By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer
The Philadelphia 76ers concluded training camp with their annual Blue x White Scrimmage on Saturday afternoon at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware. The team will kick off its preseason on Tuesday when they host the Guangzhou Loong Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association. Now that training camp has officially concluded, it is time to discuss some of the major takeaways from training camp and Saturday’s scrimmage.
Forming a defensive identity
Through both the moves the front office has made this offseason and the attitudes of the players on the team, defense has become the prominent theme of this year's version of the 76ers. Multiple players have come out and said they have spent the summer improving their defensive skills. Trey Burke, whose role on the team will depend on whether he wins the battle for the backup point guard position, spoke about how head coach Brett Brown is challenging him on the defensive end of the court.
"He challenged me from day one," Burke said, via an article written by Ky Carlin. "When I decided to sign here, he challenged me on the defensive end. He said he was going to be on me all year about just having that edge on defense. He says I show it at times, but he wants it to be a consistent thing and that's something I'm conscious and aware of every time I'm on the court."
Another player who is emphasizing improving on the defensive end of the floor is Tobias Harris.
The fact that Tobias went to Brett and told him that he refuses to be a liability on defense speaks hugely of his character. The Sixers gave the right guy the max this summer. pic.twitter.com/vfHMv7uUGA— Kevin McCormick (@KevinMcCSports) September 29, 2019
Becoming a defensive powerhouse seems to be the common goal among this new 76ers roster.
Joel Embiid's improved health and fitness level
Joel Embiid looks like he is in the best shape of his career. There were reports that Embiid had lost over 20 pounds this summer and it looks like that is truly the case.
Health has always been one key issue with Embiid, and him getting himself into proper shape is a great sign for the 76ers. He said a goal for him this year is to play a career-high in games, and the way he looks right now it could be possible. Spending the offseason off the grid and focusing on getting his body right shows an increased maturity level from the big man, and as a result he is poised to reach all new heights in the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season.
Conversation surrounding Ben Simmons continues to be about his lack of a jump shot
Ben Simmons is another player on the 76ers who looks poised to take the next step in their career. Everyone knows that the one blemish in Simmons’ game is his lack of a jump shot. This summer, he worked on improving that part of his game. He backed it up in training camp with this simple, yet important, quote: "If it's open, I'll take it."
This is big not just for Simmons, but for the team as a whole. With the addition of Al Horford, Philadelphia now has some spacing issues they are going to have to work out. If Simmons can come into the year with a serviceable jumper, it will make figuring out the spacing a little easier for head coach Brett Brown.
Josh Richardson as a backup point guard?
Brown, during his media availability earlier in the week, opened up the possibility of playing Josh Richardson as a backup point guard at times throughout the season.
"I think that offensively, the ability to have the ball and play as a big point guard if you will, I think we have seen that," Brown said, via an article written by Ky Carlin. "I think there's more of a willingness to just fit in and do whatever it takes that I felt like he showed in Miami and he was called upon to do more and he did. With the team that we have, I feel like he's so mindful of what he can do and his surrounding cast that he'll fit into whatever we need."
Last season, Richardson showed he had an ability to play some point at times, dishing out 4.1 assists while committing only 1.5 turnovers per game. Brown said the goal was to potentially use Richardson as a backup point guard behind Ben Simmons in the playoffs, a time when the team's rotation shrinks to only seven or eight players.
Takeaways from the Blue x White Scrimmage
One of the players who stood out in a big way during the Scrimmage was rookie Matisse Thybulle. Just like in the Summer League, he shined on the defensive end of the ball and looks like he is going to be able to contribute right away during his rookie year.
If I had to guess, Thybulle got his hands on the ball 10 times defensively in the second quarter ... and that feels conservative. Crazy impressive https://t.co/2td4d713AZ— Paul Hudrick (@PaulHudrick) October 5, 2019
Along with standing out on defense, he was also able to knock down a couple of shots on offense during his time on the court. So far it looks as if the 76ers made the right move in trading up in the first round to draft him.
Another thing that stood out during the Scrimmage was the second unit as a whole. This second unit looks like it is going to pride itself on the defensive end of the ball as they gave the starters a tough time, and their defensive play kept them in the game for most of the Scrimmage. James Ennis III, when asked about the bench's identity, described them as "bulldogs." Seeing how hard they worked on defense just played more into the idea of everyone buying into the team's new defensive identity.
Some other small things that stood out on Saturday included seeing Josh Richardson be aggressive attacking the rim, seeing a small sample of Tobias Harris as the primary ball handler on offense, and seeing Trey Burke and Raul Neto already competing with each other for who is going to earn the backup point guard spot in the rotation.
Overall, the 76ers put together a solid week of training camp and finished it with a good showing for the fans at the Blue x White Scrimmage. It will be interesting to see this team continue to develop as preseason starts and the regular season inches closer.