How Will The NBA Playoffs Look?

The NBA appears to be poised to return, and it could happen as early as July.

There have been a number of proposals for how NBA teams will return, ranging from how many teams would be returning to which stage of the season they would be returning to.  The consensus is that all of the games would take place in a single location, likely Orlando, FL (though rumors of Las Vegas continue to swirl). Teams would have a local training camp, followed by a short camp at the games’ location.

For the most part, your Philadelphia 76ers are going to be locked in to an early series against the Boston Celtics, but there would be some interesting roads for them to reach the NBA Finals depending on how the brackets are set up.

https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/wizards/how-mark-cubans-proposed-regular-season-and-expanded-playoff-format-nbas-return-could

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has proposed a format that allows all 30 teams the opportunity to play five more regular season games, which would allow most franchises to fulfill their regional sports networks’ requirement of 70 games to guarantee full payment for the season.

After these five games are complete, the top 10 teams in each conference would be seeded 1-10. The 9th and 10th place teams would play in a do-or-die one-game matchup for the privilege of playing the 8th seed in a five-game series for the chance to play the conference’s top team (Milwaukee or the LA Lakers.)

Upside – Every fanbase will have an opportunity to see their teams on television a few more times. Teams will be able to fulfill some financial obligations.

Downside – The playoff setup is a bit clunky and would have 14 teams sitting on the sidelines while six are playing meaningful games

Verdict – I give credit to Cuban for coming up with something. But this simply is not novel enough to be that interesting, and it is pretty clunky. Thumbs down.

How it would affect the 76ers – Other than providing a five-game warmup, it provides a chance to break their tie with the Pacers for 5th in the East (both teams are currently 39-26). It would also provide a long-shot chance to pass the Miami Heat for 4th place, not that home-court advantage is something that teams will need in this environment.

The next idea was reported by Brian Windhorst on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Monday morning, and would have the league come back after their camps and immediately commence the playoffs. In this report, the 16 teams in playoff positions as of March 12th would be the teams that qualified. This would eliminate teams that were coming on strong like the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers and allow the Memphis Grizzlies to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. It would also put an end to the record-tying streak of 22 consecutive seasons in the playoffs for the San Antonio Spurs.

The wrinkle in this particular plan is that all of the teams in the playoffs would be seeded 1-16, rather than the traditional 1-8 from each conference. This would create a few cross-conference matchups, such as #8 Miami vs. #9 Oklahoma City and #2 LA Lakers vs. #15 Brooklyn (an intriguing possibility if injured stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant returned).

Upside – Could provide a glimpse into the future of the NBA playoffs, as this playoff format has been one that Adam Silver reportedly prefers as a long-term solution.

Downside – For traditionalists, the elimination of conferences at any point is a sore spot.

Verdict – It is an interesting thought, and one that has been bandied about in some journalist’s dreams. That said it is unlikely to pass through a majority of Eastern Conference owners, who want the guarantee that one of their teams would be in the Finals, come hell or high water.

How it affects the 76ers – Not a lot. They would be playing the Celtics in the 5-12 matchup. Their road to the semi-finals would require a matchup with the LA Clippers rather than the Toronto Raptors, but that feels like a wash.

Next we have a proposal that was included in a survey sent to NBA owners last week. In this idea, the top 20 teams in the league, regardless of conference, would be organized into four groups in a fashion similar to the FIFA World Cup. How those teams would be selected is up for some debate (could be the top 4 teams selecting their opponents, though it more likely would be random selection).

The 20 teams would be split into five tiers, with no two teams from any tier playing against each other in a group. In this scenario, the top four teams (Milwaukee, LA Lakers, Toronto and LA Clippers) would be the top team in each group. Then teams 5-8 (Boston, Denver, Utah and Miami) would be placed, followed by 9-12 (which would include the 76ers), 13-16 and finally 17-20.  Once the groups are organized, each team plays the other teams in their group twice, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the quarterfinals. Ties would be broken by the teams’ regular-season win %.

