The Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the bright spots of the NBA this season, much in part because of the effects of franchise cornerstones Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, two young players just starting their careers. They have broken all sorts of team records and electrified a city that has grown accustomed to losing. Now with the playoffs here, they are sure to play a giant role on any success the team has. But the playoffs are about much more than two players, everyone will need to step up, especially a few veterans both on and off the court.
For much of the year the praise has (rightfully) fallen into the laps of Simmons and Embiid, with all other players filling their roles around the superstars. There is nothing wrong with that, as it has proven to be successful, but there are eleven other guys on the active roster. The role players who don’t necessarily get the superstar treatment have more or less done their job successfully, filling their roles in order to get wins. Now the time has come to grow into more than just players who can fill a role, but now they have the chance to effect the game in a much larger way, by coaching up some of the younger guys.
All season J.J. Redick has been the guy who the Sixers can go to for mainly consistent baskets. His .458 Field Goal percentage is the third highest of his career, one that has seen him go to the playoffs every single year since he was drafted. Combining his hot shooting along with his playoff experience, he can be one of the most important players on this team for the playoff run that no one is really talking about. Redick isn’t the only player with experience on the national stage of the playoffs, as midseason additions Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova have also played as well Amir Johnson and depth players Justin Anderson Jerryd Bayless.
Redick is the obvious leader in experience, playing in 88 career playoff games, but he isn’t the only one. Belinelli has played in a ton of winning playoff ball in 48 games and others like Johnson (42 games), Ilyasova (29 games), Bayless (23 games) and Anderson (5 games) have their fair share of playoff run too. One of the many bright spots this year has been the teams ability to bring in these older players (besides Anderson) to mentor the younger group already on the roster, and it has worked terrifically. Every game Simmons, Embiid and even Robert Covington and Dario Saric continue to impress in their ability to lead this team at such a young age, you have to think these veterans had somewhat of a hand in this development.
Playoff basketball is a whole different animal, referees seem to tighten up play, calling more fouls in order to keep control of the game. Because of this, Simmons and Embiid may have some more trouble when around the basket because of Simmons tendency to push off defenders to create separation and Embiid’s swinging arms when turning from posting up down low to facing the basket. Redick and Belinelli may not have experience in this field, but Ilyasova and Johnson can at least help them learn how to be less handsy in order to not get these ticky tack foul calls and if they are in trouble, can come in and give valuable minutes on a stage they have experience playing on. What the two sharpshooters can help with is keeping the offense running smoothly, not getting too high or too low at any time.
The Sixers have a chance to make some real noise once the playoffs start, they’re getting better as a lot of other teams seem to be reaching their plateau. In many of these players first taste of playoff basketball, success could go a long way in making sure they can get back to this point for years to come. There is no denying this team already carries themselves with poise, but having several veterans to fall back on to learn the nuances of playoff basketball sure doesn’t hurt.
Editors Note: With the playoffs about to start up, I just wanted to say thank you to the people at Liberty Ballers as well as the readers. I’m still trying to find my style and this website has given me the platform to try new things and receive some constructive criticism in order to get better. Playoff basketball is something we deserve, so let’s make the best of it.