Major Takeaways from the 76ers' Preseason

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers had an exciting preseason filled with surprises, blowouts and one game where the team fell flat. You might be thinking it's just the preseason and none of the stats, trends and performances matter. The regular season is just days away, but that does not mean that we learned nothing from the preseason.

Throughout the preseason, we were able to learn some things about a couple of the team's young players as well as seeing some potential concerns surrounding the team come into fruition.

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76ers Notes: Team Plans to use Friday's Preseason Finale as Tuneup for Regular Season

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers are planning on approaching Friday night's preseason finale against the Washington Wizards as a tuneup for the regular season opener against the rival Boston Celtics. 

Treating the preseason game against Washington as a tuneup is important for the 76ers. The starting lineup has only played together twice, against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions and the Orlando Magic. With the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson to the starting lineup and a tough early-season schedule featuring matchups with the Celtics, Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, the 76ers need to gain chemistry by playing on the floor together more than they have this preseason. 

"If health permits, I'd play it like I'd play Boston," head coach Brett Brown said Wednesday. "I think incrementally, we had a plan, I think we've delivered on the plan, executed a plan...I would like to play like I'm playing the Boston Celtics, and then take a deep breath with a day off and get through the game healthy, and come back ready to dig in."

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76ers' Bench has Talent to be Extension of Brett Brown's Defensive Identity

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers have all the tools to become one of the NBA's best defenses this season. The starting lineup consists of players all 6-foot-6 and taller, including two potential Defensive Player of the Year candidates in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. However, the team's bench also has the talent and mindset to be great defensively.

General manager Elton Brand did a good job adding to the team's bench this offseason, working together with head coach Brett Brown to add players who excel on the defensive end of the floor. It is widely known that Brown highly values defense and hustle on that end of the floor, and the 76ers have become a team with a strong defensive identity. 

"I feel like when you look at the course of 82 games in the regular season, I think that our second team can establish that type of identity," Brown said after the game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions, via an article by NBC Sports Philadelphia's Noah Levick. "But I've said a lot, I want to play aggressive defense. I want our defense to be the launching pad to our offense, not the other way around. And I think that our length and mentality can help me achieve that."

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76ers Continue NBA Preseason with 100-87 Win Against Charlotte Hornets

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers moved to 2-0 this preseason with a 100-87 win over the Charlotte Hornets Friday night at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 

Don't let the final score fool you, this game was not close at all. The 76ers held a comfortable 20-plus point lead throughout most of the contest before bringing in the end of the bench players for most of the fourth quarter. 

After getting off to a slow start, Philadelphia ended the first quarter on a 22-4 run, building up a lead they would never lose. Here are some observations on tonight's win over Charlotte.

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76ers 144, Guangzhou Loong-Lions 86: Observations from the Preseason Opener

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers, as many would have predicted, easily defeated the Guangzhou Loong-Lions, 144-86, in the preseason opener at Wells Fargo Center. 

The game got out of hand relatively quickly, with the 76ers holding a 14-point lead after one quarter of play. Philadelphia opened up the second quarter on an 18-6 run, widening the lead to 26. The game was a blowout from there on out. 

While it is only the first preseason game, the 76ers looked impressive against Guangzhou. However, the Loong-Lions were several overmatched and this result was to be expected. With that being said, here are some of our observations from the 76ers' win in the preseason opener.

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76ers Preseason Opener Pregame Notes: Embiid, the Team's Rotation and More

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers open up their 2019-20 preseason tonight with a game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. 

The following are some pregame notes about the team's health and rotation for tonight's preseason opener: 

Joel Embiid only expected to play in the first half

According to the Inquirer's Keith Pompey, superstar big man Joel Embiid will only be playing in the first half against the Loong-Lions. With it being the preseason opener, there is no reason to play Embiid the entirety of the game.

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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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76ers Announce Blue X White Scrimmage, Other Key Dates Before Preseason

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By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers on Monday afternoon announced the Blue X White Scrimmage will take place on Saturday Oct. 5 and will be held for the first time at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware. 

The 76ers are proud of their multipurpose facility in Delaware and are clearly making efforts to increase their brand in that state. The Fieldhouse is also the home of the team's G-League affiliate, the Blue Coats. 

"The intimate environment continues our tradition of creating the perfect atmosphere to introduce the team, " head coach Brett Brown said. "By having this game at the home of the Blue Coats, it shows the important partnership we have with the G-League program in Wilmington, Delaware."

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Who Will be the 76ers Closer in the 2019-20 Season?

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The most important time of an NBA game is the fourth quarter. The importance of having a go-to guy in a close game is paramount, and the Philadelphia 76ers, after trading away Jimmy Butler and losing JJ Redick in free agency, find themselves without a clear solution for who can fill that role. 