I ran 500 scenarios of groups being drawn, and the consensus led me to the following groups

Group 1 – LA Clippers, Denver, Houston, Orlando, Portland
Group 2 – Toronto, Utah, Indiana, Memphis, San Antonio (this will heretofore be known as the NBA TV group, because I can’t think of anyone who wants to see many games between these teams)
Group 3 – LA Lakers, Miami, Oklahoma City, Brooklyn, Sacramento
Group 4 – Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, New Orleans

These groups do include some of the same matchups we’d see in a 1-16 scenario (Boston-Philly, Toronto-Memphis, LA-Brooklyn, Miami-OKC), but for the most part there’s a lot more novelty here. Another plus here is that the average first-round since the NBA went to 7-game series for every round has been 44 games and would max out at 56– the group concept guarantees you 80. That would be a minimum of 24 more chances to gamble on games!

Upside – It is certainly novel. Allows more teams to participate in more games. Generates more upset potential (seeds 1-3 are 78-12 in first-round series since the most-recent format change in 2003).

Downside – Questions about how the draft lottery would work still linger. Traditionalists would again be up in arms, despite the opportunity for nearly twice as many games in the first round.  Arguably clunkier than the Cuban proposal, but since this is essentially how every major international soccer tournament in the world operates, it is less of a mystery.

Verdict – This is my favorite proposal. It thinks outside of the box. It is not likely to be done again, even if it is a rousing success this season, simply because a group stage where teams are not all playing in the same city would be unworkable.

How it affects the 76ers – As shown above, they would still have to go through the Bucks and Celtics to get to the Finals, though in this case it would happen at the same time. From a fan perspective – the opportunity to get two more games against Luka Doncic and the chance to see Zion Williamson would be phenomenal.

The last proposal is for the top 8 teams in each conference to begin their playoffs in the standard format. It is by far the most boring proposal, but it is also the one most likely to occur. Because if there is one thing that NBA owners enjoy, it is doing the same thing over, and over, and over again.

Upside – This is what we know. Familiarity breeds a feeling of safety, and safety is a feeling many crave at this point.

Downside – This is exactly what we know. No novelty whatsoever.

Verdict – As stated above, this is the most likely scenario. It is not as fun as the other options, but any basketball at this point is preferable to what we have experienced since March 12.

How it affects the 76ers – Their playoff road would begin against the Celtics, then the winner of Raptors/Nets and presumably on to the Bucks or possibly the Heat.

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Grading the Sixers

By Bill Gorman, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The 76ers entered the All-Star break in fifth place in the NBA Eastern Conference at 34-21, 12 ½ games behind Milwaukee for the top spot in the East and six games behind Toronto for the second seed. This is significantly behind what was expected, as many fans and media saw the offseason additions of Josh Richardson and Al Horford, and the retention of Tobias Harris as key elements to move into the NBA’s upper echelon and potentially earn a trip to the NBA Finals.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what has gone wrong and what has gone right. As poorly as things seemingly have gone this season, the 76ers are still on pace to win 50+ games, and have the league’s third-easiest remaining post-All-Star schedule. The sky, it seems, remains unfallen. With all of that said, let’s grade the players in their positional groups to see what improvements can be made.

(note – all statistics from basketball-reference.com unless otherwise specified)

(note 2 – Players no longer with the team were removed, so no grades for Trey Burke, James Ennis III or Jonah Bolden)

Ball Handlers

Ben Simmons 

Grade – A-

The good - A stat line of 19.5/8.9/8.3 over the last 28 games, attempting 2.5 more shots and 2.4 more free throws a night, plus 71% from the foul line over the last 12 games. He has clearly found an aggressiveness that eluded him early in the season. All-Defense level performance on the defensive end, leading the league in steals and being an all-around menace to ball-handlers and potential drivers alike. A second All-Star appearance. Not one, but TWO three-pointers made.

The maybe not-so-good – A stat line of 14.1/6.8/8.4 to start the year combined with 56% from the free throw line. His early season desire to concede shots and usage to Harris, Richardson and Horford may have cost the team a win or two along the way.

Raul Neto 

Grade – C-

The good – 19 points in one half against Golden State. And this was not a garbage-time performance either – this was “Ben Simmons isn’t coming back in for a few minutes because Neto is on fire.” Neto has been a calming presence on the offense, patiently working the team into its sets and providing spacing around the non-shooters.

