The Sixers wrapped up their 8-game seeding schedule with a blowout win over Houston, and now a first round series with Boston awaits. There were a fair amount of rotation questions heading into the bubble, and those have only increased with the loss of Ben Simmons.
With Brett Brown coaching for his job we can almost expect the unexpected—he won’t leave a stone unturned in an attempt to figure this thing out, and changes come fast in the postseason. Nonetheless, here’s how I breakdown the status of each player in the rotation heading into our series vs the Celtics.
- Shake Milton
- Josh Richardson
- Tobias Harris
- Al Horford
- Joel Embiid
There’s not a lot to add to the starting lineup. Milton won’t play starters minutes; but otherwise, Richardson, Harris and Embiid will be playing 38+ minutes a night, and Horford won’t be far off that pace.
Locks for minutes off the bench:
You’ll hear a lot of people wonder why Burks isn’t in the starting lineup, but it really doesn’t matter who starts the game. Milton may be on the floor for opening tip, but Burks will certainly be the one logging heavy minutes, likely 30+ a night. Rest assured, he may not start games, but he’ll definitely be finishing them.
I wrote before that Burks is one of the x-factors that’ll determine if this team can contend in Simmons’ absence, and 20.3 points on 14.3 shots per game (54.4% from the field, 45.5% from three) in the four without him is proof that maybe that’s a possibility. Not to mention +50 on 143 minutes was far away the best plus/minus for the Sixers through bubble play.
Thybulle’s overall feel for the game continues to improve and that was obvious over these past few weeks. He played in all eight games averaging 20 minutes a night, and with Simmons out they’ll obviously need to lean on his defense to supplement on the perimeter. Matisse had plenty of bright spots in bubble play, both on defense—13 steals, 7 blocks—and occasionally as a slasher scoring easy buckets above the rim.
Obviously the question has always been how can he contribute on offense. The shot still looks inconsistent (though he was a respectable 6/15 from deep) but the silver lining, like I mentioned before, was his surprising efficiency attacking closeouts or working above the rim in transition. 10/16 inside the arc is what you want to see from Thybulle, and if he contributes like this in the playoffs he’ll be a vital bench piece for the Sixers.
Furkan was the first perimeter player off the bench for most of bubble play, and while that’ll likely be Alec Burks in the playoffs, it looks like Kork will be next in line.
He started off a touch rusty but ended the 8-game run 17/39 from three, good for 43.5%. I’ve written extensively about the liability of his defense in the playoffs, but if he’s knocking down shots from deep he’s a shoo-in for minutes. The world where the Sixers compete without Simmons is one that would see lights out shooting around Joel Embiid, and that mostly starts here with Korkmaz.
Glen Robinson III
I’m going to leave GRIII in the lock section, but nagging injuries have put that in jeopardy. If he’s available then he’ll play considering how thin this team is on the wing, but it’s hard to imagine Brett will immediately throw Robinson into 20+ playoff a minutes a night after logging just 43 total in three seeding games.
Again, GRIII will absolutely be needed to defend the wing, and his two-way ability is clear, but he’ll likely be the last guy in the rotation and need to play his way into more minutes.
Minutes dependent on matchups/shot:
Scott was always someone whose minutes were dependent on the form of his shooting stroke, and while it’s a small sample size, 7/13 from three and 19/32 from the field is evidence that it may be rounding into form at the right time.
If you watched the last few games you’ll know that he still has gravity when he’s on the floor, and if Brett Brown wants to sell out for shooting around Embiid then Scott is the logical choice for minutes at the 4 off the bench.
Most Sixers fans will roll their eyes at this, and understandably so, but don’t count it out. If Brett perceives a lack of ball movement or thinks the offense could use someone who’s aggressive to get others involved then he won’t hesitate to turn to Neto.
While Burks, Milton, and Richardson will be serviceable handling the basketball, none of them is particularly adept at attacking the rim with the threat to both finish and have an eye/feel for the open man. Combine that with Neto’s established (albeit league-average) three-point shooting and it’s certainly not a move I would rule out.