The Sixers defeated the Detroit Pistons 106-86 in a preseason exhibition Tuesday night. Below are my three most pressing observations from the game.
Joel Embiid had built perhaps more on-court chemistry with JJ Redick than any other player Embiid’s ever teamed up with, with actions involving the duo frequently being a go-to option in Brett Brown’s offense. Unfortunately for Jo and the Sixers, Redick’s now down in the big easy and the highly effective two-man game between Embiid and Redick requires a replacement for the latter.
Enter: Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle has been nothing short of impressive throughout preseason play, with Brett Brown commenting before Tuesday evening’s game that Thybulle had earned a start against the Pistons with Ben Simmons and Al Horford out. Thybulle has so emphatically demanded increased responsibility via his performance that Brown has started toying with Thybulle in dribble hand-off actions with Embiid:
This is exactly the sort of sequence we’ve seen Redick and Embiid successfully execute over and over and over again across the previous two seasons. It’s simply too early to know whether Thybulle can mimic Redick’s shooting proficiency to a degree that gives Thybulle-Embiid actions the sort of gravity that unlocks the offense. But the prospects of giving Embiid a reliable hand-off partner while the big man is feasting on 2nd units should send shivers up the spines of benches all over the Association. And if Thybulle becomes a threat off the dribble, Joel Embiid’s life is going to get a whole lot easier as he rolls through wide open lanes.
Matisse Thybulle wasn’t the only wing player making a spot start yesterday evening, as Furkan Korkmaz was also inserted into the starting lineup. Korkmaz was productive in 23 minutes, scoring 10 points on 7 attempts from the floor (2-4 3PT) to go along with 4 rebounds, and one assist, block and steal each. But Korkmaz’s line isn’t really what stood out to me.
There was play late in the 3rd quarter when Korkmaz hoisted a hopeless shot, but given the expiring shot clock, he didn’t really have any other option (it should be noted that he nearly fumbled the ball away prior to shooting, forcing him to rush the shot even more). Outside of that play, I thought Korkmaz showed a lot of confidence and composure, playing within himself but making the most of any opportunity to contribute. He frequently found open space to spot up behind the arc and was decisive in letting it fly:
Korkmaz wasn’t relegated to spotting up either. On two occasions, he got to the rim for easy buckets — one by swiping the ball away on a Pistons passing attempt and pushing in transition and the other via a pump fake and euro step combo:
Korkmaz’s theoretical shooting ability (he really hasn’t shown it consistently yet) should buy him opportunities in the regular season. So far, he seems ready capitalize on those opportunities.
Tobias Harris struggled to convert near the rim
Tobias Harris had a mostly disappointing outing against his former team. Given the Sixers’ tremendous size across the board, Harris figures to frequently matchup against smaller defenders. With that said, we could see a lot of Harris trying to work the ball in close by overpowering defenders with his frame. Last night Harris got in close to the rim, but he was unable to convert on multiple occasions:
Harris’ inability to put the ball through the hoop from 6 feet-and-in in a preseason game is far from alarming, and we already know he hasn’t been the most explosive finisher. But his touch just seemed off and it has been for most of the preseason, with Harris’ field goal percentage sitting at about 42% through four games. I expect Harris to get back on track sooner or later, but it’s been a bit disappointing to see the new $180 million man struggling out of the gate.