Tomorrow at 3:30 the Sixers will play their first basketball game in 135 days. While it’s merely a scrimmage—Brett suggested the “heavyweights” will only play around 20 minutes—there’s still a great deal that we’ll be able to learn from these upcoming exhibitions.
1. Whose shot is confident?
This is somewhat subjective but for the most part we’ll be able to tell who came to the bubble in game shape and who didn’t. More specifically, there are a number of players on the Sixers who were shooting well-below career averages through the regular season, and it’ll be interesting to see who used the time off to rediscover their shooting stroke.
My three biggest question marks as it pertains to shooting are Al Horford, Tobias Harris, and Mike Scott. All three have generally been above average, if not well-above from deep in their careers, and all have regressed to average or below-average shooters this season. If Scott isn’t connecting from deep then he’ll find himself out of Brett’s rotation sooner than later, and if Horford can’t connect he’ll be restricted to backup-five minutes only. Tobias, on the other hand, is the shot that will go a long way in making or breaking the Sixers ability to contend.
Of course, the same rings true for the opposite. Shake Milton was locked in from three-point range to end the original regular season, and while his track record as a catch-and-shoot threat is solid, there’s no telling how he’ll preform after a long break. While these scrimmages are mostly meaningless, it‘ll be intriguing to see if any of the aforementioned players shows off a less/more confident shooting stroke than what they left off with.
2. Is Ben Simmons shooting?
I truthfully couldn’t care less if he shoots the ball right now, but if he does shoot in these upcoming exhibitions then it’s a good sign that he’ll be shooting in the seeding games and playoffs. If he’s not shooting in these games, he won’t in those games—it’s as simple as that.
I will admit that there’s better reason to be excited about these videos than the past. For starters, the shot does look a lot more comfortable—he made threes in the previous instances, but they never looked organic. Second, it would obviously make sense that he used this lay-off to work on his jumper—there’s literally never been, nor was there ever going to be a better time to work on it than during quarantine.
I’ll reiterate, I’m not overly concerned about seeing this in the scrimmages, but if it does happen then Sixers fans have ample reason to be excited.
3. New wrinkles to Brett Brown’s offense or defense?
Brett Brown is coaching for his job, and he clearly knows it. He already made the switch in the starting lineup to go smaller, and he’s been seen emphasizing spacing concepts in practice (both on the perimeter, and interior spacing). Frankly it would be surprising if he wasn’t attempting a minor structural makeover with this team, so it’s good to see him aware of the situation he’s in.
The Milton for Horford switch is likely just the tip of the iceberg in terms of changes Brett is trying to implement for the playoffs, and while he won’t tip his hand too much, we’ll likely see some of those new wrinkles over the course of these scrimmages—whether they be new lineups, plays, more P&R, different P&R coverages on defense, etc.
I’m certainly not a believer in Brett Brown, but I am excited to see what this version of his team will look like.
Here’s the entire “pre-season” schedule:
- Friday, July 24—vs. Memphis—3:30pm (NBCSP)
- Sunday, July 26—vs. OKC—12pm (NBCSP+)
- Tuesday, July 28—vs. Dallas—8:30pm (NBCSP+)