Butler was adept at taking over games in the fourth quarter and was not afraid of taking the last shot of the game. He averaged 6.4 points per game in the fourth quarter last season, by far his highest amount in any quarter. 

Redick, the 76ers' sharpshooter for the previous two seasons, could always be relied upon to hit a key 3-pointer at any point in the game. 

The 76ers, now without both of those players, are searching for a clear No. 1 option in the fourth quarter. Will it be Tobias Harris? Josh Richardson? Ben Simmons? All of those players have the potential to step up and take on the role of being the main option in the fourth quarter of games.

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Round Two of the 76ers "Quiet Tournament": Smith, Thybulle and Korkmaz Set to Battle in Rotation

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

"Quiet tournament." 

Those are the words Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown used when describing the process of whittling down the team's rotation towards the end of last season. 

By the end of last season, the 76ers bench consisted of a group of newly acquired players (James Ennis III, Jonathon Simmons and Mike Scott) mixed with some unproven, younger players (Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden). With the playoffs getting nearer, it was time for Brown to begin to see who he would be using in the team's playoff rotation. Ennis III and Scott both won significant roles off the bench for the 76ers, and both of them produced in the playoffs.

This season, a new "quiet tournament" will be occurring between a group of 76ers bench players vying for the limited amount of minutes available in the Sixers' rotation. With Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson occupying the starting small forward and shooting guard spots respectively, there are not many minutes left available for the players behind them. 

Ennis III stepped up his game in the playoffs last season, showing that he can do a little bit of everything on the floor, and earned a spot in Brown's rotation (and a contract extension this offseason). He averaged 7.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game while shooting 48.4 percent from the field in 11 playoff games last season for the 76ers. It is assumed that he will be occupying one of the top bench spots in the rotation. 

That leaves a battle for minutes between Korkmaz, rookie first-round pick Matisse Thybulle and second-year player Zhaire Smith for the small amount of minutes left in the rotation. 

Breaking Down the Players Involved

Korkmaz has a storied history with the 76ers organization. He wasn't happy with his role on the team and it resulted in the organization declining the third-year option in his contract. He hit free agency this offseason, but wound up returning to Philadelphia on a two-year contract. The Turkish native is known for his 3-point shooting ability, but it hasn't yet transferred over to the court at the NBA level. 

Thybulle is a player that the 76ers clearly value based on how they traded up with the Boston Celtics to draft him in this year's NBA Draft. He is a defensive savant who has a developing offensive game. He looked good earlier this summer in the Summer League, showing mainly that he has a competent outside shot while continuing to excel on the defensive end of the floor. 

The Summer League showed that Thybulle still has a lot of work to do to become what the 76ers saw when they drafted him with the 20th pick in the first round. One of the key things that he needs to work on is his ball handling, specifically on drives to the basket. It is unclear whether Thybulle will ever be above average on offense, but, with his elite defensive abilities, he only needs to be an average player on that end of the floor. 

Smith has perhaps the most interesting story out of these three players. He was drafted by the 76ers in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft, but missed the majority of last season after suffering both a Jones fracture to his foot and an allergic reaction that nearly threatened his life

Smith stands out on the floor due to both his defense and athleticism, two traits that the organization is trying to build around. His offensive game isn't as raw as Thybulle's, but he still won't be a player who is known for offense. His jumper showed flashes of improvement between his lone collegiate season at Texas Tech and the end of last season, when he was able to get on the floor for six games. In those six games, Smith averaged almost three attempts per game from beyond the arc, hitting them on a 37.5% clip. 

Who Will Win the Quiet Tournament?

1. Zhaire Smith

I think that Smith will finish on top in this "quiet tournament," but it will be close. Between his improving (albeit a small sample size) offensive game and his physical tools, Smith will be able to earn a consistent spot in the rotation ahead of both Korkmaz and Thybulle.

2. Furkan Korkmaz

Behind him comes Korkmaz, who is being given yet another chance to prove himself and earn a spot in the team's rotation. His outside shooting ability is enticing and is something that the 76ers are looking for coming off the bench. 

3. Matisse Thybulle

Thybulle doesn't have the experience and, right now, his offensive game is too raw. It is possible, maybe even likely, that he surpasses Korkmaz in the rotation at some point this season.

It just doesn't seem like Thybulle is ready for a consistent role at the NBA level. He has too many flaws (poor ball handler, below average outside shooter) to be a serviceable offensive player. While his defensive skills are enticing (and are the main reason why the team drafted him), Korkmaz provides more of what the 76ers need coming off the bench.

Maybe if the team didn't have Smith, a player of the same mold as Thybulle, then things would be different. However, they have the ability to not have to rush Thybulle into a bigger role in the rotation.