How A Delayed Postseason Saved the Sixers

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

We are all still awaiting how the NBA will go about resuming its play once this pandemic is over. Although there is still nothing close to a timetable on when sports can resume again, it seems like we might get NBA playoffs at some point during this summer. 

Reports have come out that the draft lottery and combined have been pushed back to no surprise. There was also a report that came out stating that the 2020-2021 season may not begin until December. 

Delaying the start of next season gives me the impression that the league is aiming to crown a champion for this season. Although this suspended season has been far from fun, it was a saving grace for the Sixers. 

The biggest reason it saved the Sixers is health. As we know when play was still going on the injury bug had taken a big toll on the Sixers. Ben Simmons had an injured back with no timetable of return and Joel Embiid had just returned to the lineup after missing five games. 

This delay in the season has now given both stars the time to rehab and recover in peace without the pressure of returning to the court as fast as possible. Having them both fully healthy to kick off the playoffs (if they happen) makes this team much more dangerous. 

The other reason why it should be looked at as saving grace is that this team has been handed something that has never happened before, a clean slate heading into the playoffs. 

For the first time when the playoffs start, it is going to feel like day one for every team. Fatigue and nagging injuries will be a nonissue as players have had months to recover, and teams will all be knocking the rust off as they try to pull it together to be the champion of this crazy season. 

Expectations were set very high on the Sixers heading into the start of this regular season. Sadly, most would agree that the team did not come close to the expectations that were thrown upon them back in October. But the most beautiful part of it all, none of it matters now. 

The Sixers can take all the mishaps of this short regular season and put it all behind them. They can head into the playoffs and treat it as day one of a new beginning. 

Brett Brown and company can look at the regular season as a trial run and a base for what worked and what didn’t. Along with having two months (and maybe more) to come up with solutions to maximize the talent on this roster to compete for a title. 

The Sixers now don’t have to go into the playoffs hearing all the negativity from the media about their record or seeding as the playoffs are going to be basically day one of a new mini-season. 

This roster still has more than enough talent to go and chase a title. It is still going to be an uphill battle if they find themselves stuck at the sixth seed, but this delayed postseason could save what some people were calling a lost season. 

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Should The Sixers Call About Zach LaVine?

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Although the NBA has still not decided on what to do with the rest of this season does not mean it’s too early to look into the offseason. Whether this Sixers’ core gets the chance to show what they can do in the postseason or not, the roster could use some tweaking. 

The Al Horford experiment did not pan out the way that the team had hoped, so finding a suitable trade partner for him and his large contract should be at the top of the offseason to-do list. 

One name that has been thrown around for the Sixers to target is Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield, but I would like to throw another name out there. That is Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine. 

The Bulls have not been able to break out of the bottom tier of the NBA and could potentially look to move on from their star. Chicago has only won 22 games each of the last two seasons and might be looking to move forward and build around young point guard Colby White, who showed a lot of promise leading up to the suspension of the season.

LaVine had a career year with the Bulls this season and was arguably a snub for the All-Star game. He averaged 25.5 PPG (career-high), 4.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 1.5 SPG. On top of that, he also shot 38% from deep on a career-high 8.1 attempts a game. 

His fit on the Sixers would be almost seamless. LaVine is the kind of player that compliments both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and at 6’6 he fits the big defensive identity that this team is looking to build. 

Pairing Zach LaVine with Ben Simmons is something that puts fans in seats. The two would easily be the most athletic backcourt in the NBA, along with one of the best defensive ones as the two combined for close to four steals a game this season. Seeing Simmons and LaVine throw down together in the open court would be an awesome sight to see. 

LaVine is also the perfect kind of guard to put around Joel Embiid. He is a guy that could catch and shoot when defenses collapse on Embiid in the paint and is a guy that could come off screens around the arc and knock down shots when needed. 

We saw in the past how well the Embiid/Redick dribble hand-off worked for the Sixers in the past. That is a play they could recreate with LaVine who would also have the ability to attack the rim.  

There is a little bit of risk when bringing in LaVine. Although he has recovered nicely from it, there is no forgetting that he is just three years removed from tearing his ACL as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The injury has not seemed to affect him much since returning but a scary injury like that is something that will always loom over a player.  

