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Answering Sixers questions from non-Sixers fans

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What is the deal with Markelle Fultz? Inquiring minds want to know.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

As we wind down our Sixers/Celtics week, we thought it would be a fun exercise to see what people on the other side are most curious about in regard to the state of the Sixers. The following questions all come from the readers at Celtics Blog, and concern the front office turmoil, the Embiid/Simmons hierarchy, and intrigue about all things Markelle Fultz.

Who should be GM? Can Brett do both?

Sean Kennedy: Sixers ownership has painted itself into a corner with its criteria for the successor to Bryan Colangelo and his wife’s (but really his) burner accounts. They said they want:

a) Someone with previous General Manager experience, and;
b) Someone who will keep the existing front office staff in place.

These things sound good in a vacuum, but the problem is that they are diametrically opposed to each other. Candidates with previous experience will have the clout to come into a new job and bring in their own people. Only someone getting his (or her) first big break would agree to having Marc Eversley, Ned Cohen, Brett Brown, and the rest of the previous regime around to diminish the authority of the role. Thus, we’re at a standstill. Daryl Morey isn’t walking through that door, and Sam Hinkie isn’t riding back in on that horse with Obama from Game of Zones.

Can Brett Brown be both head coach and general manager? Sure, on an interim basis. I think he did just fine this summer. But we have far too much evidence that performing both roles is simply too much responsibility for any one individual to handle. In the modern NBA, the scope of scouting, player evaluation, and salary cap maneuvering required as a general manager is too large a task for someone who also has to develop the players on the roster and win games on a nightly basis. Ultimately, I think we’re looking at a situation where the organization announces Marc Eversley as the permanent replacement, and Brett returns to only having head coach in his title, while retaining some influence in roster-shaping decisions.

In an alternative universe where Bryan Colangelo does not get outed and remains in charge, how does the 76ers offseason go differently?

Adam Aaronson: As Sixers fans learned early on in Colangelo’s tenure as Sixers GM, he was very concerned with perception surrounding his decisions, perhaps at times even more than whether or not he was making the right decision. It’s why Colangelo could never do the job Danny Ainge does. In 2016, Ainge saw all of the talk about guys like Kris Dunn, Dragan Bender and Buddy Hield, and then instead took Jaylen Brown, a selection that was heavily scrutinized. But Ainge was comfortable with making the unpopular move, because he thought it was the right one. And it was.

But back to your original question - I don’t think Bryan Colangelo would have taken missing out on LeBron James, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard well. My guess is that in somewhat of a panic move, he would have overpaid for someone who he could label as the other star the team needed. Now, there are varying levels of how good (or disastrous) this move could have been. One could argue it’s worth overpaying for the Sixers if they can get a guy like, say, Bradley Beal, a high-caliber scorer who would fit in perfectly with the rest of the roster. CJ McCollum isn’t as good as Beal, but would also fit in well in Philadelphia.

But then you get to the darker scenarios - what if, before the Kawhi-to-Toronto trade went down, he called the Raptors about a player he drafted, DeMar DeRozan? DeRozan is a very good and accomplished player, but his reliance on having the ball so much, on top of his inability to be a good three-point shooter, would make him a terrible fit on the Sixers. Would Bryan have still gone down that path? Maybe, who knows? But my guess is that the Sixers would have been a lot more bold in their approach.

Do you regret trading Mikal Bridges? If not, do you think you could potentially regret that in the future?

Adio Royster: From a public relations stance, yeah, I do kind of regret it. Tyneeha Rivers (Mikal’s mother) works for the Sixers as the Vice President of Human Relations. When her son was drafted by the team she works for, the reaction was priceless:

Everyone knows what happened after that. The Sixers traded him to Phoenix for the rights to Zhaire Smith and an unprotected 2021 first round pick. From that optic, there’s some regret.

From purely a basketball standpoint, no, I don’t. Listen, Mikal Bridges is good (REALLY good). He improved his scoring every year at Villanova, and his peak last year saw numbers of 17.7 ppg off 51% from the field and 43% from three on 239 total attempts. Bridges was also the leader of the Wildcats defense with a career 5.7 DBPM in college.

