Let’s get it back to the Sixers.
Preseason basketball begins in a little more than three weeks, when your team, your town plays host to the Guangzhou Loong Lions at the Wells Fargo Center. We’ve got Brett Brown’s media lunch and coaching clinic on deck for next week as well, then camp begins.
Meantime, Sports Illustrated dropped their list of the top 100 NBA players, and all five Sixers starters are ranked as such:
- Josh Richardson – #71
- Tobias Harris – #49
- Ben Simmons – #23
- Al Horford – #18
- Joel Embiid – #7
The top six looks like this:
- Kawhi Leonard
- LeBron James
- Steph Curry
- James Harden
- Anthony Davis
I personally believe, and this is just my opinion, but I think a healthy Joel Embiid is better than Anthony Davis. That’s my take and does not necessarily reflect the views of Crossing Broad or the rest of the staff.
After the jump, some of the blurbs on the various Sixers, via the SI story:
The baseline for Josh Richardson begins with his All-Defense-worthy credentials, deployable across three positions. Whichever opponent handles the ball most will find Richardson embedded deep in their personal space. There isn’t often room to dribble safely, much less make an actual move. Forget making a play when it’s challenging enough to even read the floor. Miami has leaned on Richardson for years to operate as its first line of defense, and increasingly as a prominent source of offense as well. Shot creation might not come to him naturally, though it does come—in pick-and-rolls, in curls around screens, and in any scenario that gives him even the slightest edge. Richardson has some combo guard skills. He simply needs a little help creating the space to use them, and enough help on-hand to prevent their overuse.
It’s hard to overstate just how jarring the transition would be from co-headlining a fairly standard NBA offense with the Clippers to working as a third or fourth option for the Sixers, who rely on one of the most idiosyncratic systems in the league. Tobias Harris is perhaps at his best when initiating the pick-and-roll, a format that Philadelphia utilizes less frequently than any team in the league. Gone were the improvisational drives, the smooth pull-up jumpers, and—on the other side of the two-man game—the pick-and-pop looks that had rounded out his game in Detroit and Los Angeles. It’s not that Harris is incapable of playing the way the Sixers want to. We’re talking, after all, about a big with solid ball skills and footwork who shot 40% from three last season. But a change that dramatic has the power to throw a player out of his natural rhythm, just as it did Harris. Given enough time, Harris has the tools necessary to find his way in any system.
There’s just nothing conventional about Simmons, nor the way his passing can change a game. By virtue of having an enormous playmaker running the offense and pushing the break, certain parts of the game will be made easy. Yet in relying on a player who has categorically refused to take jump shots, what should come easily is made far more difficult. How you view those tradeoffs depends very much on the circumstances around Simmons. If allowed room and pace, Simmons could easily be the best player on the floor. If not, he’s still a versatile defender and a challenging matchup – only with strings attached.
When you run into Giannis Antetokounmpo or Joel Embiid or Anthony Davis, you need someone on your team who understands the mechanics of defense at a foundational level. You need a veteran who can internalize a scouting report and maintain a team concept. In short, you need Al Horford. In the games and matchups that really matter, Horford is one of the NBA’s most effective defenders. That’s the whole game, right there. High stakes, high leverage, high return. There are plenty of bigs who score more than Horford (13.6 PPG) does, but precious few who actually contribute more to a winning cause.
At 25, Embiid can already dominate a game, a season, a series. What happens when he takes the next step in his development? When his turnovers come down or his bolder attempts start to fall? What horrors might unfold when he starts to take his fitness seriously? There’s still so many little things that can be cleaned up in Embiid’s game, which means there’s so much room for him to grow into the best possible version of himself. This season should be another step forward.