Some external things that also make LaVine a good fit for the Sixers is his age and his contract. He is signed through the 2021-2022 season so he would be around while this team feels its championship window is open. Not to mention at 25 years old that LaVine is in the perfect age gap with Embiid, Simmons, and Tobias Harris. 

The final reason why the Sixers should call about the young star, LaVine indirectly brought up wanting to play with a team like the Sixers earlier this year. 

 

During All-Star weekend LaVine was a guest on ESPN’s First Take as the representative of the hosting city Chicago. They started off talking about LaVine’s past dunk contest performances and his decision to compete in the three point contest this year, then things got interesting. 

Max Kellerman went on to ask LaVine about what players he would want to play with and then what kind of players he wants to play with. He then went on to drop two interesting quotes. 

LaVine went on to say that he wants to play with a “point guard you can get up and down the floor and pass the ball” and then went on to say “playing with a dominant big man is great too.” 

Based on those quotes it seems like LaVine would love the idea of playing in Philadelphia. He basically came out and said that he wants to play with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

Trading for a guy like Zach LaVine is going to be no small task. Chicago is going to have a steep price for their star player. But making the call to see what it would take to add a guy like him could completely shift the direction of the franchise for the foreseeable future. 

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Sixers Lose Assistant GM to Bulls

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers’ front office has taken a hit. Late last night ESPN’s Adrain Wojnarowski reported that Marc Eversley would be leaving the Sixers to become the general manager of the Chicago Bulls. 

Eversley's role in the Sixers' front office was senior vice president of player personnel, a role he has been in since 2016. Along with his role in player personnel, he also aided general manager Elton Brand with basketball operations. 

Although this departure hurts the Sixers, it could also possibly help them down the road. Losing someone who worked closely with the GM is something you never want to see, and it is magnified as Brand is still rather new to his front-office role. But now Brand has a good connection to another organization. 

As we know, Brand has had no problem going all in to revamp the Sixers’ roster to keep them in the title hunt. Trades and big splashes have been his MO since almost day one. 

Now with a connection in the Bulls’ organization, it is open to speculation that Brand has a new team to try and work his magic with. 

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Simmons expects to return if play resumes

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

With all the pandemonium that is going on it is always good for some positive news to come about. Sixers fans can rejoice and have a sigh of relief this morning when word finally broke on Ben Simmons’ injury status. 

After weeks of wondering and speculating the wait is over. ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reported that the pain is Simmons’ lower back has “all but dissipated.” The report also stated that if basketball is to return this season that Simmons will take the floor. 

Simmons went down with this injury at the end of February and was forced to miss the final eight games before the NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Having Simmons at full health is great news for the Sixers moving forward. If by a miracle the NBA can conduct its season the Sixers will now have their All-Star point guard ready to go. 

This is great news in the long-term as well. With this news coming out right around two months since going down it gives off the impression that this will not be an issue for the future. 

Back injuries can be tricky and it would have been terrible news if this were to be a nagging issue for the 23-year-old superstar who just signed a max extension last summer.

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Draft Profile: Josh Green

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The next prospect in my draft prospect series is going to be Arizona freshman Josh Green. Although he only has one shortened college season under his belt, I still feel that Green could bring a lot to the Sixers. 

 In his lone season at Arizona Green averaged 12.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.6 APG. One stat that should draw the Sixers’ attention, he shot 36.1% from three on just under three attempts a game (2.8). 

Green has a smooth shooting stroke and is good at spot-up shooting. This makes him a nice fit on the floor around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He is also good at moving around without the ball. 

One thing I like most about Green is that his body is NBA ready. He already has a nice frame at 6’6 and 210 pounds so he will have the weight to deal with other NBA players. Green also has a 6’10 wingspan that can help him be a menace in the passing lanes. 

Although he is not a prolific ball-handler Green can be serviceable as a ball-handler and is far from afraid to put the ball on the deck when needed. His slashing ability and finishing at the rim is just as good as his shot from deep. 

Josh Green would be a great pick for the Sixers in the first round. His fit on the team would be seamless and he still has so much room to grow at only 19 years old. 

Although the team may look for an upperclassman to fit the age timeline better with Simmons, Embiid, and Harris I think Green’s game is polished enough to where that wouldn’t be an issue. 

Lack of shooting was the Achilles heel of the Sixers this past season so taking a guy like Green seems like an easy choice. He could be another sharpshooter from deep that can come off the bench with Furkan Korkmaz and space the floor. 

