We’ve entered the doldrums of the NBA offseason. The draft has come and gone; the intrigue of free agency has dissipated; Summer League is nearly two weeks in the rearview mirror.
The next time the Philadelphia 76ers will be playing meaningful basketball, autumn will be in full swing with Halloween fast approaching. Now that Shake Milton has been signed and a Kyle Korver trade seems off the table (for now), the Sixers’ 2018-19 opening day roster appears to be set. With team-related developments and happenings having stalled for the time being, it feels like a good opportunity for a Liberty Ballers mailbag.
I called upon Sixers Twitter to shoot me some questions pertaining to the franchise. Some were funny; some were straightforward and inquisitive; others were downright confusing. I selected the best from the litter and will be answering them below. Feel free to trash my opinions, agree with them or continue the conversation in the comments section below.
Why haven’t the Sixers found a GM yet? (Via @drewfav on Twitter)
Management clearly loves Brett Brown, highlighted by the fact he survived the tanking stage of The Process and recently signed a contract extension — a testament to his perseverance, endurance and coaching.
Allowing Brown to serve as interim GM through the draft and free agency speaks to the organization’s confidence in his ability to thrive in dual roles. Brown doesn’t have too many coaching duties on his plate right now, empowering him to primarily focus his efforts in one area. I’d imagine once the NBA season draws closer, the search and news surrounding the search will ramp up.
The Sixers didn’t land a marquee name in free agency but Brown’s record since taking over basketball operations is encouraging. The trade for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 unprotected first-rounder looked better with each stout defensive possession, sharp off-ball cut and flashy pass from Smith during Summer League; Wilson Chandler was a solid veteran pickup, especially given he’s on an expiring contract, enabling the Sixers to retain cap flexibility next summer; Mike Muscala can ideally fill Ersan Ilyasova’s role as a stretch 5; the list of positive transactions rattles on.
In due time, Philadelphia will find a GM. I can’t explain why there’s been little news regarding the search but it seems to be the result of faith in Brett Brown, who’s by and large pressed all the right buttons in his newfound temporary role.
What do you think Markelle Fultz’s role on the team will be next season? (Via @OdysseasSkibre7)
This is an important question and the Sixers’ potential for next season and beyond is probably tied to the answer. All reports suggest the rehabilitation of his jumper is progressing at a swift rate and renowned trainer Drew Hanlen continues to rave about the strides Fultz has made.
Ultimately, I think his preseason showing will dictate his early-season role. If he displays a functional jumper and the same traits he flashed in limited run last season, he’ll have a sizable gig from day one, potentially sliding into the starting unit if he looks THAT good.
But expecting Fultz to return to his pre-injury form immediately is a tall task and one I think is unrealistic. He’s likely to start the season off the bench, seeing minutes at both guard spots, and providing perimeter scoring and playmaking. He should be the team’s primary option off the bench, given his talent and upside. Assuming he develops in-season, I’d bet he’s starting by April. The Sixers had one of the best starting fives in the NBA last season but it’s one that has limitations come playoff time, evidenced by the gentleman’s sweep dished out by Boston.
However, inserting Fultz into the lineup adds a new dynamic with his length, slashing and three-level scoring. If he’s an outside threat, he deserves to start and help raise Philadelphia’s ceiling into another stratosphere. I figure he’ll see 25-30 minutes a night, average double-figure scoring while sprinkling in a healthy dose of rebounding and facilitating.
Who do you think will be the standout rookie for Philadelphia? (Via @soulyghost)
I don’t think any of the Sixers’ three draft picks will be vying for Rookie of the Year votes next season, despite personally being encouraged by their long-term potential. Both Landry Shamet and Shake Milton are unlikely to be serious contributors next season and should spend lots of time in the G League — this is a given for Milton, who’s playing on a two-way contract — becoming more NBA-ready.
I have my doubts about Zhaire Smith’s role as a rookie without a consistent jumper and a loose handle. But he’s a high IQ player who should make an immediate impact with his athleticism, defense and off-ball movement. I’d imagine he gets about 15-18 minutes a game, throws down some highlight-reel jams, has some lockdown defensive possessions and is on the receiving end of some wicked Ben Simmons passes after darting backdoor.
Trading for Smith was the right move and in due time, I believe the results will bear that out. He’s my pick to be Philadelphia’s standout rookie, even if his impact doesn’t rival some of his peers next season.
Among Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, Brett Brown and Trevor Booker, who would you want to go on a “bro date” to Chipotle with? (Via @hguonodcmhcaz)
This is a two-horse race between The Homie and Good Ole’ Brett but Brown feels like the easy choice. Listening to him reel off story after story with that mesmerizing accent dominating the conversation — all while munching on a burrito (brown rice, chicken and pinto beans are the headliners, by the way) and sharing some chips and guacamole — is an opportunity too rich to pass up. Brown’s been all over the map as a coach but the tales he has involving Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and the various other Spurs legends would make for a best-selling book.
Should I pencil us in for Tuesday at 3, Brett?
What do you think J.J. Redick’s gym shoes smell like? (Via @TheDFC)
Whole lotta buckets.