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Liberty Ballers Mailbag

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Liberty Ballers mailbag is a recurring feature in which we field questions about the Sixers. You can send your mailbag questions to @Liberty_Ballers on Twitter, or email them to me at [at]

I want to thank anyone that sent questions in. Without further adieu, my first mailbag:

Following the Charlotte Hornets game, I posted some game film of a lineup involving Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Ersan Ilyasova, Marco Belinelli and Robert Covington. The lineup had a lot of success in the minutes they played together, but it had its flaws for sure. Defensively, mostly.

How can we change it up just a bit? It must be used in the right circumstances. Inserting Joel Embiid into this lineup doesn’t make a ton sense to me: the idea seems to be to keep height on the floor while Embiid is resting, yet keeping the pace and space flow going. So, I’m okay with a Simmons/Saric/Ilyasova frontcourt defensively so long as there’s not a center on the court like an Andre Drummond, so mark that down as the wrong circumstance. And in the backcourt, this lineup had trouble with Kemba Walker. We saw Dario get switched on to Kemba and it wasn’t pretty. It’s intriguing to me to insert TJ McConnell into this lineup, and just let him hound opposing point guards. You would lose the shooting threat that Belinelli provies, but maybe make up for it defensively. Simmons and McConnell have been -4.4 when together due to lack of shooting, but with 3PT shooting in Saric, Ilyasova and Covington, there’s a lot of ability to use speed going to the rim for kickouts. When Simmons has the ball though, McConnell wouldn’t be very useful, and so the team would really have to limit half-court possessions and push the ball every opportunity they get to do so. It’s entirely possible that this lineup only works if everyone on the court, aside from Simmons, is a consistent 3PT threat.

This essential question was asked 3 different times, so instead of posting all three tweets, I’d like to shout out Twitter users @senortalone and @kevinquaere. Thanks for the submissions.

There’s a few couple ways to look at this. With the playoff seeding race so tight, let’s first imagine the Sixers end up in the 6-8 range, and pretend the top 3 seeds will be Toronto (definite), Boston (definite) and Cleveland (ehhhh). In this scenario, Toronto is out. I don’t want to see them. They aren’t sexy, but they’ve been consistent, knowing exactly how they want to attack and they have some very savvy veterans ready to shine in the playoffs. I know Cleveland has their issues, but I just don’t see anyway LeBron takes a first round exit. So gimme Boston. In 2018, Boston is 14-10. Not bad, but pretty convincing evidence that they aren’t the juggernaut they appeared to be earlier in the season when they ripped off 16 straight wins. It’s unlikely the Sixers win this series, but I think it is their best chance given the matchup problems Embiid provides. Or maybe my inner Celtics hate is getting in the way of my analysis...

In a scenario where the Sixers get a middle seed, 4 or 5, their best shot is against the Pacers over the Wizards. The Sixers are .500 against both teams this season, with one game left against the Pacers. So from a record standpoint, they’ve competed similarly against the two. But I just don’t like how the Sixers matchup with the Wizards. Bradley Beal seems to save his best performances for Sixers games and the Sixers have no way of slowing him down. And the Wizards have played well without John Wall, but a Wall/Beal backcourt is trouble for the Sixers defensively. For the Pacers, Victor Oladipo doesn’t get a ton of help. In the Sixers sole loss to the Pacers this season, Bojan Bogdanovich dropped 19 as the Pacers second leading scorer. I’ll take my chances with an inexperienced Pacers squad.

There will be some interesting Restricted Free Agent candidates out there, but discussing those is often an exercise in futility. Let’s stick with unrestricted free agents, and the answer is: not many. There’s not a lot off affordable options that make sense.