On top of his shooting ability, he is a great athlete and could be a great running partner in transition with Ben Simmons when the team pushes the tempo. Green threw down multiple highlight dunks in his sole year at Arizona. 

Green’s game is very polished for being just 19 years old, which should keep him on the Sixers’ radar come draft night. He checks most boxes the Sixers are looking for and would make a fine addition to the team. 

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Sixers Rewind: Iguodala and company stun LeBron's Heat on Easter

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

As part of a holiday treat let's take a jump in the time machine and go back to Easter Sunday nine years ago. The Sixers had their backs against the wall against the NBA’s new supervillains, but somehow found a way to pull a rabbit out of the hat (pun intended.) 

It was LeBron James’ first postseason as a member of the Miami Heat and his first obstacle was a scrappy Sixers team. Although being able to keep most of the games close, the Sixers found themselves down 3-0 in the series and potentially being swept on their home court. 

Against all odds, the Sixers were able to avoid the sweep and give the home fans a present on Easter. The Sixers pulled off an 86-82 victory and forced a game five in Miami. 

The Sixers rolled out a starting five of Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Spencer Hawes, and current Sixers’ GM Elton Brand. Arguably the most unlikely of lineups to knock off LeBron James and company even if it was only one game. 

Miami’s big three dominated the Sixers but it was not enough to complete the sweep. LeBron finished the game with 31 points and the big three combined for 65 of the Heat’s 82 points. 

Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand carried the load for the Sixers’ starting lineup. Elton Brand posted a solid double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Iguodala filled the stat sheet finishing with 16 points, rebounds, four assists, and two steals. 

The stars did their jobs, but the heroics came from the Sixers’ bench. 

Lou Willams and Evan Turner were the scoring leaders for the Sixers with both of them notching 17 points. But it was Williams who had the biggest moment in the game. 

The Sixers were down one in the final twenty seconds of the game and opted to put the ball in the hands of their sixth man. Williams was able to create some room for himself and knock down a huge three-point shot over the outstretched arm of Dwyane Wade to put the Sixers up two.  

Williams’ shot would extend the Sixers season and allow them to fight another day. Sadly they would not be able to ride the high of that thrilling victory and be sent home in game five. 

Although the win only extended the series one more game, the Sixers were able to hold their heads high. That ragtag team was able to steal a playoff victory from the team was the new NBA juggernaut.  

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Draft Profile: Tre Jones

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

With the likeliness of the NBA season returning this year, it is time to focus on what is next, the NBA draft. One positive note for the Sixers is that OKC’s first-round pick will fall out of the top 20 and convey to the Sixers. 

The Sixers will be picking in the early twenties for their first pick in this year’s draft. Kicking off this draft profile series will be a player that has been falling to the Sixers in some mock drafts, Duke guard Tre Jones. 

Jones opted to return to college for his second season over giving in to the “one and done” trend and it paid off for him. He would go on to have a solid sophomore season that led to him being named the ACC Player of the Year. 

Although cut short due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Tre Jones finished his second season averaging 16.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 6.4 APG. He increased his stats across the board with his biggest jump being in his three-point percentage. 

As a freshman, Jones shot a lackluster 26.2% from deep, but in year two he upped that percentage to 36.1% while shooting more attempts a game. Having a reliable shot from deep is going to be crucial for whoever the Sixers decide to draft in the first round. 

Tre Jones can fill two big holes for the Sixers. He is someone who can run the offense when Ben Simmons is off the floor and he can create his own shots. 

A big reason why Ben Simmons logs so many minutes is that the offense just doesn't run the way it should when he is off the floor. Tre Jones knows how to run an offense and keep the ball moving, giving the Sixers the chance to lighten the miles they are putting on Ben Simmons every year. 

He can also create his own shots, something that the Sixers bench has lacked in recent years. Jones operates well in the pick and roll which would make him a good pairing with Norvel Pelle if the Sixers continue to mold him to be the backup center. 

The only downside there could be with Jones is that at 6’3 some might look at him as undersized, but on a big team like the Sixers that should be more of a non-issue. 

Tre Jones checks a lot of boxes for the Sixers. He has a very complete game and has an extra year of college under his belt that should help him be more NBA ready. 