No disrespect to Bridges at all, but he’s a “high floor/low ceiling” guy -- which is fine. Smith was someone Liberty Ballers faithful targeted even before the draft. None of us thought Bridges would be there at 10. (I like Collin Sexton, but come on Cleveland. You knew LeBron was leaving.)

Smith isn’t quite the scorer that Bridges is, but he’s the defender that Bridges is (6.4 DBPM as a freshman at Texas Tech). There is scoring POTENTIAL -- a word that is all too familiar with Sixers fans -- but he’s already a very good defender. He’s also 19, so he can grow into something more than Bridges, whom we know what he is.

(Also, the Sixers scored an unprotected 2021 pick -- which, by then, the NBA may be allowing high schoolers into the draft.)

Many posters on LB place a lot of faith in what they see as the inevitable improvement of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as something that will push the Sixers ahead of the Celtics in the future. How much do you see that being offset by the equally inevitable improvement of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum?

Greg Melo: This is a really intriguing question. The homer in me says that both Simmons and Embiid are generational talents and I firmly believe that their ceilings are higher than the ceilings of Brown and Tatum by a significant margin. However, I think that both Tatum and Brown are most likely safer bets to reach theirs.

I love JoJo, and he is only a few more steps away from becoming a Shaq-level force in the paint. Combine that with his improving jumper and his DPOY-level rim protection and I think he has all the tools to create a Hall of Fame resume. But I would be lying if i said I didn’t hold my breath each time he took a weird tumble on the court, or each time he draws a hard foul. How long his career will be is a reasonable thing to ponder, and of course, injuries are impossible to project.

Similarly, I think the world of Ben Simmons. Not many first-year players come into the league with the elite court vision and feel for the game he has, let alone combining that with a 6’10 frame and explosive leaping ability. But will he ever fix the jump shot? We can talk about how he only needs to make incremental improvements in year 2 and year 3 on the jumper, and that his off-ball game, free-throw shooting, and finishing through contact could all develop beforehand. But to hit his ceiling (which is truly the edge of the atmosphere), he’s gotta be able to space the floor with a jumper at some point in his career. And if he’s stubborn and doesn’t think that his form is something that needs to be reworked (i.e. switching hands), then I’m not 100% sure that he will get there.

Okay short answer: I think that Simmons/Embiid versus Tatum/Brown will be loads of fun to watch in the coming years and that the development of Brown and Tatum (especially) can offset Emibiid and Simmons if the latter pair hit their median outcomes rather than their higher end outcomes.

Also, Fultz will be a key to unlocking the higher outcomes of the two 76ers superstars.

If say in two-to-three years time, the Sixers haven’t maximized their potential, or maybe Embiid/Simmons just don’t quite mesh as well as you would like, who would you rather trade out of Embiid and Simmons, and who would get the best return?

Adam Aaronson: To answer the latter first, Simmons would likely have the higher trade value, because there are no real health/durability concerns with him like there are with Embiid. As unbelievably good as Joel is at such a young age, it would take guts to trade a massive package of assets for someone with his medical history.

But the issue with the question is that the Sixers will never look to trade one of these two players. The entire purpose of the Sixers’ drastic rebuild was to put them in position to acquire not just one, but multiple players with the potential to be superstars, whether it be through the NBA Draft, free agency, or trades. And the Sixers have already found two.

Say what you want about Simmons and Embiid, and they each do have flaws that need to be improved, but it is indisputable that they each have superstar ceilings. You have to exhaust every possible solution if it isn’t “clicking” on the court, but it would be shocking if this became an issue. They are both high IQ players who care deeply about winning, and have already achieved some success in their one year together with a 50+ win season and a playoff series victory.

Who is the Sixers can’t miss FA target for next summer?

Tyler Monahan: I don’t know if there’s any true “can’t miss” free agents in the upcoming free agent class like there was in this past one. I think the Sixers definitely need to get some kind of shooter, and the top two options are Klay Thompson and Khris Middleton, so one of those two has to be the answer. I think Middleton’s game translates better into the Sixers starting group, and he would probably cost less than Thompson, so he would be my pick.

