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LB Mailbag: The first of the 2019-20 NBA season

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Media Day Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The LB Mailbag is a recurring column in which we source questions, from you, the readers, and do our best to provide insightful or interesting answers. Readers can submit questions in the forums of Mailbag posts, on Twiter @Liberty_Ballers with #LBMailbag, or via email libertyballers [at] sbnation [dot] com.

Liberty Ballers community


let’s say in the middle of the season the sixers are on pace for a high 40s/low 50s win total with a point differential to match and two of the bucks/clippers/lakers end up being significantly better than that, in said scenario who says no to a tobias/dlo swap

Dave Early: Interesting one. I think they’d actually both say no. A win total in the high 40’s, to low 50’s probably isn’t far enough off of what the Sixers are actually expecting. With the summer’s roster shakeup, projecting some inevitable growing pains with a big mix of new and young players, bake in some diligent load-management for Horford and Embiid....maybe an injury? We could probably place them in that 47-53 win range without a ton of internal disappointment or even surprise. What would still matter the most is whether or not they’re healthy nearing the playoffs. Plus the mere idea of more roster upheaval without it being a very, very clear upgrade would probably make Brett Brown apoplectic. Is it all a cruel joke? Will I never get to work with one core for more than a few months? Ben Simmons also may not like whatever that move symbolized either. Is he still the point? Navigating those feelings in a February slump might not be so fun. Finally, I think the Warriors would prefer someone/something else, more complimentary to their core, if they were to go shopping.

Having said all that, it’s possible that if it happened, it could still improve both teams next year so good question.


Who do we want? Lakers or Clippers? I know who I’d rather beat but who’s the better match up?

Dan Volpone: The Lakers are a better matchup for the Sixers. The Sixers are almost perfectly equipped to handle (not stop - handle) a duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. On a LeBron iso, the Sixers can put Simmons at the point of attack, have Embiid at the rim, and have a guy like Matisse Thybulle collapse from the wing (especially if Rajon Rondo is going to be seeing heavy minutes with James). If the Lakers decide to run the offense through Davis, Embiid has had a good deal of success in that one-on-one matchup. And in a James-Davis pick-and-roll, the Sixers have the size and versatility to survive switches.

The Clippers are a tougher matchup. George and Leonard are both elite wings with athleticism to really challenge the Sixers oversized personnel. Plus, they have the depth to keep guys fresh. Even with some upgrades to the back end of the rotation, the Sixers still can’t go that deep. If there was one area the Sixers would have a major advantage over the Clips, it would be in the front court, as they don’t have anyone big enough to guard Joel Embiid. Then again, he pretty much gets double teamed by everyone anyway.


Is THIS roster the what the process was all about? Last year’s? Something in the future?Basically, other than an NBA title obviously, is this where we wanted to be at the beginning of The Process?

Dave Early: Yes. Sam Hinkie originally drafted so many centers because he wanted a “supersize” lineup to stop Giannis, who he knew was going to be great but also didn’t think his jump shot would translate so naturally preferred MCW because he knew he could eventually flip MCW and other assets for Tobias Harris and Zhaire Smith. This current big boy roster, is precisely what he envisioned with Okafor, Noel and Embiid. He and Elton secretly talk all the time about this.

Kidding. What some mainstream outlets don’t often realize is that “The Process” was basically aborted circa de Pearl Harbor day, 2015. The day they hired Jerry Colangelo. A little over two years after The Process started. It’s impossible to know for sure what Hinkie’s front office would have or would not have done. But it seems unlikely they would have done it the same (e.g. Fultz, Pasecniks, Butler, Harris, Horford, Richardson). Remember, players like Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard all became available for trade around the time Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were finally both healthy and ready to roll. Some of them dealt for less than the price paid for Markelle Fultz. I think had the Sixers been able to avoid some of the biggest mistakes the post-Process regime made (basically getting nothing out of the 2017 draft) they would be in a much more dominant position today.


What is the over/under for the date this city starts calling for Thybulle to start for Harris?

Kevin F. Love: Whatever time tonight’s game ends.

Klaus Hinkie:

If Mike Scott and Marcus Morris got into a fight - who would win?

Adam Aaronson: MIKE.

Kevin F. Love: I think it’d be a terrific matchup. They’ve got similar wingspans, so I don’t think you’d see either fighter have to force their way inside to set things up. But if someone was going to go inside, it’d be Morris because I think he’d be looking to land big blows. On the other hand, I feel like Mike would have pretty quick hands and he keeps them up to protect himself, evidenced by the video of his Eagles tailgate encounter. I could see Mike using the jab to set things up, while avoiding Morris’ haymakers. Morris tires himself out rather quickly and gets extremely frustrated after repeatedly taking jabs, losing the mental game. Mike wins via technical proficiency, but nobody hits the canvas.


Why isn’t Joel a good 3-point shooter, considering his free throw shooting is very good?

Kevin F. Love: Shaquille O’Neal was an awful free throw shooter, and growing up, I was told one of the big reasons for that was because his hands were too big for the ball (not that Shaq had the most beautiful form by any means). An experiment to illustrate Shaq’s challenge is for a person with average-sized hands to imagine shooting a 15-footer with a tennis ball through a rim with a diameter that’s just about double the size of that of the tennis ball. Your hands cover such a large surface area on the ball that it’s tough not to negatively influence the trajectory of the ball as you release it — there’s just so much potential for error.

