More questions will be answered soon when the Sixers host the Magic Monday night for the second of four exhibition games.