Sixers: What we learned about Brett Brown’s early rotation in these past three scrimmages

The Sixers completed their third and final scrimmage in the bubble last night, and while the games were meaningless, they can give us clues as to which players showed up in game shape, and what Brett Brown’s early thoughts are in regard to his seeding-game/playoff rotation.

While lineups will continue to be toyed with in these next eight seeding games, based off the three scrimmages this appears to be Brett’s initial nine-man rotation: the starting five + Horford, Korkmaz, Thybulle & GRIII.

Scott and Burks appear to be the odd-men out, although Burks’ case appears to be more situational (microwave scorer). Korkmaz was first off the bench in each game along with Horford (when he didn’t start), followed shortly by Thybulle, then GRIII in the late first/start of the second.

Here’s a brief breakdown of where each player (not named Joel and Ben) currently factors in Brett’s minutes calculus, and how each player shot over the course of these exhibitions.

Shake Milton

8/19 FG (5/11 3pa)

The major question around Shake heading into the bubble was whether or not he could pick up where he left off at the end of the season—the answer to that is clearly, yes. He opened the first scrimmage by drawing an early charge on defense then promptly hitting a 25-footer on the other end, displaying the sort of ability to impact the game that we saw back in April and March.

Milton plays with an obvious poise and rhythm that’s here to stay. The gravity he has as a shooter is clear, and he’s arguably the first ball handler the Sixers have put around Embiid who forces defenders to go over top of screens. I saw everything I needed to out of Shake this past week.

Furkan Korkmaz

7/27 FG (2/15 3pa), -16 (+/-)

I just mentioned the gravity that Milton has on the floor, and the only shooter who rivals him in that regard is Korkmaz—though that’s about all he had going for him in these games. Like I mentioned before, he’s currently in Brett’s rotation as the first wing off the bench, and while the spacing he provides lineups is reason for that, I can’t imagine these minutes will last if the shot doesn’t start falling.

His shot did look good in these three games—it just wasn’t dropping—so I’m not too worried here. My concern with Furkan is always that opposing offenses will target his weak defense, and we got a taste of that this week, but if these scrimmages are an indication then Brett is eschewing that concern for the spacing and gravity that nobody else on the bench provides.

Al Horford

12/28 FG (7/13 3pa), 10 assists, +21 +/-

I realize Horford has become the fan base’s new favorite punching bag, but his performance in these three games has been nothing short of stellar (minus a few missed bunnies at the rim). He’s inked in for the backup center minutes, but if he can connect from beyond the arc like he did in these three games he’ll make a strong argument for minutes at the four.

The spacing of lineups with him and Embiid will always be tricky, but a player with his defensive-versatility, high-IQ, and great passing shouldn’t be kept on the bench as long as he’s knocking down jumpers. One thing to note is that while Brett previously stated that Al and Joel hadn’t been logging practice minutes together, they shared the floor for almost six minutes in the first game against Memphis, so he clearly hasn’t given up on the pair making it work in short bursts.

Matisse Thybulle

9/20 FG (3/12 3pa)

Matisse’s role heading into the bubble was always somewhat of a question, but it’s clear that Brett has him penciled in as the backup point-of-attack defender to Josh Richardson—their minutes were mostly staggered in these games, as they were for much of the regular season.

His elite on-ball defense is undeniable, but the catch throughout his rookie campaign has been mental lapses in transition/help defense, and inconsistent shooting. Given his ability to defend, this is a guy that Brett should want on the floor in the playoffs, and assuming he isn’t a total zero on offense he should stay in this rotation.

He converted well inside the arc—even putting Jaren Jackson on a poster in the first game—but his three-point shooting still appeared too janky for my liking. However, the first point is important because if he can consistently score in transition and in the lane after attacking closeouts then his perimeter shooting becomes less of a necessity.

Glenn Robinson III

4/9 FG (3/4 3pa)

Right now it looks like GRIII is the final man in Brett’s nine-man (maybe 8.5-man) rotation. He generally appeared at the beginning of second quarters and got run with a couple different lineups. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, GRIII is one of the few true 3-and-D players on this team, and while nobody is mistaking him for an elite defender, he’s very capable as long as he doesn’t get tunnel vision (he and Thybulle still suffer lapses in team defense).

His shooting stroke looked fluid and 3/4 from deep is proof of that. His minutes will certainly fluctuate depending on performance night to night, but Brett’s clearly aware of his two-way value off a bench mostly filled with one-way players.

Mike Scott

6/21 FG (1/8 3pa)

Prior to these three games I wrote about players who needed to flash a confident shooting stroke if they want to a) crack Brett’s rotation, and b) actually contribute to a playoff run; and Scott was prime among them. Over these three games he never appeared comfortable firing from deep, but did everything he could to contribute in other ways—on the glass, hustle plays, aggressive offense around the rim. Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear that Scott will start out these seeding games as the eleventh man (and odd man out) in Brett’s rotation, and it’ll take a hot hand for him to shoot his way back in.

Alec Burks

14/30 FG (4/13 3pa)

I pegged Burks as the biggest wildcard for minutes out of the bench group, and I still feel uncertain as to his role beyond a quick-bucket off the bench. Brett had no problem giving him the ball and letting him cook at times, often in the second half, but he was never more than the fifth name called off the bench (except for the game vs Dallas, which GRIII missed with injury).

To me, that’s an obvious indicator of where he currently sits in the pecking order, and in a world where the Sixers are milking leads Burks likely won’t ever see the floor. Given his performance over these scrimmages, however, I would say all bets are off when this team is down and in need of some quick scoring—Burks is sadly the closest thing to a walking bucket that they have.

Tobias Harris

20/42 FG (4/11 3pa)

Tobias’ shooting stroke looked confident even when it wasn’t falling, but 28 points on 10/20 FG, 3/6 3pa, and 5/6 FTA in the final scrimmage vs. the Mavericks is exactly what we needed to see from him. Harris has no doubt been a streaky shooter throughout his time in Philly, but if he can consistently connect from deep and continue to be aggressive scoring the basketball he takes our offense to championship levels.

It’s just a scrimmage, but it’s clear that Tobias is aware of the role this team needs him to assume on offense.

Josh Richardson

7/19 FG (2/7 3pa)

Richardson just continues to do his thing—wait for offense to come to him, and play stellar point-of-attack defense. He continues to be the perfect running mate for both Simmons and Milton, and while he’ll never quite the reason we win big games, he’ll certainly never be the reason we lose. On a roster full of wildcards, he’s clearly poised to be a stabilizing force throughout any playoff run this team has.


I could include Embiid and Simmons in here but quite frankly there’s not a ton to note. Our two franchise players need to perform like so if the Sixers are going to win anything, and there’s really nothing that we could see over these few games that would influence that. If you want to wet yourself over Ben’s jump shot be my guest, but the truth is it‘ll be too inconsequential to actually factor into the team’s success—it’s a one hell of a pacifier for the fan base though.

With the “pre-season” behind us, here’s the Sixers upcoming eight game seeding schedule:

  • 8/1 vs Indiana (7pm)
  • 8/3 vs San Antonio (8pm)
  • 8/5 vs Washington (4pm)
  • 8/7 vs Orlando (6:30pm)
  • 8/9 vs Portland (6:30pm)
  • 8/11 vs Phoenix (4:30pm)
  • 8/12 vs Toronto (6:30pm)
  • 8/14 vs Houston (TBD)

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