The maybe not-so-good – Those 19 points accounts for 11% of Neto’s entire point output for this season. He’s committed 35 turnovers against just 64 assists, and while part of that can be chalked up to playing late-game minutes with lesser players, much has been attributable to difficulty adjusting to pressure. He also has not been the defensive pest the team envisioned when they signed him as a nominal TJ McConnell replacement.

Wings

Tobias Harris

Grade – B

The good – A fantastic stretch from mid-November through the new year where he averaged 20.6 points per game and shot nearly 40% from three. He has even made some strides defensively, putting in a ton of work to be able to stand up to bigger wings and traditional power forwards.

The maybe not-so-good – The first 11 games of the year, when he averaged 20% from deep (despite opening 6-11 in the first two games) and putting up just 12.3 points per night. Harris has also struggled to find his place with the ascendance of Simmons, passing up wide-open threes in favor of more contested mid-range two-point attempts.

Josh Richardson

Grade – B-

The good – Richardson has been an outstanding defender, helping Simmons lock down opposing guards and wings to great effect. He has been a competent ball handler, which has allowed Brown to push Neto to the bench and Burke to the street. And he has established a very solid mid-range game, shooting 57.5% from 16 feet out, despite shooting just 33.9% from three.

The maybe not-so-good – He has struggled to stay on the floor thanks to a nagging hamstring injury. He has been below-average from the three-point line (33.9%) and has turned the ball over more than he ever has in his career (13.4% turnover rate).

Mike Scott

Grade – F+

The good – It has been few and far between from Scott this year. He did put up 15 in the 76ers’ lone road win over a +.500 team this season (at Boston in December), so, you know, he’s got that going for him.

The absolutely not good – He has been poor defensively. He is shooting below the league average from 3 (34%) despite his range being the one skill that was supposed to keep him on the floor. Pretty much his entire season has been bad.

Matisse Thybulle

Grade – B

The good – Thybulle has been better than advertised on the defensive end of the floor, sitting at 21st in the league in steals per game despite playing just 20.9 minutes a night. He’s also among the league leaders in deflections and is third among all rookies in blocked shots. He has also been a viable floor spacer, shooting 37.3% from deep on 2.7 attempts a night.

The maybe not-so-good – He has struggled from time to time with foul trouble, which is expected for a rookie who’s aggressive on the defensive end. He has also disappeared on the offensive end for long stretches of games, which means if he’s not making a radical defensive impact…and players are starting to adjust to his defensive skill…he’s not much use on the floor.

Furkan Korkmaz

Grade – B-

The good – Back to back 30-point performances have highlighted Korkmaz’s breakout season, in which he has career highs in minutes (21.3), scoring (9.6) and three-point % (39.2). He has parlayed a solid World Cup performance into a regular role off the bench, attacking 2nd units from deep and showing some decent moves in the lane as well. Also, he HAS improved defensively.

The maybe not-so-good – He has been atrocious on the road (40% from the field, 33% from deep). His defense, which before this year was best described as “the chair in the Darko Milicic workout video” has gone up to “you might be better but we’re still coming after you on every possession.”

Shake Milton

Grade – C

The good – Milton has shown some flashes but is currently lost in the shuffle on the perimeter. Had a good game against the Lakers and was a standout in the loss to Atlanta five days later.

The maybe not-so-good – He has improved on the defensive end (there appears to be a pattern here), but he still has too many lapses in concentration on that end.

Zhaire Smith

Grade – Incomplete

Mariol Shayok

Grade – Incomplete

The glut of perimeter players in Philadelphia has left Shayok and Smith spending most of their time in Delaware this season.

Bigs

Joel Embiid

Grade – B+

The good – When Embiid is on, he is nearly impossible to stop. He has had his share of games where he was entirely unstoppable. For the most part, when he’s on the floor, the 76ers are a top five team in the league, both offensively and defensively.

The maybe not-so-good –Like with Simmons, Richardson and Harris before…he has struggled with decreased attention and trying to figure out just what his role is, which has led to a decrease in field goal and free throw attempts. As much as I hate to ask it because it’s an annoying topic…is Joel Embiid too injury-prone to be the #1 piece on a title team?