How do you feel about the Fultz trade? How did you feel about it at the time? Was your opinion different at the time than it is now?

Adio Royster: (*sighs*) (*cracks knuckles*)

Okay, let’s do this. I’ll answer this in phases.

How do I feel about the Fultz trade? Interestingly enough, I still feel very good. He’s 20 years old. Some young players get rattled when they get into the league (see Bennett, Anthony). Fultz doesn’t want to end up like that, and he’s been working very hard with Drew Hanlen all summer. (Trust me. I know. I follow Fultz on Instagram and Snapchat.) Fultz wants to get back to the guy he was at Washington, and I’m praying to the basketball gods that he does, because he’s the game changer for the Sixers this season.

At the time of the trade, I was elated. Fultz was the scorer and creator the Sixers needed to add to Simmons and Embiid. The fit was perfect. The result was … weird … to say it nicely. Fast forward to the middle of the season when Jayson Tatum was becoming Paul Pierce reincarnate. That had me feeling a little salty. My sodium levels were up. I’ll be honest. Even if the Sixers had drafted Tatum in some alternate universe, would he be the Tatum he is? Maybe? If Gordon Hayward doesn’t get hurt, does Tatum develop as fast as he did? Honestly? No eff’ing way. Tatum’s development was sped up via “trial by fire”. He survived the trial, so props to him and you lucky folks up there in Boston. (That’s my sodium levels talking again. My apologies.)

I’m still as excited about the trade now as I was then, since there’s an added element to Fultz this season -- the comeback element. If movies have taught me anything, it’s that America loves a comeback story. Also, never bet against an underdog that’s working as hard as Fultz to get back. It’s not a good idea. You boys have recent experience with an underdog from Philly.

Will Fultz’s new jump shot form debut in the first pre-season game? Or will they keep it shrouded in mystery until later in the pre-season or heaven forbid the regular season?

Greg Melo: I would like to think that we get a preseason debut where we see Fultz’s jumper is back to Washington form. However, late in the game he tweaks his ankle, and then sits out the rest of the preseason, triggering heart attacks for a major section of the fanbase. But then he has a glorious return to the court on opening night in Boston, where he sinks a dagger three in Smart’s face to close out the W.

If Fultz spends the first half of the season clearly struggling (like not a dent from last year), then do you already consider trading him?

Tyler Monahan: If Fultz struggles again next year, I find it hard to believe the Sixers would be able to get much back for him. I think the team may consider trading him, but a return might not be worth it. Until Fultz shows improved shooting mechanics and the ability to consistently finish at the rim, his value will be nothing close to what it was coming out of college. It’s not a question of are you willing to trade him or not, but rather, is what you are receiving in a trade worthy of giving up on a former first overall pick with hidden talent (it may be very hidden, but it’s still there....somewhere).

Why is Joel Embiid...Doing bicycle kicks in a pit of mud and rocks?

Sean Kennedy: Because he was placed on this earth to entertain mankind both on and off the court. Cherish him.

Is Philly Cheesesteak really that special?

Adio Royster: (*holds everyone back*)

No, no. I got this.

I have not been to Boston, yet, but when I go, one of the things I’ll have to get is New England Clam Chowder. It’s what you guys are known for. That makes it special. It’s also important to know WHERE to get it.

That’s kind of in play with the Philly Cheesesteak. Is it special? Yes and no. As a food, it’s great. There’s meat, cheese, and vegetables (onions only!). (For real, if you’re the kind of person that puts mushrooms on a cheesesteak, just get away from me.) What makes it special is where you get it. If you get it from Pat’s or Geno’s, then that just means you’ve been watching enough Monday Night Football to know that’s where the cameras go. If you go to Jim’s on South Street, you get the history (and a much better tasting cheesesteak in my opinion).

If you want something truly different, go to Santucci’s on 10th and Christian Street in Bella Vista. Three words: garlic bread cheesesteak.

Now, I’m hungry. Excuse me, folks.