If the Sixers have a shot to get him, Paul George could give the Sixers the best defense in the league and put them right in the conversation of bonafide Eastern Conference contenders. If Danny Green opts out in San Antonio, he’s someone the Sixers should pursue; he’d add wing depth, shooting and versatile backcourt/wing defense. Wayne Ellington of the Miami Heat could be another option. He’s not the defensive player Danny Green is, but he adds scoring and spacing as a career 37.9% 3PT shooter. Both Green and Ellington are 30 years old, and so I wouldn’t give them a contract that ties them up multiple years.

When thinking about this upcoming free agency period it is important to remember how many players/assets the Sixers already have that will be put into the lineup. Markelle Fultz and Furkan Korkmaz will be returning. Jonah Bolden may come over from Europe and the Sixers have the rights to Mathias Lessort. The Sixers have 2 first round picks and 3 second round picks in the 2018 draft. And it is possible they retain JJ Redick. So there may not be a whole lot of roster space for the Sixers’ Front Office to fill. With that in mind, I’d roll over the cash to the 2019 free agency period if you strike out on LeBron or PG, instead of pursuing a backend starter a la Avery Bradley or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, although KCP’s name is a top 10 NBA name for me.

I’m not sure they need would need to move up to get the guy they want. That could change if some players get moved before the draft. But if the core stays as constructed and the Lakers pick lands in the 7-12 range, there’s a lot of guys that should be available, that could fit. Mikal Bridges, Lonnie Walker, Kevin Knox.

Moving up to 2 or 3 would likely mean they pursue Luka Doncic, Trae Young or Michael Porter Jr. I don’t know a ton about Luka Doncic, but there’s a strong chance he goes 1, so 2 or 3 won’t do it. On top of that, from what I do know, he’s most effective with the ball in his hands, and his presence could hinder the effectiveness of Simmons. I can’t see them going after Trae Young unless they are gravely concerned about Fultz. Porter Jr. is someone who intrigues me, but he’s been out most of the NCAA season with back problems. That’s scary for a 19 year old.

Tough to say at this point. You can never have enough 3PT shooting. But he’s 33 years old and the Sixers have Markelle Fultz waiting in the wings to fill a similar role Redick plays. I think he would have to be open to moving into a 6th man role at some point next season and likely take less than he could get somewhere else.

Redick recently reiterated that he wants to be with the Sixers long term. Maybe there was a wink-wink when the Sixers forked over $23 million to him last offseason, and they could get him relatively cheap on a multi-year, team friendly deal.

If I had to make a guess, I’d say he’s a Sixer next season, and I’m not thrilled nor disappointed about it.

There hasn’t been much from the organization about Bolden, so there’s not much to go on. But I think he’s ready, and if the Sixers don’t bring back Amir Johnson, I think there’s a strong chance Bolden’s here. I can’t overstate how excited I am to see what he can contribute.

UPDATE: Our resident Jonah Bolden expert, and holder of a fantastic first name, Kevin Rice weighs in: “I am 97% sure he’ll be playing in South Philly next season.”

These are all similar and so I’ll knock them out in one response.

First, I don’t think Fultz returns this year. So there won’t be rotation changes due to his presence.

The Sixers are currently the 6th seed and playing some of their best basketball of the season. So this is just a guess, I have no inside sources on this and Bryan Colangelo hasn’t appeared on Dr. J’s podcast to get himself fined, but... I don’t think they’re tanking.

If he were to return fully healthy with a solid jumper, you’d see a lot less of Belinelli and TLC would go from part-time cheerleader to full-time. Very unlikely Fultz starts.

As for placing Markelle in the G-League, that’s gonna be a no from me dawg. The G-League is great for guys who are hungry for a chance. I think it could have the opposite effect on a #1 pick who possibly has some confidence issues, and even if he doesn’t, I just don’t think it does much good given the lack of talent in the G-League. When he’s ready, he should be playing NBA talent. Let him take the year off, make an appearance in Summer League and come back ready to contribute to the A team.

If the Sixers could have gotten something last season for Jahlil Okafor, they would have. They showed their hand and nobody was biting.