Most mock drafts have him being taken. in the twenties, to early thirties, so he will be on the board when it comes time for the Sixers to pick. I think he is a player I could see the Sixers taking in the first round. 

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Phillies Rewind: March 28th

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

With no baseball going on right now there is only one thing for fans to do to get their fix, look back on previous seasons. Let’s take a trip back just one year to opening day 2019. 

The Phillies kicked off the year against the Braves at home. Citizens Bank Park was sold out for the debut of the new-look Phillies. Fans got their money’s worth in this one as the Phillies routed the Braves 10-4 in an electrifying opening day win. 

This was the first time that the Philly faithful got to see new additions J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, and Bryce Harper take the field for the first time. 

Harper was greeted to a sea of red and a standing ovation as he made his first trot to right field in Phillies’ pinstripes. 

Aaron Nola took the hill in this game and kicked off his 2019 campaign in dominant fashion. Nola went six innings while only allowing one run one two hits, and struck out eight Braves’ hitters. It was everything you wanted to see from the ace on opening day. 

Andrew McCutchen couldn’t have had a better first impression on the Philadelphia crowd if he wanted to. He stepped into the box for his first at-bat as a Phillie and hit a shot to left-center field for a leadoff homerun to kick off the season. 

The Phillies weren’t done though. Maikel Franco stepped up in the sixth inning and blasted a three-run homerun for his first homer of the season. It would start his streak of being one of the deadliest eight-hole hitters in baseball. 

Rhys Hoskins got in on the fun in the next inning. The Braves intentionally walked Bryce Harper and loaded the bases for Hoskins, a decision they would soon regret. Hoskins proceeded to drive a ball to left field for his first career grand slam, sending the Philly crowd into hysteria. 

This was an all-around great first win for the Phillies, who would go on to sweep the opening series with the Braves and start the season 4-0. 

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How A Canceled Season Could Affect Change Within The Sixers

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

It has now been 12 days since the Sixers have taken the court, and it does not look like we will be seeing them anytime soon. Covid-19 has put the sports world on pause, possibly to the point where we do not see a finish to this NBA season. 

A canceled season would leave the Sixers in an interesting spot. The regular season did not go exactly the way the team had hoped, which sparked the idea of personnel changes in the offseason. 

All year the idea of this team was that this team was built for the playoffs. The fit was a question all year, but Elton Brand constructed this roster to dominate in the postseason. With that being said, can the organization blow it up before seeing what the group can do in the postseason?

This has to do with two people, in particular, Al Horford and Brett Brown. It is no secret that the Horford experiment had gone the way that the team hoped when they signed him to a multi-year 109 million dollar deal. 

Horford’s fit next to Embiid has not looked good in large samples and with Ben Simmons still showing a reluctance to shoot from deep, Horford has done nothing but clog the paint. He has also shot 61 more threes this season than he did last season in eight fewer games. Along with his shooting percentage from deep dropping three points. 

Rumors swirled throughout the season of the Sixers possibly trying to trade Horford in the offseason for shooting. But if Elton Brand does not get to see what Horford can do for the Sixers in a playoff series, I think it could lead to Horford playing for the Sixers in the 2020-2021 season. 

A coaching change is something that has been tied to the Sixers in recent years as well. It seemed like this year was going to be Brett Brown’s last chance to see if he can put the Sixers in contention to win a title. 

Brett Brown has been at the helm since 2013. He has been around through this entire rebuild. Although people have been calling for his head for years, I feel like it is very unlikely that he is removed as the head coach if the season does indeed end up not resuming.

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The NBA Suspends Its Season Amid Coronavirus Concerns

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The coronavirus pandemic has now taken the basketball world by storm. Shocking news came out tonight when it was reported that the league will suspending its season effectively. All games played on March 11th will be the last we will see for the foreseeable future. 

This news came out not long after the league found its first case of the disease. The Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder were supposed to face off tonight, but the game was postponed due to concerns of the disease. 

It would later come out that Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Teams were sent back to the locker room and crews came out to disinfect the benches. 

There is no guessing as to how the season is going to be completed or even if it will get to be completed. With other sports leagues opting to just bar fans from attending games the NBA seems to be taking zero chances. 

This is something we have never seen before and it will be interesting to see how this develops. The NBA has always been a very proactive league so there should be hope that league officials will be able to land on their feet amid this hysteria.