With Sixers training camp getting underway at Stockton College in just three weeks, Brett Brown will need as much time as he can get to find out which pieces on his new look roster will fit. Philadelphia has a ton of versatile players, but that poses more questions for the team than answers. In this mailbag, we took a look at some potential lineups/pairings, the future of Sergio Rodriguez, and more.
@OCaptMyObvious: What is your favorite potential lineup? Just most interesting.
I think a Simmons-Bayless-Covington-Saric-Embiid lineup has the potential to be both fun to watch and really good. It does contain three guys who have never played a minute in the NBA, but once they begin to find their feel for the game, this group has quite the fusion of good ball handling, shooting, and defense. Simmons can run the offense in most half court sets, and Saric can push the ball off rebounds as they try to push the tempo. Jerryd Bayless has spent a majority of his career minutes at point guard (63 percent), but he feels best suited to be playing off ball in this lineup. Simmons, as well as Saric to a lesser degree, are incredible passers with good enough floor vision that they’ll be capable of putting teammates in positions to score. Bayless, who shot 47.7 percent on 3.4 catch-and-shoot threes per game, and Robert Covington, who shot 37.7 percent on 6.2 attempts, will provide the lineup with enough quality shooting from beyond the arc to open the lane up for Simmons to attack the basket. And of course there’s Joel Embiid, who should provide both dominant post play and rim protection in whatever playing time the Sixers are comfortable giving him. This lineup just has so many fun potential wrinkles in it. Imagine a Simmons/Saric-Embiid pick-and-roll tandem with Embiid that can open up the corner three when a defender is forced to help on the 7-foot-2 behemoth crashing the lane. Or a Simmons-Saric pick-and-pop that allows Dario to show off some of his range. Or a post up for Simmons with Embiid out around the foul line ready to shoot a mid-range jumper. The guys in this hypothetical lineup have such varied skill sets it’s only going to create headaches for opponents.
@Grimm_Harryy: Can Dario Saric and Ben Simmons play together in a starting lineup?
I think they can probably play together (as I touched on above), and Brett Brown has mentioned he believes they’ll be able to as well. Simmons and Saric have very similar strengths (ball handling, passing), but it’s going to be their play on the defensive end that will dictate their ability to be on the court together. Saric’s average athleticism is probably indicative of him guarding power forwards than anything else, as I think he’ll be too slow to keep up with small forwards at the NBA level. Simmons is capable of guarding just about any position on the floor, but his impact on that end will be dependent on where he is mentally. If he starts taking plays off again like he did when he was at LSU, he’ll be a black hole. But if he locks in and is willing to compete at multiple positions like he showed throughout Las Vegas Summer League, he can do whatever he wants. The addition of Saric and Simmons will throttle Philadelphia towards the forefront of the league’s shift towards positionless basketball, but they do have guys on the team who can help cover up their respective defensive deficiencies. Gerald Henderson can defend either wing position, and Robert Covington could probably handle bulkier fours if need be. Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid can lock down the rim in case of blow bys, and should be able to switch out on pick-and-rolls. Simmons and Saric will play together if Brown wants them to, but I’d be comfortable with Saric running the second unit in a similar manner I would expect Simmons to run the starters.
@AnthonyHughes__: Sergio's contract is for one year. Depending on the season he has, do you think they give him another offer or will he probably go back to Spain?
He feels more like a stopgap option during a season where they try and figure out their future options. Rodriguez played relatively well during the Olympics, and against USA you got a really solid glimpse of what he’s going to be capable of doing at the NBA level. Still, Rodriguez’s role on the team is tough to determine until he gets at least a couple preseason games under his belt. T.J. McConnell should still see a solid amount of playing time based off his stellar rookie campaign, and new signee Jerryd Bayless can command some time at the point as well. Playing Rodriguez off ball doesn’t make a ton of sense, so playing him with Simmons isn’t ideal. The key to Rodriguez’s success and career in the NBA is going to be how well he shoots from beyond the arc. The 30-year-old has certainly improved his shooting since his last stint in The Association, but he still shot just 10/34 (29.4 percent) from beyond the arc during the 2016 Rio Olympics. He’s going to be a fantastic set up man regardless of whether or not his shot is there, but Philadelphia doesn’t really have a shortage of those. McConnell, Saric, and Simmons all have superb court vision and passing skills. If Rodriguez isn’t shooting the ball well, then he’s not needed nearly as much, as McConnell is a far better defender than Rodriguez is. The Sixers are also going to be actively seeking out their franchise point guard next summer, and even if Rodriguez plays well this season, he’s not going to be a longterm option. If he just ends up being a really expensive McConnell minus the quality defense, is he worth paying and playing over the former Arizona guard? Probably not. It’ll be a fun season, but I doubt we’ll see Chacho in a Sixers uniform come the 2017-18 season.
@cheesybacon: If Timothe Luwawu is sent to the D-League, will another team be able to sign him?
Luwawu is under an NBA contract with the Sixers, so he’s property of the team and not able to be picked up by another team if sent to Delaware, which I’ve heard is likely to happen at some point during the season. He’ll still take up a spot on the team’s 15 man roster, however. Think about what the team did with Lorenzo Brown over the course of the 2013-14 season if you need an example. Luwawu could probably handle some minutes for the Sixers if he really had to, but he needs some time to develop his skills, and he’s currently trying to compete for minutes with Henderson, Covington, and Hollis Thompson. Sending him to Delaware will give him the opportunity to get some consistent playing time on a daily basis, and Philadelphia will still be able to recall him when needed.
Thanks for reading. This mailbag pretty short compared to most other editions, so send me your questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky or email them to me at email@example.com, and you could be featured in the next one. They’ll start coming out on a more regular basis as the season gets closer.