Al Horford

Grade – C-

The good – Horford has been a defensive stalwart despite some very difficult matchups. He has maintained a positive attitude throughout a difficult season and accepted his move out of the starting lineup with professionalism.

The maybe not-so-good – The fit alongside Embiid and Simmons has not been great. It’s been hard to watch from time to time. And like every other starter he struggled to find his role as well. Hopefully his move to the bench as more of a backup to Embiid will unlock something in both Horford and the Sixers’ offense

Norvel Pelle

Grade – B

The good – I just tried to shoot a piece of paper into my trash can…Pelle came out of nowhere and blocked it. I didn’t even know he was here. But in all seriousness – he has been a big energy guy who blocks shots coming from the weakside AND against opposing bigs. You will see one or the other in this league, but not often both in the current climate. He parlayed his performance into a conversion of his original two-way contract to a full NBA deal after the trade deadline.

The maybe not-so-good – There has been little to complain about with Pelle – he does what he is good at (blocking shots, tip dunks and alley-oops) and doesn’t do what he is bad at (shooting, ball handling). A backup big who really understands his role and plays to his strengths is hard to find.

Kyle O’Quinn

Grade – C

The good – O’Quinn has been a solid veteran presence in the locker room and a fan favorite when he has had the opportunity to play…

The maybe not-so-good – …the problem is that he has not had many opportunities to play this season, thanks to Horford’s presence as a nominal backup center and Pelle’s emergence as a major defensive talent. There have been rumblings that O’Quinn would like to be released or bought out prior to March 1st so he can explore signing with a contender.

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76ers Stats: A Foul Situation Brewing?

By Bill Gorman, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

(note – all statistics are from basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted)

2019-20 was supposed to bring a new brand of basketball to Philadelphia. With the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson, the team’s size would overwhelm opponents on both the defensive and offensive ends of the floor. The defense, for the most part, has held up its end of the bargain, allowing just 102.6 points per 100 possessions, good for third in the league.

Offensively, things have been a bit more disjointed. The 76ers are just 17th in the NBA in offensive rating, at 107.3 points per 100 possessions. They are 14th in 3-point percentage (with a slight decrease in attempts from last year) and seventh in overall field goal percentage. Where they really have lagged behind, both against the league this season and against their past performance, is at the free-throw line. They are 17th in the NBA at getting to the line (23.1 attempts per night) and 22nd in free-throw percentage (74.8%).

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76ers Stats: Living and Dying by the 3-Point Shot

All statistics from Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

By Bill Gorman, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

In the 2018-19 season, the Philadelphia 76ers were 19th in the NBA in 3-point field goal attempts at 30.2 per game and were 18th in 3-point attempt rate (percentage of the team’s total shots that were from 3-point range) at 34.2%. They finished the season 8th in efficiency from behind the arc, hitting 35.8% of their long-distance attempts. What all of this means is they were pretty good at hitting threes but were behind the league average in taking them.

How did general manager Elton Brand react to this minor imbalance? By trading (or allowing to leave via free agency) four of the top five Sixers in terms of 3-point attempts (JJ Redick, Landry Shamet, Jimmy Butler and Mike Muscala). They then signed, drafted or traded for Al Horford, Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle. The team also brought back Furkan Korkmaz to have an expanded role as a shooter off the bench.

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The 76ers Offense is Struggling: Are More Post-Ups the Answer?

By Bill Gorman, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Bully ball. It has been a popular refrain among local media, 76ers fans and even the organization since general manager Elton Brand signed 6-foot-10 Al Horford, traded for 6-foot-6 Josh Richardson and brought back 6-foot-9 Tobias Harris to form the largest starting lineup in the NBA along with the 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons and 7-foot Joel Embiid.

Heading into this season, fans and analysts alike had visions of five defenders all with enough quickness and length to switch on any and every pick and roll or screen action. With defensive-minded reserves like rookie first-round pick Matisse Thybulle (6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan), James Ennis III (6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan) and Kyle O’Quinn (6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan), predictions that Philadelphia would shut every opponent down and keep opponents from clearing the 100-point mark on a regular basis ran rampant among fans. Through nine games so far this season, the team is sixth in the league in defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) at 102.4: Things are going as expected on that end of the floor.