Joel Embiid faces a similar problem with his hands being so large, but he’s got a gentle shooting touch. So I think it’s just a matter of getting further away from the basket and leaving more room for error. Joel can sink free throws despite his large hands because he’s got such good touch and can produce a rhythm throughout his body, and has a lot of time at the line to focus on both. When he’s behind the perimeter, he doesn’t have the same luxuries and thus the large hands negatively influence the trajectory of the shot. We’ve seen Joel try to combat this by adding a little rock backward before going into his shot, as to create some more rhythm throughout his release. But so much of his three point shooting is simply catching the ball on a trail and shooting it, and I think without a chance to get into a rhythmic motion, the hands try do too much to compensate. Often when we see Jo’s silky smooth mid-range shots, he gets to bring the ball low, throw in a jab step, and then come up with a bit of a fade-away shot that’s got a lot of rhythm and consistency to it.


Three Seconds Left on the Clock...

Who takes the last shot? Tobias is probably our best shooter (next to Kork!) but can he make a quick move to get the shot off?

Kevin F. Love: If it’s a broken play or the Sixers stole the ball away and are running in transition knowing they’re getting just one more shot attempt up, yeah, I probably go Tobias. I’m not comfortable with that, but he’s probably got the best shooting touch on a rushed/forced attempt.

But as far as closing the game, where they get some time to think about what they want to execute, I’m running things through Horford. I’m confident in Horford’s ability to think quickly and make the right play or take the right shot. If you can get the opposition to forget about Horford for just a half-second, he’ll find space and he’s a capable enough shooter from anywhere on the floor. If you can get him rolling to the rim on an opposing four, I like his chances and Embiid will be near by if there’s one last tic for a needed tip-in. And if it comes down to Al having to make one more pass to an open look, I can count on him to deliver. I’m just really comfortable with Horford orchestrating things in crucial moments.

You don’t always get to run a play in the final moments and you don’t always want to in comparison to letting a talented, composed scorer iso. That’s when we’ll desperately miss Jimmy Butler. But I just don’t see a “go get a bucket” option on this team that I can have confidence in if Joel Embiid is going to draw lots of attention. I’d rather the team seek the highest value attempt than force the ball into Harris’ hands because he happens to be closest thing they have to an iso scorer.


John T.:

I have really been impressed with Norvel Pelle on both ends of the floor. Has he done enough to make the opening night roster or is he better served playing regular minutes in the G League?

Kevin F. Love: I have to say, I was wrong on Pelle. I didn’t think he could provide value to this team, but through preseason, he’s looked like a decent option as a high energy backup center. I still think he’s too limited to play long stretches, but in short spurts, his motor, springiness, and intensity will catch opponents off guard on both ends of the floor. And I think Pelle makes Jonah Bolden expendable, because Pelle, while in theory a more limited player, has a very clear agenda for how he’s going to contribute whereas I still don’t know what Bolden does well enough that could acceptably masks his deficiencies.

With that said, Pelle’s best served getting a lot of run in the G-League and taking the ride up from Delaware when the center rotation is looking thin. There’s going to be nights when he’s useful, but if he were permanently added to the roster, there would just be too many stretches of DNPs. If he’s not playing competitive basketball, that’s not good for anyone.

Doug M.:

Always wondered - what’s the back story to why they play the Mr. Burns “Excellent” sound clip after a Sixer makes their free throws? It’s been many years now.

Dave Early: Great question. I believe the legend of the Mr. Burns “Excellent” audio for free throws has its origins somewhere around the 1988-1989 season. You remember. Chuck was putting up 28 and 12 in his sleep, no load management. Mo Cheeks was over 30 but still over 2 swipes per game. Holly Hunter, who just played Rhea Jarrell on HBO’s Succession was nominated for Best Actress in Broadcast News, and the The Simpsons had yet to air. There was an older, dignified gentlemen who appeared to be wealthy. He sat in the front row of every Sixers’ home game and sometimes went to baseball games with the players. He used to sit with a dandy in a green blazer and purple bowtie (big Bucks fan). Folks wondered if it was his executive assistant or business partner, or something more. Well the gentleman sat with his fingertips touching, being the understated type, and one time, Andrew Tony went diving into his lap to save a loose ball. Andrew took a sip of the man’s beverage and turns out it was a very high end cognac. Tony reported to the fellas that the gentlemen muttered “excellent,” and barely smiled when he was in his lap. I guess you could say that person is who “Mr. Burns” is very loosely based off of and why they still play that clip at Wells today. Just kidding, I don’t know.

Kevin F. Love: I reached out to a couple different people who I figured would know the back story behind this if there were one, but as far as I can tell from their responses, there isn’t one. It sounds like somebody who works in the game-day operations at the arena just thought it was an appropriate sound bite and it just stuck.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a question. I can honestly say I read every single question we received and they were all great questions. If your question was not answered, it’s simply because we had questions about the same topic and/or didn’t feel we could provide an insightful or interesting answer. Or for example, there were some trade questions, which I’m just not prepared to answer at this stage of the season. So don’t be shy, keep asking away on future mailbags.

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