The 76ers offense this season was always going to present the larger question. Losing players who had accounted for 48% of the team’s 3-point attempts in 2018-19 presented a challenge the team will be facing all season. Making the floor spacing work with a lineup consisting of Simmons (a non-shooter), Richardson (career 3-point percentage in the mid-30s), Harris (the lone "shooter" in the starting lineup) and the twin-towers of Embiid and Horford was always going to be an issue for head coach Brett Brown to figure out. The hope is that, as the season goes along, the starting lineup will gel together and as a result floor spacing will not be as much of an issue.

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Potential or Production: The Looming 76ers Draft Question

By Bill Gorman, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Over the past two seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers have made it an organizational priority to add defensive specialists through the draft. Head coach Brett Brown highly values players who can play defense, and the organization has surely made strides in adding players over the last two offseasons, beginning in the 2018 NBA Draft, that fit his defensive philosophy. 

The team selected Villanova forward Mikal Bridges with the 10th pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. Bridges was thought to be a potential three-and-D player with lockdown potential and the ability to shoot 40% from beyond the arc, all while also possessing enough ball handling skill to run a team’s offense in short spurts. He had also played three years of college basketball, meaning he was seen as a ready-made NBA prospect.

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Sixerdelphia Roundtable: Five Questions for the Upcoming 76ers Season

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With only 21 days until the Philadelphia 76ers' regular season begins, Sixerdelphia managing editor Matt Gregan and staff writers Kevin McCormick, Scott Cashin and Bill Gorman take a stab at answering five questions regarding the upcoming season.

 

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Korkmaz's World Cup Performance May Inspire Breakthrough in 76ers' Rotation

By Bill Gorman, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

When the groups for the 2019 FIBA World Cup were announced, many assumed that the USA, placed in a group with Japan, the Czech Republic and Turkey, would dominate with little problem and move on to the round of 16.

No one mentioned this to Turkey when they played the USA team on September 3. Turkey used a stifling zone defense to shut down the Americans in the 2nd half, only to fall victim to poor free-throw shooting at the end of regulation to fall 93-92. Earlier, the Turkish team had handled the Japanese with a 86-67 win in their opener. Unfortunately for the Turks, they were eliminated from championship contention after dropping their group-stage finale to the Czech Republic 91-76.

Philadelphia 76ers guard/forward Furkan Korkmaz was a key piece in the near-upset against the US, scoring 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting (3-of-6 from 3-point range, which will be his calling card in Philadelphia). For the three group stage games, the 22-year old put up a slash line of 14.0/3.7/1.7 on 48.5% shooting (42.9% from three) while playing 26.6 minutes per night.

As one of the main bench pieces for Turkey, Korkmaz showed some of the playmaking and shooting skills he flashed that enticed the 76ers to draft him in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft. His ability to stretch the floor as someone who is both good at shooting off screens as well as being a catch-and-shoot threat could prove to be critical for a team that will need as many good shooters as it can get. If Korkmaz can build on his World Cup performance, it could be a springboard to push him past James Ennis III, Matisse Thybulle and Zhaire Smith in the competition for minutes on the wing off the bench.


76ers' Lack of Representation in 2019 FIBA World Cup Could Prove to be a Negative

Furkan Korkmaz, the Philadelphia 76ers' lone representative in the FIBA World Cup, seen here standing to the right of Turkish Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu.

By Bill Gorman, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The 2019 FIBA World Cup will begin on August 31, and as I am sure you’ve heard, a ton of NBA players will be missing from the proceedings. In fact, the entire Philadelphia 76ers roster with the exception of the recently re-signed Furkan Korkmaz (likely to start for the Turkish National Team at shooting guard) will be staying away from China in September.

Let’s dip into the reasons why the 76ers will not be better represented in this year's World Cup, the first qualifying tournament for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. We will start with the American players.

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76ers Roundtable: Most Intriguing Games in 76ers' 2019-20 Schedule

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We asked three of our writers, including Sixerdelphia managing editor Matt Gregan, to name the three most intriguing or interesting games on the Philadelphia 76ers schedule for the upcoming 2019-20 season.

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